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Publisher's Summary

From Jim Holt, New York Times best-selling author of Why Does the World Exist?, comes When Einstein Walked with Gödel: Excursions to the Edge of Thought, an entertaining and accessible audiobook guide to the most profound scientific and mathematical ideas of recent centuries

Does time exist? What is infinity? Why do mirrors reverse left and right but not up and down? In this scintillating collection, Holt explores the human mind, the cosmos, and the thinkers who’ve tried to encompass the latter with the former. With his trademark clarity and humor, Holt probes the mysteries of quantum mechanics, the quest for the foundations of mathematics, and the nature of logic and truth. Along the way, he offers intimate biographical sketches of celebrated and neglected thinkers, from the physicist Emmy Noether to the computing pioneer Alan Turing and the discoverer of fractals, Benoit Mandelbrot. In this audiobook, Holt offers a painless and playful introduction to many of our most beautiful but least understood ideas, from Einsteinian relativity to string theory, and also invites listeners to consider why the greatest logician of the 20th century believed the US Constitution contained a terrible contradiction - and whether the universe truly has a future.

©2018 Jim Holt (P)2018 Macmillan Audio

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

A good overview of scientific theory


I read a lot of audiobooks about science. I don't always understand everything I hear, but the format does make that easier for me. Holt's collection of essays on science and (to a lesser degree) philosophy range from the easily comprehensible to the sort of things that would make my eyes glaze over if I was reading hard copy, but for the most part he does a great job of making a lot of complex scientific ideas much clearer and more accessible.

His discussions of physics and mathematics, which make up the bulk of the book, made a good deal of sense to me as I listened. Not that I could reproduce the formulae or equations involved. But Holt manages to give a layperson the ability to grasp some difficult concepts with the clarity of his prose.

And then there's the philosophy part which sometimes utterly eludes me because so much of it is counter-intuitive.  Still, it's almost as interesting to hear about the battles over who took credit for what, even if I don't begin to understand the What part, as it is to get the lowdown on Einstein's problems with "spooky action at a distance" which name could have been applied to gravity before science became aware of how forces work, or Gödel's paranoia that people were trying to poison him, leading him to effectively starve himself to death. Certainly some of the most interesting parts were Holt's discussion of the life and work of Alan Turing, who these days seems to be more famous as a gay martyr than as a brilliant mathematician who, in breaking the Enigma code, helped win WWII.

It's one of those books that veers from the chatty and informative to the murkily complex. Some of it is a joy to read, some went the proverbial route of in one ear and out the other. Still, I feel as if I got a great deal of both pleasure and information out of it, and I think that's all I can reasonably expect.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Facinating Stroies in Science and Philosophy

This is a great book about all the interesting stuff in the philosophy of science. It is where science takes a leap of faith and philosophy becomes relevant that things become really fascinating. What we don't know or know very little about, what is counterintuitive, and the brilliant minds that laboured to reveal their secrets.

Some people think all science uses the same methodology and disagreements are in the details. This book shows opposing thought on science, epistemology, and belief. Whether its about time, relativity, quantum physics, or just the way we think, this book shines a light on some of the most intriguing aspects of modern knowledge and the quirky people behind them.

Questions, especially the unanswered ones, are the interesting ones, and this book does not disappoint. highly recommended to philosophy and philosophy of science fans, as well as anyone who likes the mysteries of reality if one does exist.

7 of 8 people found this review helpful

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Essayist posing as Philosopher-Physicist

If you're looking for great stories to share around the campfire while singing Kumbaya, this book might be just right for you! It's a collection of entertaining essays (with quite a bit of overlap between them) from a pretty good writer who doesn't actually ever demonstrate much depth of knowledge; but plenty of breadth.

After comparing the title of the book with its contents, you might think the author is unintentionally demonstrating the Dunning-Kruger Effect; at least, that's my take-away after listening to this entire Audible.

Maybe the book's title was just a bad choice, so I was expecting too much. The essays do contain a lot of details, just not the necessary depth to give those details meaning.

If you're looking for something with more depth in the physics arena specifically, but a lot less breadth, try "What Is Real?: The Unfinished Quest for the Meaning of Quantum Physics" by Adam Becker. It's still not deep enough for my taste, but it's a better choice than Jim Holt's book here.

19 of 28 people found this review helpful

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Fantastic

A combination of storytelling, scientific explanation, history, and philosophical argument. Anybody with broad intellectual interests will find something.

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An enjoyable romp through the history of science!

What a fantastic audiobook for those interested in the history and philosophy of science and math. Highly recommended!!

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Thought Provoking Read

I found this to be a really engaging set of essays with some really interesting themes covered.

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A Fantastic Journey

If you're a fan of science and philosophy I highly recommend this! A wonderful collection of essays that will entertain and make you think.

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Impressive scope w stimulating ideas

Despite the impressive scope (math, philosophy, the fate of the universe), the book is very enjoyable and moves quickly. I don't buy all the philosophy, yet it's interesting to hear such a broad, rapidly moving take. I'll enjoy a second listen.

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First 2/3 we good

This book started out strong and had interesting historical information and science. In the last third of the book it went off the rails. I have down graded my rating from 5 to 4 as I had not read it all the way through when I rated it initially.

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Thought provoking

Can be a bit dry at times, overall though, very interesting to listen to even if some of it went well over my head. Would recommend 👌

0 of 1 people found this review helpful