i'm shocked to have just realized that i've never formally encouraged readers to check out the wonderful book by kip s. thorne: black holes and time warps. i first read this book one summer as an undergraduate, soon after i switched my major to physics. my summer research project was to find the simplest solution to einsteins field equations!! wow, was i thrilled, and scared!
my first assignment was to read black holes and time warps all the way thru, stopping by the professors office every other day to ask any questions that arose. to my pleasant surprise, the entire first chapter is a fun science-fiction story that tracks what happens to space travelers as they approach black holes of bigger and bigger masses! it took me about a month to get thru the book, and the last few chapters regarding worm holes and potential time warps completely boggled my noggin - but i was intrigued, and it was a good thing, because i spent the rest of that summer learning to solve tensor equations!
the final solution that i acquired (with the help of mathematica) wasnt the memory that stuck with me of my summer project. it was the imagery from thorne's book that has sunk into my soul. a couple years ago i met thorne while he visited UT-austin. i attended a lunch with him where he discussed the potential for detecting gravitational waves with spaced-based instrumentation. he signed my copy of him book and seemed pleased to hear that it greatly influenced my early career.
anyway, all this is leading up to the fact that kip thorne wrote a guest post at cosmic variance about stephen hawking, who is giving a public lecture at the pasadena convention center on march 9, 2009. report back if you get to attend! enjoy!