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Disturbing The Universe (Sloan Foundation Science Series) Paperback – April 15, 1981

4.9 out of 5 stars 34 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Freeman Dyson is Professor Emeritus of Physics at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. He is the author of seven books and the recipient of numerous awards including a National Book Critics Circle Award and the 2000 Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; Sloan Foundation Science Series edition (April 15, 1981)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465016774
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465016778
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #89,221 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
While browsing the physics books in my local Borders, I picked up this book on a whim and read the first few pages. Those pages were so powerful I immediately bought it.
Dyson begins by writing about his childhood, but even then, the reader can sense that Dyson's perspective encompasses far more than childhood events, as he mentions a favorite children's story in which the hero finds that his toys have come to life and run amuck; a constant theme in the book is that of responsibility for one's scientific discoveries.
Dyson continues with stories about his involvement in RAF Bomber Command during WWII, where he learned the ineffectualness of strategic bombing. But soon Dyson begins branching out from his personal life to address issues such as the search for extraterrestial intelligence, nuclear disarmament, and the role of science and religion.
His words are laced with compassion, as he speaks of the wrongs he has seen committed, very rarely with anger, although he has certainly more than earned that right! One thing that especially struck me over and over is the profound wisdom that this man has. This is a man who would appear a paradox: a seeker of peace yet utterly realistic, a rational scientist yet devoutly religious. You will not be able to resolve this apparent contradiction unless you read this book! And then you will want to read it again. I certainly did.
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Format: Paperback
This is the best book by Dyson, if you exclude that which contains his Selected Papers. This means a lot for me, for I rate very highly all his books, especially "Infinite in All Directions". Actually, this is one of the best books I ever read, and it influenced me a lot, for instance, in my reading of poetry. It was in this book that I discovered Yeats (recall that I am not a native English speaker). And it gave me the momentum to read, and appreciate in a quite concrete situation, the second part of Goethe's Faust. The episode of Dyson's vacations with mother and father, and the ensuing discussion on humanities vs. science, is very revealing, and helps to pinpoint the origin of the high degree of understanding and tolerance which illuminates all posterior Dyson writings, and that eventually made him win the Templeton Prize. A surprising, very moving chapter on Teller, introduced as a gifted Bach player at the piano is probably closer to the truth than everything else written on the controversial scientist. Wonderful the chapter on how to detect (large) extra-terrestrial civilizations. A book for many, many readings!
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is much more autobiographical than Dyson's other works. This is also, in my opinion, his greatest work. His eloquent words bring to us the sense of wonder and the thoughtful nature of a truly magnificent scientist and person. Dyson reveals to us how his life has been influenced by his reading children stories. We get the opportunity to read his reflections on World War II, the relationship he had with Robert Oppenheimer and many other biographical tidbits which all somehow melt into an almost unexpected thematic unity. His adventures with Richard P. Feynman as well as his relationship with Edward Teller are also discussed. This amazing book explains this man's humble outlook on such subjects as nuclear war (and its impending probablity), poetry and his own unique interpretation of the inner-workings of the machinery of the universe. This is a must book for all scientists as well as people who have a passing interest in science. I would also recommend it to anyone who could not care less about science; the book is that good. Trust me.
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Format: Paperback
I was first introduced to Freeman Dyson as a colleague and sometimes other half of Richard Feynman. I regret that during our brief meetings I never got to know him for being more than a physicist. Therefore, when I started reading this book I was expecting something akin to the biographical material on Feynman. Instead, I found not only a more richly multidimensional book, but a glimpse into the soul of a thinker for the ages and a new window into timeless issues that world news thrusts upon us every day. Dyson explores topics as diverse as his early work in physics, to his work in the nuclear disarmament programs of the Kennedy-Kruschev era, to the politics of the McCarthyist efforts against Oppenheimer, to his thoughts on what it means for a one-time Brit to become an American, to gedanken experiments about colonization of the universe. Beneath each of these topics lies a set of fundamental moral imperatives. This book is an inspiration for professionals to look beyond their profession, and beyond science, to grapple with the great human questions.

The open pages of Dyson's life, as recalled here, take the concept of "laws of nature" far beyond the realm of subatomic particle physics into the space of everyday social experience. This is a book about the development of social conscience, fueled by the ethical questions of nuclear weapons development. It is perhaps predictable that the book dwells on the questions of the morality of war, but the fresh perspectives and depth of thought on this topic kept me engaged. Reaching far beyond the role of science in war, the book extrapolates this discourse into the broader question of technology's role in a conscionable future of humanity.
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