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The Artful Universe Expanded [Paperback]

John Barrow
1.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

March 15, 2011 019960133X 978-0199601332 2
Our love of art, writes John Barrow, is the end product of millions of years of evolution. How we react to a beautiful painting or symphony draws upon instincts laid down long before humans existed. Now, in this enhanced edition of the highly popular The Artful Universe, Barrow further explores the close ties between our aesthetic appreciation and the basic nature of the Universe.

Barrow argues that the laws of the Universe have imprinted themselves upon our thoughts and actions in subtle and unexpected ways. Why do we like certain types of art or music? What games and puzzles do we find challenging? Why do so many myths and legends have common elements? In this eclectic and entertaining survey, Barrow answers these questions and more as he explains how the landscape of the Universe has influenced the development of philosophy and mythology, and how millions of years of evolutionary history have fashioned our attraction to certain patterns of sound and color. This second edition features eight fascinating new sections covering such topics as the recent discoveries of extrasolar planets, the fashionable postmodernist rejection of science, and the discovery of the underlying mathematical structure of Jackson Pollock's work.

Drawing on a wide variety of examples, from the theological questions raised by St. Augustine and C.S. Lewis to the relationship between the pure math of Pythagoras and the music of the Beatles, The Artful Universe Expanded covers new ground and enters a wide-ranging debate about the meaning and significance of the links between art and science.

"Traverses an enormous range of material, treating the reader to extended riffs on everything from non-Euclidean geometry to Stravinsky's theories on music."
--The New York Times

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Editorial Reviews


Review from previous edition: "an engaging book ... practically a universal education in both the history of modern science and the history of the Universe ... will be much quoted, much debated and much praised" --Nature

"a feast: the kind of book which tells you everything you want to know about everything" --The Economist

"I was infuriated by it, disagreed with it and loved reading it." --Timothy Ferris, New York Times Book Review

"in the speculative and intellectual richness of its pages, this book is probably unsurpassed" --Peter Atkins

"a masterly exposition of what seems bound to become one of the most important developments to have taken place in physical science" --TLS

"Intriguing analysis of new scientific thinking." --Sydney Times

"unique and wide-ranging book ... The reader is taken on an eclectic study of many scientific disciplines and is presented with a revealing picture of the structure of the physical world solely in terms of its invariant constants. There are also fascinating chapters on the definition and nature of life, the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence and the interpretation of quantum theory in relation to the existence of observers." --Europe and Astronomy 1992 25/02/1993

" is consistently diverting and illuminating and indeed, at its best, hard to put down in its communication of the excitement of seeing the world as an exercise in the mathematics of energy. --Hugh Lawson-Tancred, The Spectator, on Between Inner Space and Outer Space

"Barrow is emerging as the Stephen Jay Gould of the mathematical sciences. These fluent and erudite essays should further enhance his reputation." --Professor Sir Martin Rees, Astronomer Royal, on Between Inner Space and Outer Space

About the Author

John Barrow is Professor of Mathematical Sciences at the University of Cambridge. Hailed as "the Stephen Jay Gould of the mathematical sciences" (Sir Martin Rees), he is the author of 15 popular science books, including Pi in the Sky, Theories of Everything, The Origin of the Universe, and The Anthropic Cosmological Principle (with Frank Tipler). He is the winner of the 2006 Templeton Prize.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 2 edition (March 15, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 019960133X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199601332
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 1.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,017,281 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Regurgitation without attribution January 6, 2014
Reader, my comments refer to the 1995 edition, of which I understand this to be an "expansion." Barrow, and you, would have benefited from a contraction. This earlier work (which I must assume provides you with the basis for that of which you read this review) is a poorly-organized, and poorly-edited mish-mash of hypotheses that point at Barrow's conclusion without lending any particular force to his argument.

Which is? The world is so because it is. Extraterrestrials, if they exist, must exist as they do. The four forces of the universe cannot be any different than they are, if the moon was not where it lives in the sky, mathematics would be far different now than what it is. And by the way, we have the Minoans to blame for constellations (bright bit of conjecture there!) Why this teleological fever? I suppose because our author, a new Candide, wants to point out that our aesthetic preferences are based upon our physical/evolutionary constructs, themselves based upon what we currently conceive to be givens of physics and chemistry (and this is not a bad idea), but they couldn't be otherwise.

All presented in a prose style that is occasionally amusing (the best part of the book are the quotes) but far too often has one struggle with paragraphs that straggle over far too many pages. Did Barrow's agent just throw up her hands? To say nothing of the editor - after all, as ideas and connections pour forth in a feverish fashion from Barrow's pen, one would like to read of his sources. Some are listed in the bibliography, none are footnoted in the text.

One would also have liked a few other critical readers before the text made it to print.
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