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

4.5 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0060728892
ISBN-10: 0060728892
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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.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; Reprint edition (August 3, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060728892
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060728892
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #313,035 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Dyson expresses his interest in science and his faith. He does not see them as being incompatible, and even as someone who is not religious, and who focuses his attention on empirical investigation, I have to agree. I would consider this a good read for anyone who thinks that someone cannot be a person of science and religion, at the same time.
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How can I have a degree in Physics from a major university and not have learned about this guy earlier. I guess Feynman's light was so bright, anyone near him was hard to see, and my professors where too busy pounding the basics in, but man oh man, this is good reading. Dyson is brilliant. If you have an interest in science that spans the entire field and want to crawl into the head of a man who has put it all together in a way that isn't accessible to most of us, then jump into it. I read it a lecture at a time, which takes about an hour. So worth the time.
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