Las Cruces, NM, United States | Member Since 2001
From the first sentence onward, you know you are not listening to an ordinary story written by an ordinary writer.
This is my first introduction to the author, Philip K. Dick, and it won't be my last. He's noted for his science fiction and this story only skirts around the edges of that genre. Things aren't what they appear and he makes you realize that the normal (the sister Fay) is more crazy than the bizarre (Jack, the brother and crap artist).
The story is a a pure pleasure to listen to. The observations on life in the 50s are cutting and fun. Self serving interest can lead to absurdities. It took me a while to realize who was the real crazy person in the story. Philip K. Dick is now on my to listen list.
Who among us doesn't love ancient text? I did get lost on the Greek play sections, since I know so little about that stuff. I did love the section on Homer since I know so little about that stuff. The section on the old testament was near brilliant.
As always you get you money's worth on a modern scholar course.
The author really explains science very well. In the first half of the book when he's providing background and context he excels. He steps the listener through how we progressed through history from a village perspective to a multiverse. The author states elegantly, the reality of the multiverse is not a theory in of itself since it comes out of the best theory we have to describe our universe, Inflation Theory. If you accept that inflation describes the universe at a fundamental level, but don't like multiverses you need to first come up with a theory that can explain everything inflation does but take out the part where inflation creates other universes not an easy thing to do. Also, the book works well when he's explaining everything you every wanted to know about the Cosmic Microwave Background but were afraid to ask. It really does give good answers about flat space and dark energy and why it's so important to understand the CMB.
But, the author really didn't write the book to tell us those things. He wrote it for two main reasons. He wants to tell you why the Many World Hypothesis (Hugh Everett III) is the best explanation for the mysterious of physics and then goes on to tell you how our universe is mathematics.
I love math at least as much as the next geek and wish the universe was math, but I gave up those kind of thoughts a long time ago. As Confucius said (no, really he did!), he looked for truth in mathematics and studied it for five years before he realized truth laid elsewhere.
I'm not against using the Many World Hypothesis to explain the measurement problem but the approach the author used just was not convincing. I would strongly recommend the David Deutsch book, "The Beginning of Infinity" it covers the same kind of science but is much more coherent. I'll give a shout out to Tegmark, he quotes people like Deutsch and many others I have read and gives them kudos even though he doesn't agree with him throughout the book.
Another book, I would recommend instead is a science fiction book called "Thrice Upon a Time", by James P Hogan, he covers the Many World Hypothesis in a more consistent way than this book does. (Yes, it's fiction but uses science and speculation to explain).
Overall, the reason the author really wrote the book is the reasons I can't fully recommend this book.
A series of essays that read like an ode to science. Good poetry makes you feel your way to understanding, and these essays let you understand by feeling and just gives enough to whet you curiosity on the topic and give you further ideas for further listening.
This book would make a great first science book for the listener since it covers wide areas of science by making the listener feel the topic but not enough to fully understand or assimilate. As for me, the book makes a great last book in science to listen to because it summarizes superbly the 100 or so science books I've listened to (and reviewed) over the last 3 years. Now, I finally realize it's time for me to move on to other kinds of books to discover about our place in the universe.
One of the narrators of this book, Peter Berkrot, read "Confessions of a Crap Artist". You know it's a great narrator when your mind goes back to something he had read (over six months ago) and you give the narrator that personality he had from the other book. That character in "Crap Artist" makes the truly bizarre the normal, and his reading of the strange in science by making it normal made the listening experience all the more enjoyable.
In order to criticize something, you first must be able to understand it. In the first half of the book the author lays the foundation for the listener so that they can understand the criticisms coming in the second half of the book.
He explains the authorized version of reality and the parts that go into it better than any science book I have ever listened to. The listener will understand the 'standard model' of particle physics and its 20 parameters and the 'lambda-cosmic microwave background' for the cosmological model. The author doesn't miss a concept before he leads up to these current versions of reality. He steps the listener through Newton's Theory of Gravity and his crutch of absolute space and absolute time, and then Einstein and his special and general relativity and how that leads to a cosmological constant which leads to dark energy and dark matter and so on. He'll tell you about what the Higgs Boson really is and he does it even better than multiple books that I've listened to which were dedicated to the subject.
All of the background that's presented in the first half of the book leads up to his main theme that "string theory started by applying a beta function to the scatter diagrams of atomic collisions and then realizing that the points can be replaced by vibrating strings and this leads to a symmetry between fermions and bosons". Don't worry, the author explains each concept so that you'll be able to explain it over breakfast with a partner as you listen to the story. He is really that good at explaining. His real point is that string theory doesn't point to experience but relies on untested assumptions.
I don't agree with his conclusion. I think super-symmetry (string theory) is the best approach we have for connecting the very big (general relativity) with the very small (quantum theory). He want to take the metaphysics (he would say 'fairy tales') out of science by strictly obeying the corresponding theory of truth principle. Don't worry, once again the author explains everything.
This book explains physics/cosmology better than any book I have read, and he covers almost every topic I'm interested in. He doesn't miss a topic. For example, he completely tells you about Bells' Theorem and entanglement, and the measurement problem in physics, and the hierarchy problem within the standard model and how these kind of things provide motivation for another model.
Even if you don't agree with the subtitle of the book, the listener will get the best overview of physics/cosmology available from any other audible book on these topics.
You don't need to want to convert others into atheism to enjoy this book. A theist would not be turned off while listening to this book. The author is fairly non-threatening in his presentation.
I usually don't listen to every word when I'm listening to an Audible book, because sometimes my mind will wonder. This book was different. I listened to every word from the author since he writes simple sentences and reads his own work better than a professional could have and says something I was really interested in, namely how the scientific process works.
Faith, is best thought of as "pretending to know something you don't know". Facts need support beyond "I just believe" and such people who believe such things belong at the child's table not the adult's table. He warns of falling for the trap of 'having faith" that the light will turn on when you turn the light switch on. You really have knowledge in that situation not faith. It's part of the 'word play' of Wittgenstein, but it is a way to confuse the word faith in the non believer.
The author explains what critical reasoning is and shows how it is a foundation to philosophical thought, but at the same time the listener will realize how the Socratic method is the foundation for the scientific process (he doesn't explicitly state this, but as I was listening to every word it became obvious).
Even if you don't want to convert others to be an Atheist, the book is still valuable. It will teach you about critical reasoning and how to learn about your proper place in the universe just a little bit better.
One of the great books on Eastern Civilizations. This book is a perfect listen for those who don't like history with all of its dates since he tells the story functionally not chronologically. The book looks at history by each civilization and by function (philosophy, poetry, prose, people's language, government and so on). The author seems to excel when he's talking about a country's philosophy and uses it to describe the country's culture. The section on Buddhism, Hinduism, and Confucianism are the best I have ever read.
It's hard to condense 2000 or more years into a digestible understandable format, but the author does it and the listener really gets to understand our place in the universe a little bit better because of it. The author magically takes random events, turns it into information, processes it into knowledge by giving it narrative and then gives the listener wisdom he didn't have before. I did smile out loud when we were told about Akbar the "illiterate intellectual". He would have the great works of his time read aloud to him. After having listened to this work, I too feel like the illiterate intellectual (since reading puts me to sleep and listening does not. Thank you Audible for making this book available!).
I will give a bit of advice to any potential listener that I know I wouldn't follow myself (my favorite kind of free advice). Don't listen to the first eight hours or so of the book on prehistoric man and early prehistory. He's just wrong and full of prejudices of the time. I did listen to it because I have a linear personality and just can't bring myself to not listen to it all, but the only value I got is that how little they knew about that period of man in 1935 and how they would extrapolate falsely and a boatload of the author's Western prejudices sneaked through.
I would be amiss to not comment on some of the incredibly absurd statements that permeate the book (meat eaters stink, "the average Japanese man today has the sensitivity and shrewdness of the Jew", Hindus are a superstitious people, and so on). I would recommend just ignore such statements and take the book as the masterpiece it is. I have yet to find any other book that covers Eastern Civilizations better and I definitely will read the other volumes in the series.
This is by far the best book I have read this year. It uses the narrative of Darwin's deceptively simple idea of making complex things from a very simple algorithm. The author beats this thought in to the reader and at the same time covers how the world changed because of that.
The book is really more philosophical than scientific but it's accessible to the non-philosopher like me. He starts by telling the listener the mindset during Darwin's time. Plato's universal forms would lead to absolute categories such as species (either your a donkey or a horse) and Aristotle's importance of essence for the nature of things to be the thing. Darwin had to overcome that kind of thought. Darwin dances around what a species is in his "Origins of Species" because for his theory to work you must realize that there are intermediaries between objects and the thinking at that time would not allow for intermediaries. All of the above, I got from just the first chapter in the book, and you too can be just as entertained as I was!
The author tells me that Locke would say that mind must come from mind, that is God must have created man. Now, I have finally started to understand Locke. Oddly, David Hume, almost had the concept of evolution by natural selection but just couldn't take the next step to get there. (How I love David Hume!, a man a head of his times). Hobbes gave us "just so stories" to explain the creation of society and Leviathan.
The nearly infinite decision space (what he calls the 'library in the tower of Babel') gives false security to believers in Sky Hooks (deus ex machina believers, Gould, Penrose and Chomskey), as opposed to the believers in sky cranes (Darwin's Brilliant Idea).
The author has long sections on Psychology (Skinner is wrong!), and morality (morality is complex!). He even delves into one of my favorite topics, Godol's incompleteness theorem and how Penrose is wrong to say it proves artificial intelligence will never succeed. All the time, the author uses the narrative of Darwin's Brilliant Idea, simple algorithms can lead to amazing results.
A negative review on audible led me to this book. The reviewer said that the first half of the book was about philosophy and how good Dawkins is, and the second half spends most of the time criticizing Gould. I knew I wanted the book after having read that review. (To the reviewers credit, he's not being nasty, but fairly accurate).
I loved this book. It's a rare one which challenges my beliefs, keeps me focused and transcends me to hard to reach places in my mind which makes me really think about my place in the universe and understand it just a tiny bit more. Besides, it's fun to be able act like an intellectual snob while talking in a waffle shop with a stranger and have the person think I'm intellectual heavyweight while knowing I only know that stuff because I just listened to one fine book, and more importantly keeps me from having to listen to his stories about some unimportant job he had thirty years ago!
The listener experiences the science of Clarke and the story telling of Pohl which makes for a delightful listen. Also, the listener gets to learn a little bit about number theory and what's all this talk been about Fermat's last equation and why people through out history have gotten hooked on it.
For me the funnest part of the book surrounds the Galactic Overlords and how they are everywhere but really nowhere and we should just call them "Bill" with quotation marks and should not directly confuse them with God.
It was fun to read about Sri Lanka and get a good discussion on what Immanuel Kant's categorical imperative really means and how it can lead to peace through out the known universe. (There is also a laugh out loud line in the book where the authors refer to the famous people who live in Sri Lanka and dance around the fact that it's one of the author's of the book, funny, funny stuff).
The story itself is a simple story but the presentation interspersed with the science and philosophy made for an engaging whole. The two writers each knew what there strengths were and contributed their strength to the story.
The book has what I think is the most interesting character I've ever come across in fiction, Siegfrid von Shrink (or at least that's what the main character calls him). I found myself eagerly anticipating all of their sessions and I, the listener, was never disappointed when he was present in the story.
The book is also interesting for another reason. It's a rare book where the whole purpose for the book is really stated in the last line of the book (don't worry, I'm not giving away a spoiler, but by all means make sure you listened to the last line).
I definitely don't want to give away too much, so I'll speak circumspectly, the book explores what it means to be human and tells us why we are special in the universe and all of this comes together with the last line in the book.
I enjoyed the book, but it's definitely not pure sci-fi in the classical sense, and just dances around the physics and the science except for the character of Siegfrid von Shrink. He makes the book highly listenable and worth a credit.
The book ended abruptly. I looked at my wife and said 'is that it", then I realized there is a second book, but not available on audible yet (Dec 2013). I wish I had waited for the second part, because I would have immediately continued listening.
I realize why Arthur C. Clarke is such a good writer. He writes his story such as they are a narrative part to a text book and only uses the characters as foils to bring out the cool information about the physics in zero gravity. He gives enough about the characters to hold your interest, but that's just a ploy to keep you interested in the super cool physics happening.
I like the audible book, I would recommend you wait till part 2 is available before purchasing.
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