As a reader, reviewer, and writer, I often wonder how word of mouth and rumor and the great press machine get rolling. Take The Grand Design for example: Stephen Hawking has been wowing the world since A Brief History of Time, and with the publication of his latest book approaching, commentaries and thoughts began to spread on how this book would challenge the fundamental juxtaposition of science vs. religion once and for all. After reading the under-200-page book of theories, discussions, photos and diagrams, my conclusion on The Grand Design is that for the most part it reads like a short college textbook on particle physics and the universe. Nothing necessarily revolutionary or shocking in its thoughts and ideas that couldn’t be found in a number of other science books; perhaps the key is the important author name on the cover?
While The Grand Design isn’t the explosive book word of mouth has made it up to be (however it has sold considerably well) – akin to Colin Tudge’s The Link: Uncovering Our Earliest Ancestor which was supposed to revolutionize the field of archaeology – it does nevertheless possess some interesting and at times fascinating theories and discussions of why things are the way they are. For the last couple of decades physicists and astronomical scientists have been doing their day to day jobs, while in the back of their minds they have been hoping to stumble upon the unification theory, essentially – as Douglas Adams precisely put it – a theory of life, the universe and everything. From a physics standpoint, it is the bringing together of gravity, Einstein’s relativity theory, and the theory of quantum mechanics which will help explain why everything is the way it is and how it got to being there. In the Grand Design, Hawking, along with co-author Leonard Mlodinow, give readers a strong introduction on the universe, particle physics, quantum mechanics and gravitational forces, and the launch into M Theory – the theory of life, the universe and everything. While they don’t have all the answers yet, and there’s still a lot of ground to cover, it seems that M Theory may in fact be that ideal that scientists have been searching for for so long.
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Started the book that everyone is apparently talking about — The Grand Design — and so far it reads like a regular science book. Also picked up the second and third books in the Plague Year trilogy at Almost Perfect Books, and now just need to get my hands on the first.
Richard Dawkins, author of The Selfish Gene, The Ancestor’s Tale, and The God Delusion, needs no introduction having established himself as a reputable voice when discussing science in its many forms. His latest effort is The Oxford Book of Modern Science Writing, in a hefty tome, where Dawkins attempts to present a concise view of science to the world in many short passages from many different scientists of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries that tessellate together to form a beautiful volume of writing.
The book is divided into four parts, as Dawkins organizes the vast wealth of science writing available not in chronological order, but groups the extracts into the following categories: “What Scientists Study,” “Who Scientists Are,” “What Scientists Think,” “What Scientists Delight in.” Organizing it this ways serves to make the book more entertaining in the variety of subjects that are presented when the book is read from cover to cover. Should the reader want to use the book more as a reference tool or to look up some specific authors or terms, there is a thorough index at the end of the book. With each extract, Dawkins offers up his own commentary and reason for choosing the specific piece.
All the great scientists make an appearance here: Albert Einstein, Stephen Hawking, Francis Crick, Brian Greene, Jared Diamond, Richard Feynman, Carl Sagan, Primo Levi, the list goes on and on. But this list is not reserved for the greats of science, but many of the women and men who have worked hard in their lives to further the knowledge of science in areas such as genetics, evolution, string theory, relativity, and mathematics. The Oxford Book of Modern Science Writing is a weighty, comprehensive book with almost everything science has had to offer in the last hundred years or so, and while it may not be for the science novice, the ideas, theories, and hypotheses expressed in this book have reshaped science, and offered up hope and ideals for future answers and theories that will continue to change the world as we know it.
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