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The Great Unknown: Seven Journeys to the Frontiers of Science Hardcover – April 11, 2017
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“The significant advances in scientific knowledge over the past century have proved not only that there are profound mysteries yet to be solved, but that we might never solve them . . . . The Great Unknown is an intriguing bird’s-eye view of the landscape of unknowability.”
--The Wall Street Journal
“The book reviews some of the great puzzles challenging science in chaos theory, quantum mechanics, cosmology, the nature of time, the origins of human consciousness and the limits of the universe… an absorbing entry into the genre of ‘what science hasn’t figured out yet’”
“A fascinating book on the limits of scientific knowledge.”—The Economist
“Against the infinity of the knowable, is there a fundamental finitude to our capacity for knowing? That’s what Marcus du Sautoy explores with intelligent and imaginative zest in The Great Unknown—an inquiry into the puzzlement and promise of seven such unknowns . . . thoroughly fascinating.”
—Maria Popova, Brain Pickings
“Brilliant and fascinating. No one is better at making the recondite accessible and exciting.”
—Bill Bryson, author of A Short History of Nearly Everything
“[Some] believe we have had enough of experts, but what we really need is the right sort of experts—ones who can explain tricky concepts without coming across as know-it-alls. Step forward Marcus du Sautoy, who devotes an entire book to what we cannot know, from predicting a simple dice roll to the vagaries of quantum mechanics.”—Sunday Times
“The Great Unknown is an engaging, personal, and highly user-friendly voyage into some of the great mysteries and wonders of our world."
--Alan Lightman, author of Einstein’s Dream and The Accidental Universe
“A delicious addition to the ‘Big Question’ genre.”—Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)
“This brilliant, well-written exploration of our universes’ biggest mysteries will captivate the curious and leave them pondering ‘natural phenomena that will never be tamed and known.”
—Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
“Admirably compact and conversational for such wide-ranging subject matter . . . Those eager to have their minds stretched will find this a rewarding and stimulating experience.”
“I felt I was being carried off on a wonderful journey, a thrilling research expedition to the teasing and mysterious boundaries of scientific knowledge, and I never wanted to turn back. Du Sautoy is a masterful and friendly guide to these remotest regions…It is absolutely fascinating throughout, and I really loved it.”—Richard Holmes, author of The Age of Wonder
"I admire and envy the clarity and authority with which Marcus du Sautoy addresses a range of profound issues. His book deserves a wide readership."
--Martin Rees, author of Before the Beginning
"There is no better guide than Marcus du Sautoy to provide a panoramic view of the boundaries of knowledge.”
--Robbert Dijkgraaf, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton
“The prominent mathematician, writer and broadcaster boldly squares up to what he calls the seven “edges” of human knowledge, topics that range from the nature of time to the mysteries of human consciousness... His take is refreshing, not least because along his journey he exposes with humility his own confusions, apprehensions and concerns. And there is plenty to be both baffled and enlightened about. Does a multiverse exist? Are leptons and quarks where the subatomic buck stops? And is an infinite set of even numbers bigger than an infinite set that also includes odd ones?”—The Observer
“Each spiralling investigation begins with an object: casino dice kick-start a foray into probability; a wristwatch propels us into grappling with time. A dazzling journey, vivified by conversations with the likes of neuroscientist Christof Koch on psychophysics and cosmologist Max Tegmark on the mathematical Universe.”—Nature
“He has a gift for making the most abstruse concepts understandable. You’ll feel smarter with every page.”—Mail On Sunday
“Du Sautoy makes a lucid and beguiling companion as he guides us along the byways of contemporary science.” —The Guardian
About the Author
Marcus du Sautoy is the Charles Simonyi Professor for the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University (a position previously held by Richard Dawkins) and the bestselling author of The Music of the Primes. He has received the Berwick prize, given to Britain’s most outstanding young mathematician, and the Royal Society’s Faraday Prize for excellence in communicating science. A trumpeter and member of a theatre group, he has written and presented more than a dozen popular television series, including The Story of Maths, The Code, and Music of the Primes. He was made an Officer of the British Empire by the Queen for his services to Science.
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Wherever Dr. du Sautoy dealt with topics close to mathematics, he was excellent. Other areas, in particular, consciousness, was too hazy, almost too pop-science. If the reader listens to a few Brain Science podcasts by Virginia Campbell, they'll get better, more solid information about this topic.
While Dr. du Sautoy is an atheist, he exhibits a gentlemanly respect for others who hold various religious views. I find that refreshing (I am biased because I am a confessional Reformed Evangelical Christian). In philosophy, I think Dr. du Sautoy did a reasonable job. But he takes a narrow slice among his Oxford friends. There are others to explore, such as Alvin Plantinga.
On the topic of the multiverse, there are some issues dealing with infinities that, in my opinion (not that it's worth much), should be examined. One is the issue of what would be a typical observer in an infinite multiverse across all time. Ludwig Boltzmann raised the issue that we would be far from typical observers that we'd expect in a multiverse.
Overall, the book was excellent. I enjoyed it very much.
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A typical popular science book would explain scientific evolutions chronologically and through the life experiences/assertions...Read more