- Hardcover: 368 pages
- Publisher: Basic Books; 1 edition (June 3, 2014)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0465031714
- ISBN-13: 978-0465031719
- Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6 x 9.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 74 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #204,052 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Island of Knowledge: The Limits of Science and the Search for Meaning 1st Edition
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Partway between Hannah Arendt's timeless manifesto for the unanswerable questions at the heart of meaning and Stuart Firestein's case for how not-knowing drives science, Gleiser explores our commitment to knowledge and our parallel flirtation with the mystery of the unknown. What emerges is at once a celebration of human achievement and a gentle reminder that the appropriate reaction to scientific and technological progress is not arrogance over the knowledge conquered, which seems to be our civilizational modus operandi, but humility in the face of what remains to be known and, perhaps above all, what may always remain unknowable.... The Island of Knowledge is an illuminating read in its totality.”
[Gleiser] is a gifted writer.”
Gleiser covers a broad swath of subjectsfrom cognition and curved space to particle physics, superstring theory, and multiverseswith a thoughtful, accessible style that balances philosophy with hard science. His island imagery will capture readers' imagination as it examines the ideas that unnerve us even as they illuminate our world.”
Publishers Weekly, starred review
The Island of Knowledge is a history of the mind, its gift for finding ideas in things. The brilliance of centuries of philosophic and scientific inquiry, never more remarkable than at present, bears a profound resemblance to the brilliance it discovers in the universe. Marcelo Gleiser makes us feel what a privilege it is to be human.”
Marilynne Robinson, winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Humanities Medal, and author of Gilead and Absence of Mind: The Dispelling of Inwardness from the Modern Myth of the Self
We've come to know far more than our ancestors could possibly have imaginedincluding the depth of our ignorance. In Gleiser's lucid narrative, that marvelous paradox comes alive.”
Frank Wilczek, Nobel Laureate, and author of The Lightness of Being
Marcelo Gleiser brings a physicist's knowledge, a philosopher's wisdom, and a poet's language to elucidate our largest questions. If you finish The Island of Knowledge with all the same opinions with which you began it, then turn to page one and start reading again.”
Rebecca Goldstein, MacArthur Fellow, and author of Plato at the Googleplex
Articulate, elegant, and at times poignant, The Island of Knowledge is a magnificent account of humanity's struggle to understand its place in the cosmos. Starting from ancient knowledge of the motions of stars and planets and progressing to contemporary scientific theories of the origins of space and time, Gleiser shows how our efforts to comprehend the universe have transformed it into something rich and strange.”
Seth Lloyd, Professor of Mechanical Engineering, MIT, and author of Programming the Universe
Gleiser writes very well. He introduces the necessary concepts along the way, and is remarkably accurate while using a minimum of technical details. Some anecdotes from his own research and personal life are nicely integrated with the narrative and he has a knack for lyrical imagery which he uses sparsely but well timed to make his points.”
Sabine Hossenfelder, Back Reaction blog
[Gleiser's] discussions of cosmology and multiple universes are compelling.... [The Island of Knowledge] probe[s] deep into one of the most difficult intellectual problems on the human agenda.... [A] thorough and clear guide to the philosophical problems posed by the nature of the subatomic world.”
The quest goes on, always presenting us with new things to wonder about and to wonder at. Without that sense of wonder, as Mr. Gleiser's excellent book makes clear, there would be no point in doing science at all.”
John Gribbin, Wall Street Journal
Gleiser, who puts his faith in humility and hope,' writes with thoughtfulness and sensitivity, and without assuming that our current state of scientific knowledge is any more complete or final than that of previous generations.”
The process that shapes public policy often includes debate about what scientific evidence does, can and can't tell us. That debate can be enriched by this book.”
About the Author
Top customer reviews
Science is an endless, non-linear process of knowledge accumulation. The more we know, the more we realize how little we know. The more we answer questions, the more we ask new ones. Even after billions of years of scientific research, we (if we are still around) will still be asking more new questions about reality. If we could measure over time the proportion of questions relative to the total number of written sentences, we will notice an accelerating increasing trend, not a decreasing one. There is no final state of complete knowledge of knowable things, not to mention unknowable ones. As the "Island of Knowledge" increases in size, the Shoreline of Ignorance automatically expands! We will always know more about reality but we will never know it all!
We have to make certain foundational assumptions (axioms), we have to work with conceptual distinctions that perhaps have no correlate in reality (if there is any reality, and if the apparent multiplicity is not one), we have to work with a certain logic and theory of causality, we have sensory limitations, technological limitations, etc. This book explains many instances of these limitations and where they come from (quantum randomness, uncertainty principle, first moments of the big bang and pre-big bang, etc.), and addresses very honestly and thoroughly the emotional implications of choosing to believe we are about to close the circle of perfect knowledge or, alternatively, that we will never close the circle. In the end, it is an emotional, dogmatic decision. There are no grounds for choosing either, and there are no stats or probabilistic analysis to say it is more likely that we will be able to understand it all--in the first place, because making such a claim assumes/presupposes a working knowledge of the "all" (of totality).
This book is amazing. I strongly dislike the pretentious claims of scientists such as Lawrence Krauss or Hawking: the subtext is always "we are almost there, we are very close to figuring it all out!" and, thus, "we are closer to the truth than you are if you don't agree with us". Sounds a bit like dogma to me... like teenagers overwhelmed by the excitement of first discoveries/accomplishments of reason. Anyway, this is why this book is so refreshing and beautiful and inspirational.
It is very readable, dynamic, clear, fun. The author talks about his own hidden assumptions, his "prejudices", etc. A true scientist and a true critical thinker is aware of this because it is the only way to strengthen his/her views and the only way to have a chance at counteracting them. I hope Marcelo keeps working hard, exploring, thinking, and sharing with us.
I liked this book because it tells a credible story of what is possible for us. Understanding our limitations is the first step to understanding our possibilities.
Marcelo Gleiser is a trustworthy guide to travel in uncharted lands.
Most recent customer reviews
The author has a clear goal: to describe why the knowledge we will have at any...Read more