Alice and Bob Meet the Wall of Fire

Alice and Bob Meet the Wall of Fire

The Biggest Ideas in Science from Quanta

Edited by Thomas Lin

Foreword by Sean Carroll

Accessible, essential coverage of the latest findings in challenging, speculative, and cutting-edge science, from the leaders in scientific journalism at Quanta Magazine.





Accessible, essential coverage of the latest findings in challenging, speculative, and cutting-edge science, from the leaders in scientific journalism at Quanta Magazine.

“If you're a science and data nerd like me, you may be interested in Alice and Bob Meet the Wall of Fire... from Quanta Magazine and Thomas Lin.” —Bill Gates

These stories reveal the latest efforts to untangle the mysteries of the universe. Bringing together the best and most interesting science stories appearing in Quanta Magazine over the past five years, Alice and Bob Meet the Wall of Fire reports on some of the greatest scientific minds as they test the limits of human knowledge. Quanta, under editor-in-chief Thomas Lin, is the only popular publication that offers in-depth coverage of today's challenging, speculative, cutting-edge science. It communicates science by taking it seriously, wrestling with difficult concepts and clearly explaining them in a way that speaks to our innate curiosity about our world and ourselves.

In the title story, Alice and Bob—beloved characters of various thought experiments in physics—grapple with gravitational forces, possible spaghettification, and a massive wall of fire as Alice jumps into a black hole. Another story considers whether the universe is impossible, in light of experimental results at the Large Hadron Collider. We learn about quantum reality and the mystery of quantum entanglement; explore the source of time's arrow; and witness a eureka moment when a quantum physicist exclaims: “Finally, we can understand why a cup of coffee equilibrates in a room.” We reflect on humans' enormous skulls and the Brain Boom; consider the evolutionary benefits of loneliness; peel back the layers of the newest artificial-intelligence algorithms; follow the “battle for the heart and soul of physics”; and mourn the disappearance of the “diphoton bump,” revealed to be a statistical fluctuation rather than a revolutionary new particle. These stories from Quanta give us a front-row seat to scientific discovery.

Contributors: Philip Ball, K. C. Cole, Robbert Dijkgraaf, Dan Falk, Courtney Humphries, Ferris Jabr, Katia Moskvitch, George Musser, Michael Nielsen, Jennifer Ouellette, John Pavlus, Emily Singer, Andreas von Bubnoff, Frank Wilczek, Natalie Wolchover, Carl Zimmer


$19.95 T ISBN: 9780262536349 328 pp. | 6 in x 9 in 11 b&w illus.


Thomas Lin

Thomas Lin is the founding editor-in-chief of Quanta Magazine, an online publication that reports on developments in science and mathematics, with content syndicated in publications such as WiredThe Atlantic, Scientific American and The Washington Post. Lin previously worked for The New York Times, where he edited online features and wrote about science, technology and tennis. He has also written for Quanta, The New YorkerTennis, and other publications.


Sean Carroll.


  • An enjoyable collection that offers a glimpse into new knowledge about our universe.

    Library Journal


  • Alice and Bob Meet the Wall of Fire takes the reader on one fascinating adventure, an exploration of the universe with all its mystery and wonder and starlit dazzle, told by some of the best science writers working today.

    Deborah Blum

    Pulitzer Prize-winning science journalist and author of The Poison Squad

  • This collection of beautifully written articles introduces, in a manner accessible to all, some of the most exciting ideas being contemplated as we search for answers to the profound mysteries at the frontiers of science.

    David Gross

    Nobel Prize–winning physicist

  • I'm thrilled to have this collection in physical form—a thoughtfully curated compilation that reflects Quanta's depth and breadth, from wild abstractions to the human-centric. This book is an absolute pleasure. I cannot wait to share.

    Janna Levin

    Barnard/Columbia astrophysicist and author of Black Hole Blues and Other Songs from Outer Space

  • This collection of thought-provoking missives from the front lines of scientific research—across several fields—is essential reading, and should have pride of place on any bookshelf or nightstand.

    Clifford Johnson

    Professor of Physics at the University of Southern California and author of The Dialogues: Conversations about the Nature of the Universe