Black Holes, Wormholes and Time Machines: 2nd Edition (Paperback) book cover

Black Holes, Wormholes and Time Machines

2nd Edition

By Jim Al-Khalili

CRC Press

206 pages | 23 B/W Illus.

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Bringing the material up to date, Black Holes, Wormholes and Time Machines, Second Edition captures the new ideas and discoveries made in physics since the publication of the best-selling first edition. While retaining the popular format and style of its predecessor, this edition explores the latest developments in high-energy astroparticle physics and Big Bang cosmology.

The book continues to make the ideas and theories of modern physics easily understood by anyone, from researchers to students to general science enthusiasts. Taking you on a journey through space and time, author Jim Al-Khalili covers some of the most fascinating topics in physics today, including:

  • Black holes
  • Space warps
  • The Big Bang
  • Time travel
  • Wormholes
  • Parallel universes

Professor Al-Khalili explains often complex scientific concepts in simple, nontechnical terms and imparts an appreciation of the cosmos, helping you see how time traveling may not be so far-fetched after all.


It is very desirable to have a book available that explores the relevant physics issues from a straight and sober scientific standpoint. Jim Al-Khalili’s Black Holes, Wormholes and Time Machines, appearing in a newly revised second edition, fulfils this need admirably.

The explanations are up to date and the author knows how to provide honest accounts of his exotic subject matter … A good virtue of the book is that it successfully distinguishes between truth and fiction. The presentation is quite thorough while being very much at a popular level, with almost no mathematics, some nice illustrations, and plenty of jokes. I was fascinated to learn that the entire area of wormholes, first developed by Kip Thorne, was initially prompted by Carl Sagan, who wanted to have some kind of plausible scientific basis for his novel Contact.

… a highly enjoyable and very interesting read. It can be strongly recommended to teenagers and to anyone who wants a non-technical account of some very topical areas of modern physics. Quite a lot of important details are included and discussed, giving an extremely good up-to-date overview of the subject matter. Even academic physicists who are not engaged in these areas can find here the kind of clear and straightforward explanations that may be helpful in answering students’ questions. These are topics where it is often hard to get information that is both reliable and understandable. Al-Khalili has once again done everyone a good turn in providing it.

—Peter J. Bussey, Contemporary Physics, June 2012

Praise for the First Edition:

… the reader will enjoy the clear and non-technical explanations strewn with historical anecdotes about the heroes of this quest for the understanding of what is space and time … Al-Khalili takes us by the hand to a fascinating world from which you may not return…

—Jean-Phillipe Uzan, University of Paris, France

This is precisely the kind of book that I like reading. The pace of the journey as the ever more complex theories unfold is well handled. Jim Al-Khalili uses layman's language to his credit.

—Vernon Nash

I know of no other book on this subject that is so accessible to the reader for whom relativity and quantum mechanics are new. The author's explanations are unusually clear, and he writes at a simple level without being patronizing or slow-paced. The tone is consistently good-humored, almost playful at times.

—Publisher Tom Quinn

Jim Al-Khalili has produced, with earnest intentions, a concise, well written book … this is on the whole a pleasant, readable book.

Physics World

If you want to know about time, this is the book. I don't know of another nearly as good and I've read a lot of them. But more than telling you about time, what makes this book exceptional is that it conveys a wonderful sense of the beautiful excitement of scientific ideas.

—David Malone, Producer of BBC's Documentary "The Flow of Time"

Jim Al-Khalili has written a splendid popular book … The book would be an excellent resource for school teachers in both mathematics and physics to enrich their teaching, and to enthuse their students. … Many physicists will enjoy this easy-to-read book … I highly recommend it for teenagers with an interest in science and for non-scientists interested in the deep questions of our universe.

—David G. Blair, University of Western Australia, The Physicist

Jim Al-Khalili's [book] is another of the many books about the wonders of the Universe and what we know about them. But with a difference, though. Enthusiasm to make everything understandable to the most untutored comes from every page. It's successful, it's humorous, and it's up to date. A great crib for furtive, refreshing use.

New Scientist

This is a popular book on general relativity and cosmology including black hole physics. Also, the history of these subjects is described, and a valuable list of references, including both popular and advanced levels, is attached … the book contains several nice figures to help understanding properties of relativity theory.

—Hans-Jurgen Schmidt, Zentralblatt Math

Throughout the book, everything is surprisingly clear and the readers are left with lots of room for her/his imagination to follow their own thoughts, though not losing track of the trend … It is actually fun reading this book … This book gives a good impression of how special and general relativity affect our environment.

—Karsten Markus, Department of Astronomy, UCT

Table of Contents


The 4th Dimension

To do with shapes

What is space?

2Dworld and 2D’ers

Curved space

Is there really a 4th dimension?

Matters of Some Gravity

Apples and moons

Einstein’s gravity

Free fall

Rubber space

Twinkle, twinkle

Cooking the elements

Champagne supernova in the sky

The Universe

The night sky

How big is the Universe?

The expanding Universe

Hubble, bubble …

Space is stretching

Did the Big Bang really happen?

The edge of space

A closed universe

An open universe

What shape is the Universe then?

Invisible matter

1998: a big year in cosmology

Is the Universe infinite?

Why is it dark at night?

Before the Big Bang?


Black Holes

More to light than meets the eye!

Invisible stars

Beyond the horizon

A hole that can never be filled

Spinning black holes

Falling into a black hole

To see a black hole

Not so black after all

White holes


Times Are Changing

What is time?

Who invented time?

The first moment

Does time flow?

Something called entropy

Arrows of time

Stephen Hawking gets it wrong

A possible solution

Einstein’s Time

What is so special about special relativity?

The two faces of light

Thought experiments and brain-teasers

Slowing down time

Shrinking distances

Light—the world speed record

When time runs backwards

Little green men

Fast-forward to the future

Spacetime—the future is out there

Gravitational times

Time Travel Paradoxes

The Terminator paradox

Trying to save the dinosaurs

Mona Lisa’s sister

No way out?

Parallel universes

Where are all the time travelers?



A bridge to another world

Alice through the looking glass

When science fact met science fiction

Wormholes—keeping the star gate open

Visiting a parallel universe

How to Build a Time Machine

Time loops

The Tipler time machine

Cosmic string time machines

A recipe for a wormhole time machine

Insurmountable problems?

What Do We Know?

The mother of all theories

The end of theoretical physics

What might new experiments tell us?

Astronomy versus astrology

The fascination of science

Suggestions for Further Reading


About the Author

Jim Al-Khalili is a professor of physics at the University of Surrey. While still an active researcher in theoretical physics, Dr. Al-Khalili has become a well-known science communicator in the UK, with regular appearances on television and radio science documentaries. He was awarded the Royal Society Michael Faraday Prize for science communication in 2007 and the Institute of Physics Kelvin Medal in 2011. He became an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for services to science in 2008.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SCIENCE / Astrophysics & Space Science
SCIENCE / Physics