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Mario Livio tells the tale of a number at the heart of an ancient mystery: phi, or 1.6180339887....
In the ever-fascinating Why? Mario Livio interviewed scientists in several fields to explore the nature of curiosity....
The fascinating science and history of the air we breathe. It's invisible. It's ever present. Without it, you would die in minutes. And it has an epic story to tell....
In Calculating the Cosmos, Ian Stewart presents an exhilarating guide to the cosmos, from our solar system to the entire universe. He describes the architecture of space and time....
Like the alphabet, the calendar, or the zodiac, the periodic table of the chemical elements has a permanent place in our imagination....
Utterly beautiful. Profoundly disconcerting. Quantum theory is quite simply the most successful account of the physical universe ever devised....
Whether it’s brusque, convincing, fraught with emotion, or dripping with innuendo, language is fundamentally a tool for conveying meaning....
Can adaptation by natural selection really account for everything we see in nature? Yale University ornithologist Richard Prum - reviving Darwin's own views - thinks not....
Lawrence Krauss tells the dramatic story of the discovery of the hidden world of reality....
The story of all the light we cannot see, tracing infrared, microwaves, ultraviolet, X-rays, gamma rays, radio waves and other forms of radiation from their historic discoveries in the 19th century....
Full of enthralling tales of the miracles of engineering that permeate our lives, Stuff Matters will make you see stuff in a whole new way....
A breathtaking and beautiful exploration of our planet, this groundbreaking audiobook accompanies the BBC One TV series, providing the deepest answers to the simplest questions....
We are all familiar with the idea that machines are powered by electricity, but perhaps not so aware that this is also true for ourselves....
Michael S. Gazzaniga made one of the great discoveries in the history of neuroscience: split-brain theory....
A sterling roster of natural and social scientists in conversation with top-flight journalist Stefan Klein - shedding new light on their work, their lives, and what they still hope to discover....
More than a half-century after it burst upon the intellectual scene, Existentialism's quest to answer the most fundamental questions has continued to exert a profound attraction....
Scientists' understanding of life is progressing more rapidly than at any point in human history, from the extraordinary decoding of DNA to the controversial emergence of biotechnology....
The cheapest, simplest, most effective way of manipulating DNA ever known, CRISPR may well give us the cure to HIV, genetic diseases, and some cancers....
We all make mistakes. Nobody’s perfect. Not even some of the greatest geniuses in history, as Mario Livio tells us in this marvelous story of scientific error and breakthrough.
Charles Darwin, William Thomson (Lord Kelvin), Linus Pauling, Fred Hoyle, and Albert Einstein were all brilliant scientists. Each made groundbreaking contributions to his field - but each also stumbled badly. Darwin’s theory of natural selection shouldn’t have worked, according to the prevailing beliefs of his time. Not until Gregor Mendel’s work was known would there be a mechanism to explain natural selection. How could Darwin be both wrong and right? Lord Kelvin, Britain’s leading scientific intellect at the time, gravely miscalculated the age of the Earth. Linus Pauling, the world’s premier chemist (who would win the Nobel Prize in chemistry) constructed an erroneous model for DNA in his haste to beat the competition to publication. Astrophysicist Fred Hoyle dismissed the idea of a "Big Bang" origin to the universe (ironically, the caustic name he gave to this event endured long after his erroneous objections were disproven). And Albert Einstein, whose name is synonymous with genius, speculated incorrectly about the forces that hold the universe in equilibrium - and that speculation opened the door to brilliant conceptual leaps.
These five scientists expanded our knowledge of life on Earth, the evolution of the Earth itself, and the evolution of the universe, despite and because of their errors. As Mario Livio luminously explains, the scientific process advances through error. Mistakes are essential to progress.
Brilliant Blunders is a singular tour through the world of science and scientific achievement - and a wonderfully insightful examination of the psychology of five fascinating scientists.
The author writes in a straightforward manner and explains the science in a highly entertaining manner. If I ever sit next to somebody in a waffle house who starts talking about his life stories, I can easily pivot into one of the five stories splendidly presented in this book. The writer was that good at telling the stories about the blunders, and having listened to it I can probably relate the whole book and it's major points without missing a beat. That tells me the book was well presented.
The narrator made the book better than the written book. I found some of his voices a real hoot, particularly Darwin and Einstein. I would definitely recommend the audible version versus the written form of this book.
For me, this book was a template for having worked in the real world surrounded around very smart people who would fall into the blunders that are illustrated by these five stories. I don't think the author realized how relevant the stories could be for most working stiffs and the kind of people we often have to work with.
Instead of picking Einstein's blunder as the cosmological constant, he should have picked Einstein's failure to accept quantum mechanics after having co-discovered it and wasting his time on the GUT (grand unified theorem) outside of the context of quantum physics. I know why he picked the cosmological constant. It's a funner story to relate and is more relevant today because of the mystery of Dark Energy, and the word blunder is not usually associated with that for Einstein and the cosmological constant is.
Overall, the stories are well presented, and it was narrated much better than it was written, but the author missed a great opportunity to make a better book about the foibles of life in general.
13 of 13 people found this review helpful
This book has been sitting on my iPod for months, as I listen to book after book, occasionally re-visiting it, trying to enjoy it from any possible perspective. I give up. I'm not going to finish it. The reading style is completely demeaning. Even if the content were intelligently presented, which is both impossible to tell—and very, very unlikely—the reading makes this book completely unlistenable. Come to think of it, the content is strangely presented, so that it's not very interesting either. This from a science history buff who usually enjoys just this kind of fare.
6 of 7 people found this review helpful
The history of science aspects of this book are quite interesting but the incidents are tied together primarily by the somewhat odd concept of blunders thus seemed to me scattered and lacking the focus of a great history of science. I was not convinced by the author’s main point nor his distinction between good, but mistaken, science versus a scientific blunder. The author spends time demonstrating it was unlikely that Einstein actually said including the cosmological constant in general relativity was a blunder. The problem is I really didn’t care if Einstein actually said it was a blunder or not (and I still don’t know anyway). The author comments personally on the priority of some scientific claims (for example Lemaitre vs Hubble), that I felt were distracting at best. The author’s language was repeatedly sloppy. He throws around terms like “right” and “wrong” and “true” but points out elsewhere that science is not about these words. I have read more incisive histories of science and was familiar with almost all the science history presented here, and I did not find the history rehash enlightening nor the thesis compelling.
This is not at all a bad book. I just really like the histories of science and this one seemed less penetrating and less compelling than the best.
9 of 11 people found this review helpful
What does Jeff Cummings bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?
Jeff Cummings often blunders in his pronunciations of both scientific words such as helical, and of the names of many well known scientists.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?
I did listen to the entire recording while exercising. The book is so redundant that I would not have read it in print, but it was easy to half listen as I did other things. I found that the story occupied my attention as I was often thinking about how it could have been improved.
What was most disappointing about Mario Livio’s story?
At the book's core Livio mostly misses the point. Disprovable ideas propel great science. I think that Livio may know this, but he sets up these "blunders" as a negative. These "blunders" did not slow the advancement of their science. If anything, they accelerated the advancement of ideas by others in their fields.
What three words best describe Jeff Cummings’s performance?
Meh. Entertaining. The readers accents and mispronunciations made the listening more amusing.
Did Brilliant Blunders inspire you to do anything?
Look for a better book on the same topic.
Any additional comments?
Livio should keep his day job and stop listening to the editor who guided the tone of this book. There is an interesting story to be told about how wrong ideas put forth by esteemed scientists advance the rest of the field. Unfortunately, it's not this book.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
Is there anything you would change about this book?
I'd start with Einstein and cosmology and finish with Darwin.
What do you think your next listen will be?
The Mezzanine by Nicholson Baker
What about Jeff Cummings’s performance did you like?
I didn't find anything to dislike.
Did Brilliant Blunders inspire you to do anything?
It inspired me to make a salami and cheese sandwich while listening. Does that count?
Any additional comments?
It's a good book and fascinating subject, but brother does it need gravy.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
Very interesting perspective on science and human mindset, showing even genius make mistakes as we do.
Can't imagine how Dr. Mario Livio finds the bandwidth to bust out book after book of consistently high quality. "Brilliant Blunders" dives deep into details surrounding discoveries without loosing sight of its theme of intellectual bravery.
Narrator Jeff Cummings is competent and has a fine instrument but was clearly misdirected. There are many incorrect and under-researched mispronunciations. Most troubling was the choice to speak quotations in affected and code-switched ethnic accents. These just don't work and detract seriously from the thread of story. The producers should have spent the money to hire sp
I feel smarter for having listened to this. Wonderfully explained concepts that have previously flown over my head, put into enjoyably human context.
This is a wonderful complement to "Farewell to Reality". Both books are written by fully rounded and grounded scientists. Both are full of insights and highlight the human dimension of the science industry. This title builds the history and backdrop on the intellectual and social levels describing the achievements of modern science that we often take for granted and think they were always there for everyone.