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What Remains to Be Discovered: Mapping the Secrets of the Universe, the Origins of Life, and the Future of the Human Race Paperback – November 5, 1999

3.7 out of 5 stars 28 customer reviews

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The origin of life. The beginning and end of the universe. The workings of the brain. These are the big questions, the ones scientists and nonscientists alike love to ponder and that give deeper meaning to our quest for knowledge. John Maddox, former longtime editor of Nature, has endeavored to outline our progress, and, more importantly, our goals in these and other fields of study.

What Remains to Be Discovered details the past, present, and possible future of science in three sections: "Matter," "Life," and "Our World." The author's broad, multidisciplinary grasp of science is apparent as he guides us effortlessly through the work of scientists from ancient times to the present. Having first shown us an up-to-date map of scientific knowledge, he then emphasizes the large blank spaces still remaining and suggests where explorers might best continue their efforts.

From natural selection to the luminiferous ether, each question answered has provoked many, often more difficult, challenges for a new generation of researchers. Maddox hints at what our future textbooks will say, but is also careful to remind us that the history of science is full of surprises. We'll do well to remember that as we enter the 21st century. --Rob Lightner --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

As the editor of Nature, one of the world's premiere scientific journals, for nearly a quarter century, Maddox (Beyond the Energy Crisis, etc.) is uniquely positioned to reflect on the nature of science, both its successes and its challenges. He does so exceedingly well here. Reaching back to the dawn of civilization, Maddox provides an insightful view into the history and philosophy of science. By focusing on some of the "big" fields of science?cosmology, quantum mechanics, cell biology, genetics, evolution and neuroscience, for example?he has crafted a primer worthy of study. But this is not an introduction for the uninitiated. Maddox, assuming his readers are conversant with basic scientific thinking, wastes no time on first principles. The most futuristic chapter, which deals with possible calamities that might befall the human race, is also the most accessible. In it, Maddox discusses the threats arising from emerging diseases, global warming, asteroid impact and the possible instability of the human genome. Throughout this admirable if sometimes difficult work, Maddox evinces wisdom won over a lifetime, arguing articulately about the complementarity of pure and applied research while recognizing that many of our most pressing problems must incorporate a political as well as a technical dimension. BOMC and QPB alternates; author tour.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; 1st Touchstone Ed edition (November 5, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684863006
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684863009
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.1 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,007,772 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on December 2, 1999
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is one of the best books I have read all year. It differs from the standard "cool things in science" tract in that it focusses on what we don't know - where the mysteries are. In the end, that's often what's most interesting anyway...
It is true that it is not always the easiest going, though I disagree with some of the other reviewers as to how hard it really is. If you truly paid attention in high school physics, biology, and chemistry, you should not have much trouble. The author does throw around terms like "reducing" or "organic" and expect you to understand them. Other terms, like "eukarote," are defined once - one must read attentively.
If you can get past that, the clarity and comprehensiveness with which this book is written is breathtaking. I think I want to read it again.
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Format: Hardcover
You really have to read What Remains to be Discovered by John Maddox to believe that one man could know so much about so many things. That Maddox is Editor Emeritus of Nature and was knighted for his service to science helps bridge that credibility gap....but this man is extraordinary. Although his book covers some of the most complex scientific issues of today, Maddox is able to distill the essentials and present them in a way that just about anybody can understand. Maddox introduces us to his world of quarks, strings, introns, and thinking machines with no incomprehensible formulas, absolutely no technical arrogance, and just enough jargon so you feel like you have a "conversational" understanding of the field. I think that if you want to better understand the issues and opportunities in some of the major fields of science then the easiest way is to read Maddox's book, put it down for a few months then read it again. Try it, you'll enjoy it both times.
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Format: Paperback
John Maddox has written a readable account of possible future discoveries and the directions science will take in this future. This book, What Remains to Be Discovered, is not fully comprehensive or authoritative but the author, instead, selects certain important topics and digests them into small enough sizes to be understandable to a wide variety of readers and large enough to cover the selected topic with appropriate breadth. It is sometimes a struggle for the non-science minded but the the author always manages to get across the basic idea and, more importantly, just why this idea will be so important in the future. I enjoyed this challenging book more than I had any right to do.
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Format: Paperback
I am among those who found this book quite difficult to read. I am not a scientist by training and a good share of the most technical description and discussion did not really make that much sense to me.

Nonetheless I learned much from the book. The main premise that there remains much to be discovered and known seems to me indisputable .And this even though there may be realms such as quantum physics where the main map is already largely drawn, and the questions which remain are of more minor significance.

The most challenging questions are as I understand it those which relate to the human mind and human situation. It is clear that we are not even close in having a real understanding of how the ' mind ' works. And in a world in which there are so many rapid developments scientifically and techologically it is clear that the major question, of the future of mankind( And our possible replacement or supplementation by other intelligences) has no clear and simple answer.

Maddox writing toward the end of the book on the possible disasters of Mankind is especially disconcerting. He does not go into the detail that Martin Rees does in presenting the various ways we may finish ourselves off, or be finished off, but he is disconcerting enough.

Above all though I think he achieves his main purpose in the book, and refutes those who want to argue that the main scientific problems (John Horgan) have already been taken care of.

Anyone who studies history or the creative life of mankind knows that so long as we are here and thinking and exploring we will be making and creating new problems and new questions.
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Format: Paperback
I have to confess that I did not finish this book, as I was convinced of its merits about halfway through.

"What Remains to be Discovered" provides a good overview of astronomy, the origin of life, and the future of our world. It is nice to have all three in one volume. However, the writing is uninteresting and inconsistent.

The first section, on astrophysics, is very strong and authoritative, but written much more engagingly by Stephen Hawking in "A Brief History of Time."

The second section, on life, was much weaker and the reason I stopped reading. Written at a high school level (most readers are already familiar with cholorplasts and mitochondria, but he takes time to define them), this section presented general ideas on the origin of life, but provided few facts. Maddox seems much less familiar with the extant scientific literature on this subject than he does on astronomy. He presents few results of scientific studies and focusses mostly on a logical, theoretical approach. I much prefered Stuart Kauffman's "At Home in the Universe."

I give it three stars because it presents these ideas in one volume, an ambitious undertaking and would be a decent overview for someone who did not wish to take the time to read the several other, and more thorough, books on these subjects.
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