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The Scientist as Rebel (New York Review Books (Paperback)) Paperback – September 9, 2008
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Top Customer Reviews
Dyson takes his time with these reviews. Sometimes it is not quickly evident where he is going, but the payoff usually justifies the suspense. In the process, we get to hear his take on innumerable hot issues in science and its interface with humanity:
*The urgent need to find a unifying theory of physics - formulas that would be compatible with both quantum mechanics and Einstein's gravitational formulas of space-time - is over-rated. We will probably never make these formulas mathematically compatible.
*Technological progress does more harm than good unless accompanied by ethical progress. The free market by itself will not produce technologies access-friendly to the poor.
*We don't have to worry about the nanotech bee-like swarms presented by Crichton in "Prey." The laws of physics don't allow entities that small to fly faster than 1/10 inch/second.
*The willingness of the British abolitionists to buy out the slave owners made the crucial difference between the peaceful liberation of the West Indian slaves in 1833 and the bloody liberation of the American slaves thirty years later.Read more ›
In any case, I was sorry when I reached the end, and I am hoping for more.
The author Freeman Dyson (author of "Disturbing the Universe") has a unique talent for bringing the characters and the protagonists to life, and many of the stories are inspired by the author's own experiences, and some are biographies of scientists (Feynman, Oppenheimer, Teller, and more) and others of people Dyson met in his career or in his life. Dyson ponders and answers the question: "Why do some scientists like Einstein gain cult status, while others like Poincare are forgotten by the public?"
This lovely little book is a gem, and it is proof that it is possible for the same person to be a brilliant scientist and a great story teller at the same time; observing the world we share, and helping us reflect on big questions of war and peace, on the environment, on space flights, and on whether there might be intelligent life out there.
The book is divided into five chapters, the last one consisting of Biographical Notes. Each of the four real chapters consists of a handful of stories (sections, essays or reviews) which can stand alone. A sample of titles of the sections: Can Science be Ethical? (the gap between rich and poor, and more.) Bombs and Potatoes. (reflections, and recollections from WWII work on the nuclear bomb.) Russians. (starting with History and ending with recollections of persons Dyson met in Russia.) The Force of Reason.Read more ›
Instead, this relatively placid book discusses the proper role of the military in a free society, and the proper role of scientists with respect to that military. He reviews books, and describes the personal conflicts of great modern scientists. Some of them, if I may borrow from another author, did "great things. Terrible things, yes, but great." Rebellion against tradition works in other ways, too, as in Gandhi's historic victories through peaceful means
As a collection of essays, Freeman Dyson delivers a wide-ranging and thoughtful collection of works. Most of these have appeared previously, sometimes quite a few years ago, so Dyson adds contemporary comments to describe how the world changed in the years between. As a directed study in how rebellion contributes to scientific creativity, or how scientists contribute to make kinds of rebellion, I found this disappointing. Still, I really enjoyed each of the works that appears here. Taken for what it is, not for what the title promises, this has plenty to offer.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This book provides amazing insights into the nature of scientific thought that only a rare scientist like Dyson could provide.Published 6 months ago by elkcub
Disappointing. There was some leftwing screed at the beginning that was embarrassingly infantile. Some accounts of the scientific principals of the last century were interesting. Read morePublished 8 months ago by Raymond H. Smeeth
This is a fun and informative read. Great insights about premier scientists, their lives and their work.Published 14 months ago by T. White
As usual, Dyson was both entertaining and informative. While I don't always agree with his philosophy I always find him erudite and thought provoking, and I always learn a lot... Read morePublished 15 months ago by Terry M. Word
The thoughts of all who possess brilliance are worthy of reading. Freeman Dyson is a clear example of this. Read morePublished 17 months ago by Oles Fylypiv
It's worth the price for the history of 20th century physics or his insight into climate change. There's a lot of autobiographical info. Read morePublished on October 22, 2013 by Terrence Nielsen
Freeman Dyson is a strange scientific blend of wise and moderate conservatism and pioneer of iconoclasm. He advocates cold analysis but loves what is strange. Read morePublished on May 29, 2012 by Herve Lebret
I have always been fascinated by the beauty, elegance and poetry in the writings of Freeman Dyson. In this collection of essays I found again multiple visions of Dyson's metaphors,... Read morePublished on March 17, 2012 by F. G. Nobrega
As a physicist of significant accomplishments and witness to the World War II, the Cold War, and the revolutionary ideas of modern physics, Freeman Dyson found himself in a... Read morePublished on February 6, 2012 by Ulfilas