I am spending some time dealing with family business so I am reposting some of my past book reviews over the next few days. These could be useful with Christmas coming up.
I enjoyed Marcia Bartusiak’s book for two reasons. It is a very useful history of the development of modern ideas about the universe, especially during the early 20th century. The pen portraits of the personalities involved are especially interesting. But this history also makes the reader realise he or she should not be limited by current ideas. The universe really is bigger than we think, or can possibly think. Sort of put ideas about the multiverse into perspective for me.
Book review: The Day We Found the Universe by Marcia Bartusiak
Price: US$11.53; NZ$20.82
Hardcover: 368 page
Publisher: Pantheon (April 7, 2009)
This is a great book – just the sort of history of science I enjoy. One that smashes a few illusions, introduces new personalities, describes the significant research and debates of the time. And also describes the key scientists in a human way, with all their foibles, prejudices and illusions as well as their scientific contributions.
The title is apt. The book describes the work and people which produced our modern day understanding of the universe. Less than a century ago we used to think that our galaxy, the milky way, comprised the whole universe. And that it was static. Now we see it a infinitely bigger, with billions of galaxies similar to ours. We also understand that it is expanding and that we can trace this expansion back almost 14 billion years to the “big bang.”
The big illusion the book shatters is the received story of how this happened through the work of Edwin Hubble. Of course he played a key role – but we normally never hear the background stories, the other personalities involved or details of the disputes and resolutions. It’s normally all about Edwin Hubble.
Posted in book review, SciBlogs, science
Tagged Albert Einstein, Edwin Hubble, Emanuel Swedenborg, Georges Lemaître, Giordano Bruno, Harlow Shapley, History of science, SciBlogs, Vesto Slipher
The Edge question is an annual event. Publisher John Brockman poses an interesting question to a large number of scientists, thinkers, academics and writers. He publishes their answers on the Edge website and usually, later, as a book*
The 2012 question is:
What Is Your Favorite Deep, Elegant, Or Beautiful Explanation? Continue reading
Posted in philosophy, politics, religion, SciBlogs, science, Science and Society
Tagged Albert Einstein, Andrei Linde, cosmology, Eugene Wigner, god, John Brockman, physics, SciBlogs
Book Review: Einstein’s God: Conversations About Science and the Human Spirit by Krista Tippett
Price: US$10.88; NZ$12.97
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Penguin (Non-Classics) (February 23, 2010)
The media reports of Stephen Hawking’s new book with co-author Leonard Mlodinow (The Grand Design) attracted hostile reaction from some theological quarters (see The Grand Design – neither God nor 42). This reminds me of similar treatment meted out to Albert Einstein in his time.
Einstein had many religious critics for an article of his on the philosophy of religion in 1940. An Episcopalian responded “to give up the doctrine of a personal God . . . . shows the good Doctor, when it comes to the practicalities of life, is full of jellybeans”. He was accused of providing fuel for the fanatical antisemitism of religious bigots and told that he should “stick to his science” and stop delving into philosophy (sound familiar). And this from the founder of the Calvary tabernacle Association in Oklahoma City “Professor Einstein, every Christian in America will immediately reply to you, ‘Take your crazy, fallacious theory of evolution and go back to Germany where you came from.”
Perhaps some of today’s scientists who hesitate to respond to their theological critics could learn from Einstein’s reaction. While criticising atheist reaction he described his theological critics as “numerous dogs who are earning their food guarding ignorance and superstition for the benefit of those who profit from it.”
Posted in belief, book review, Buddhism, Christianity, culture, diversity, faith, god, religion, SciBlogs, science, Science and Society
Tagged Albert Einstein, Charles Darwin, Conversations About Science, Einstein's God: Conversations About Science and the Human Spirit, John Polkinghorne, Krista Tippett, Philosophy of religion, physics, religion, SciBlogs, Stephen Hawking
I have never understood this concept – to “lose one’s faith.”
Surely, changing one’s mind or beliefs is a positive thing. Your are developing new ideas or beliefs because you have new information, or have found the previous beliefs inadequate in some way.
You haven’t lost anything, you have gained something!
Posted in agnostic, agnosticism, atheism, belief, Bible, diversity, faith, religion, science, superstition, theology
Tagged Albert Einstein, Church, Francis Crick