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Infinite in All Directions: Gifford Lectures Given at Aberdeen, Scotland, April-November 1985 1st Edition

13 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0060390815
ISBN-10: 0060390816
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--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"One of the world's great theoretical physicists . . . explains, in a way that is understandable . . . what past and recent scientific theories tell us about the beginning, ending, and present state of the universe."--USA Today --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Freeman Dyson spent most of his life as a professor of physics at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. He was born in England and worked as a civilian scientist for the Royal Air Force in World War 2. He graduated from Cambridge University in 1945 with a BA degree in mathematics. He went on to Cornell University as a graduate student in 1947 and worked with Hans Bethe and Richard Feynman and went on to be appointed as a professor. His most useful contribution to science was the unification of the three versions of quantum electrodynamics invented by Feynman, Schwinger and Tomonaga. Dyson is a fellow of the American Physical Society, a member of the US National Academy of Sciences, and a fellow of the Royal Society of London. In 2000 he was awarded the Templeton Prize for progress in Religion. In addition to his scientific work, Professor Dyson has found time for raising five daughters, a son and a step-daughter.

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 321 pages
  • Publisher: Harper & Row; 1st edition (March 1988)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060390816
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060390815
  • Product Dimensions: 9.9 x 6.3 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,125,727 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

40 of 43 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 12, 1998
Format: Paperback
Mr. Dyson is one of the most respected and distinguished physicists in the world. He is also a great science writer for the layman. Although a gentle and gracious man by nature, Dyson is not afraid to take on the sacred cows and unfashionable areas of science, and it is obvious that there is little beyond his powers of comprehension. When I read Freeman Dyson, I feel as though I am in the presence of supreme, but very kindly intellect. This is a collection of 17 lectures that touch on many subjects, including 6 on biology. Unplug the phone, lock the door--whatever it takes to have some quiet time to yourself--and read this absorbing and thoughtful book. It will change the way you look at the universe around you. This book will also introduce the you other fascinating books that you've never heard about but will wish that you had.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Roger D. Launius VINE VOICE on August 12, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As always with Freeman Dyson, this book is a provocative exploration of a set of interesting and often unusual themes in nature, thoughtfully related to the larger issues of the day. In "Infinite in All Directions" Dyson searches for meaning on the diversity of the Earth's ecosystem, the inner workings of the universe, and the place of humanity in our larger cosmological structure. Presented originally as a set of lectures at Aberdeen, Scotland, in 1985, the chapters of this book have a familiarity and sensitivity to events of the time that one might expect. This is both a strength and weakness of this book.

Dyson's interest in the origins and evolution of life emerges clearly in this volume, and this discussion sparked in part by the debates over abortion and creationism is most welcome. His concern for cold war issues, especially a lengthy discussion of the place of Austria, seems someone archaic more than twenty years later.

Somewhere in the middle is Dyson's admittedly important perspective and provocative essay on "nuclear winter," a theory advanced by Carl Sagan and others in the 1980s that suggested that a nuclear exchange between the superpowers would trigger a worldwide ice age. He questioned the theory with some excellent points drawn, as he said, from his background. Indeed, science may be autobiographical, Dyson writes, for Carl Sagan drew his analogies for "nuclear winter" from his studies of the cold, dry environment of Mars and the dust particles in its thin atmosphere. This is one approach, Dyson concludes, but not the only one and he drew his analogies from the London fog. "We both use the same mathematics and both work with the same laws of physics. Why then do we reach different conclusions?" (p. 262).
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Steven H Propp TOP 50 REVIEWER on June 23, 2010
Format: Paperback
Freeman John Dyson (born 1923) is a British theoretical physicist and mathematician, famous for his work in quantum field theory, solid-state physics, and nuclear engineering. He has written other popular books such as Origins of Life, Disturbing The Universe, and The Scientist as Rebel.

He states in the Preface, "Boiled down to one sentence, my message is the unbounded prodigality of life and the consequent unboundedness of human destiny. As a working hypothesis to explain the riddle of our existence, I propose that our universe is the most interesting of all possible universes, and our fate as human beings is to make it so."

One perhaps surprising aspect of this book is the amount of attention that he gives to religious topics. He states that many scientists are, "like me, loosely attached to Christian beliefs by birth and habit but not committed to any particular dogma." Surprisingly, he states, "(A)s I listen to the arguments raging in recent years between biologists and creationists over the teaching of biology in American schools, I am shocked to hear voices among the scientists sounding as arrogant as the voices of the creationists."

Concerning origin-of-life theories, he writes, "Directed panspermia is only a hypothesis on the wilder fringe of speculation, not quite science and not quite science fiction. It belongs with Newton's celestial zoo in the borderland where science and mythology meet.
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26 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Avid Reader on December 6, 2003
Format: Paperback
It has been noted that some of the best writing around can be found in the scientific world and this book is a confirmation. It is divided into two sections that the author describes as reflecting two meanings of the title - the infinite quality of the universe and the infinite responsibility of mankind. The essays are erudite, entertaining, informative and more than anything (especially in the "universe" section) demonstrate that the nature of science and humanity's involvement in it is complex, sometimes contradictory and at times perplexing.
Life is explored in all its variations - how it started, why it's complex, how it will end, what it means. Then the second part falters a bit. The author can be forgiven some of his remarks due to the date of publication as he goes on about the (former) Soviet Union, peace, NATO, Star Wars, Nuclear Winter, etc.
The problem with non-political types formulating policy is that over time the perception grows that Barbra Streisand is as knowledgable as Colin Powell or Freeman Dyson knows something that Madelaine Albright doesn't or that Jerry Falwell or Dr. Ruth or some college professor has the answer to the complex social problems of the day.
The peaceful manner in which the potentially explosive end of the Cold War was guided by those familiar with the situation is a rebuke to all the talking heads. A good essay on "Star Wars" and its meaning and potential was followed by some out of the box speculation on ways of dealing with the Soviet State. What was infuriating was the notion pushed by Dyson that scientists and intellectuals are peculiarly inclined toward peace. Do farmers, steel workers, bankers, programmers and chefs desire a nuclear war? Who created those weapons if not scientists?
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