This was a good book. There were two or three really mind-blowing concepts that I hadn't heard before. But I give it fewer stars because (1) it doesn't really spend very much time on the titular question -- specifically "free will". It's really a book about how the brain works, which is really interesting to me, but this book's not as good as David Eagleman's "Incognito", in my opinion. (2) It spends quite a bit of time on how current neuroscience impacts law and courtroom proceedings. Those parts seemed repetitive and dull to me.
I am a big fan of sci-fi, and of Douglas Adams, but I will readily admit that I would never have bought this book on it's summary description alone. A lawyer for the music industry represents aliens hooked on pop music? For some reason, any book involving a lawyer sounds boring to me.
It took a friend's exuberant recommendation to get me to take the risk and spend a credit on this audiobook. I was glad I did! This book is far from boring. And not only that, once you get into it, the premise actually makes sense! The book is surprisingly grounded in believable scientific concepts, and the premise, which sounds ludicrous in the summary blurb, actually becomes believable when you read it in context.
This book is hilarious, entertaining, bizarrely scientifically grounded, and ends with a fourish that actually had me laughing out loud! This is not the first book I've read that was heralded as "the next Hitchhiker's Guide", but it's the first that truly deserves that comparison.
I found this book disappointing, mainly because the author does not even begin to address his supposedly ground-breaking, controversial new theory until about 3/4 through the book. Everything before that is review. If you've studied physics and cosmology, or read a lot of Hawking, Greene, Mlodinow, etc., you will be bored through this part (which, I repeat, is most of the book). If this is the first book you've read on the subject, you might not mind this.
I will also say that Mr. Tegmark dips into some pretty far-out ideas from time to time, and I felt like he was trying to defend as science, some ideas that were plainly not science. Of course, he says they are science, so maybe I'm just wrong about that.
When he does finally get to talking about "Our Mathematical Universe" (there's a chapter in the book where he clearly announces something like "now I'm going to start talking about my new theory...". Again, that's about halfway through the second part of the audiobook), it's pretty interesting for a while. But it seemed like it quickly became hard to hold my attention to the reading. This may have been my own fault, but it seemed like he was just getting too far into fringe science for me, and kind of rambling. It's not that I reject his theory. Actually, he may be on to something (his "new theory" was covered briefly in one of Brian Greene's books, by the way, so it's not that new -- or maybe Greene got it from him?)
Anyway, I did find Mr. Tegmark's many anecdotes about his life as a student, a scientist and a father interesting and it was cool how he integrated his own experiences with the science he was presenting. I did feel that I learned some things from this book, so I can't give it that bad of a review.
In general, I would just warn the reader: if you're not new to physics and cosmology, be ready to wade through a LOT of review before getting to anything new.
Right up front I will admit: I did not finish this book. I got about 2/3 through and stopped.
Daniel Dennett may be one of the "four horsemen" of the new atheism, but if so, he's the most boring of the four. He obviously idolizes Richard Dawkins. Everything Dawkins ever said is profound in the extreme. There's no need to read "The Blind Watchmaker" or "The Selfish Gene" if you read this, because Dennett quotes virtually every sentence in those books, and wastes no opportunity to tell us how profound and original each one is.
On the other hand, he absolutely despises Steven Jay Gould. He spends a majority of the latter half of the book outlining everything that's wrong with everything Gould ever said or did.
The first half of the book did have some interesting stuff. There was a chapter about John Conway's Life simulation that was very interesting. Some interesting stuff about memes (that I'd already read in Dawkins, of course, but still interesting). But then he decided to dedicate the rest of the book (or a very large chunk of it) to lambasting S. J. Gould, and to a lesser extent Noam Chomsky. Also, everyone who ever said a word in support of Gould is an idiot. I fast-forwarded to close to the end and he was still at it. At that point I called it quits.
I'm giving the book three stars mainly because I did enjoy the first half.
I've just finished this excellent book this morning, and I'm still a bit lost in its spell. What a story! I cried more than once (and for more than one reason), laughed several times, actually felt sick a few times, and on more than one occasion felt myself completely taken up in it, which is the highest praise I can give a book.
I strongly recommend this book to anyone who loves a good, compelling, and deeply moving story.
The only complaint I have is that the narrator would often sort of trail off at the end of a sentence. In every other respect, he was a fine narrator. As I understand it, he's an Australian himself, so that helps lend the story some authenticity.
A lot of reviewers here have really been hard on the narrator, some going so far as to say he ruined the book for them. I did not feel it was quite that bad. I simply turned the volume up a bit higher than normal, so that when he trailed off, he was still easily audible. It did make him a bit loud at times, but I was ok with that.
The book and story are so utterly compelling, it's worth putting up with the narrator's imperfections.
I'm sorry, this is not a book about "Dark Matter" or "Dark Energy", or even "The 4% Universe". The only part of the title that gives a hint as to what this book is about is the "Race to Discover..." part, but even that is making it sound more interesting than it is.
What this really is, is a dull account of how a lot of scientists haggled and fought over who'd get the credit for various discoveries. It's exceedingly dull. If you're interested in the discoveries themselves, and in learning interested and wonderful facts about our universe, read something by Brian Greene or Stephen Hawking or Leonard Mlodinow. If you haven't yet read everything Carl Sagan wrote, then read one of those. Only read this if you want to know how prideful, self-important scientists fought each other over who got the credit.
I absolutely loved this book. Not since listening to the audiobook of King's "The Stand" have I been so completely happy with a Stephen King novel.
I usually find King's endings to be his downfall, but this is one of the rare exceptions. This book is great from beginning to end.
The title pretty much says it all for me. I kept reading to the end, hoping for something interesting to come up, but it never happened. None of the topics covered in this book is anything new. If you've been keeping up with the latest science at all, you will not hear anything here you haven't heard many times.
Listening to the first half of this excellent audiobook, I was reminded again and again why Mark Twain is one of the best American writers ever. He can do more with a single paragraph than JK Rowling, Stephanie Meyer, and all the other pop-fad-of-the-day writers can do with 7 or 8 novels combined.
The only problem with this particular Twain book is it's just too danged long! The length is what prevented me from giving it 5 stars. It's just too long.
I enjoyed this book a lot. For the most part it's very well written, and well narrated. There are a few parts in the middle where it seemed to drag a bit and feel like a dry history lesson, but it always picked up in time to keep me hanging on. I really felt like it picked up toward the end.
At times this book made me feel like I understood the times it spoke of, and I really enjoyed learning about the character of Quanah Parker. Here's an important historical figure that was completely left out of my education.
This is not a book that paints the United States as the evil empire and the Native Americans as poor, mistreated, peaceniks. Far, far, from it. This is a book that shows the good and bad side of both sides in the conflict. I recommend it.
I was so excited for this book when I saw it was coming out months ago. Downloaded it the day it was available. "Outliers" and "Blink" are great, paradigm-shifting books. "The Tipping Point" is good, and "What the Dog Saw" is in my opinion his worst book. This one falls somewhere between "What the Dog Saw" and "The Tipping Point", in my opinion. It's got a couple of mildly enlightening sections, but all in all is very repetitive and starts to get a bit dull.
Essentially, in "David and Goliath", Malcolm Gladwell makes one point, over and over and over. The properties that make the giant seem powerful might actually be its weaknesses, and the things that made David seem like a fool and his actions suicidal to others might have been his greatest strengths. He makes this point well in the first chapter, then goes on and on, making the same point over and over. Some of the stories he tells are interesting, others are kind of boring and in some cases it really seems like he's stretching to make them apply to his topic at all.
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