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Paradigms Lost [Paperback]

John L. Casti
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)


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Book Description

November 1, 1990 0380711656 978-0380711659

The origins of life ... Extraterrestrials ... Our genetic destiny ... The roots of language and learning ... Quantum physics and the shape of the universe ... Artificial intelligence .. In a masterful "trial by reason," author John L. Casti presents all sides of the most important and vital scientific debates raging in the world today -- scrutinizing six perplexing "great questions" in the most engaging, astonishing and accessible amalgam of science and literature since A Brief History of Time.



Editorial Reviews

About the Author

John L. Casti received his Ph.D. in mathematics from the University of Southern California in 1970. In 1974, after holding positions at the RAND Corporation and the University of Arizona, he became one of the first research staff members at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) in Vienna, where he stayed until 1986. Since 1992, he has been a professor and resident researcher at the Santa Fe Institute. He is also a professor at the Technical University of Vienna. The author of numerous books, he divides his time between Santa Fe, New Mexico, and Vienna.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 592 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial (November 1, 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0380711656
  • ISBN-13: 978-0380711659
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.2 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,225,640 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

One of the pioneers of complexity science and systems theory, John L. Casti, Ph.D., is Senior Research Scholar at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, where he heads an initiative on Extreme Events in Human Society. He worked for many years at the Sante Fe Institute and The RAND Corporation, as well as serving on the faculties of Princeton, the University of Arizona, and New York University. A former editor of the journal Complexity, Casti has published nearly 20 volumes of academic and popular science and received his Ph.D. in mathematics from the University of Southern California. He lives in Vienna, Austria.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Perhaps the best popular science book I have ever read December 10, 2001
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Without a doubt, this is one of the most insightful books I have ever come across in my life. In it a mathematician takes a critical and penetrating look at the most baffling problems facing humanity and science. These are; The Origin of Life, Language Acquisition, Sociobiology and Genetic Determinism, Artificial Intelligence, The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, and the Mysteries of Quantum Physics. In narrating these topics Casti adopts a unique courtroom style in which he presents the arguments in favor of and against the dominant hypothesis in each of the fields, and then steps in to act as jury and provide his own opinion.

But the book is more than only a deep exposition of these topics. Casti weaves an extremely lively and entertaining tale about a host of characters and discoveries involved in these exciting areas of thought and research. One of the things I noticed in this book is the marvelous sense of humour that Casti employs. Nowhere else in serious science writing or even in popular accounts have I seen such intelligent dashes of humor expressed in such fine language. In fact that's one of the outstanding triumphs of this book. The language in the book is sophisticated, yet very accessible. The bibiliography at the end is almost as lavishly detailed as the book itself.

In my opinion, Casti has emerged as one of the finest science writers in the world because of this book. I strongly suspect that it is because of his unique experiences; he combines the artistic and culturally sophisticated style which he developed in Europe with the informal, witty and pragmatic cheek found among Americans writers which he must have picked up during his time in the United States.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb discussion of modern theories February 7, 2004
Format:Paperback
Casti is one of the best science writers out there considering he isn't nearly as well known as some of them, but he deserves to be. Also, his books are consistently at a respectable level of technical detail and sophistication which is rare in science writing intended for the layman. In this book, although the discussions range from current cosmological theory to evolutionary biology to quantum physics, I was most interested in his discussion of Chomsky and current linguistic theory, which is my interest, so I will confine myself to that.
In this chapter, Casti gives the best introduction for the general reader that I've seen on Chomsky's ideas on innate language acquisition and transformational grammar. In the process, he also compares them with competing views such as Sampson's and Piaget's, and he even discusses E.O. Wilson's sociobiological views a bit, which Chomsky himself commented on. After reading this chapter, you would probably be able to read the chapter on generative and transformational grammar in a good introductory theoretical linguistics text, such as John Lyons's classic Introduction to Theoretical Linguistics, or Donna Jo Napoli's recent book, entitled simply Linguistics, which is also excellent. So overall, another great book from Casti that stands head and shoulders above the competition and with a great introduction to modern linguistic theory.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars deep, human-centric, overview of current science December 5, 1999
Format:Paperback
Casti poses the question, "What does current science, in particular, important unanswered questions in current science, tell us about humanity's place in the universe?" Thankfully, Casti is an amazingly knowledgeable and fair guide, with the emphasis always firmly on clear explication of that science, not any particular interpretation of its pertinence to the human condition. Casti is a scientist, not a dogmatist.
The breadth and depth of this book are exceptional. Casti injects a little of himself here and there, as well, and comes across as a jovial fellow... his erudition speaks for itself.
One of my favorites!
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dazziling January 9, 2000
Format:Paperback
This book is splendidly written. It surveys some of the big scientific controversies of our day. He tackels evolution, genetics, language, artificial intelligence, and the search for extraterestrial intelligence and two philiosophical questions that impenge on science. What is good is that he provides lots of footnotes to other works that those who, if they are really interested, can consult. The footnotes helped me locate lots of other good books for my library.
John Casti is one of the great writers of modern popular science non-fiction.
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