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Disturbing the Universe

4.17  ·  Rating Details  ·  417 Ratings  ·  25 Reviews
Spanning the years from WWII, when he was a civilian statistician in the operations research section of the Royal Air Force Bomber Command, thru his studies with Hans Bethe at Cornell University, his early friendship with Richard Feynman & his postgraduate work with J. Robert Oppenheimer, Freeman Dyson has composed an autobiography unlike any other. Dyson evocatively c ...more
Hardcover, 294 pages
Published November 29th 1979 by Harper & Row (NYC)
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Jan 04, 2014 John rated it really liked it
I don't remember now why I came to read something by Freeman Dyson. But something compelled me to consider his writings, so the next time I was in the library at BYU I checked out two of his books, this one and Infinite in All Directions. So far I have not been disappointed.

Disturbing the Universe is largely autobiographical, describing much of Dyson's beliefs and discoveries in the context of his life's journey. I was impressed by his fantastic views of the future. For instance he has proposed
Jee Koh
May 17, 2015 Jee Koh rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
On hearing that I am working on a book of essays, WL lent me Freeman Dyson's Disturbing the Universe. He was a professor of physics at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. "Born in England," the biographical note continues, " he came over to Cornell University in 1947 as a Commonwealth Fellow and settled permanently in the U.S. in 1951." A summary of his career, the next paragraph also indicates the topics of his essays: "Professor Dyson is not only a theoretical physicist; his career ...more
Erik Graff
Jan 17, 2013 Erik Graff rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: biography
I first encountered the author by references to "Dyson Spheres"--an idea which he credits to Olaf Stapledon's Star Maker--in various books and by his having provided a foreword to a science fiction novel I'd read. Then, more recently, going through about twenty years of back issues of the New York Review of Books, I found that many of the best science reviews were by him. This led me to pick up his pseudo-autobiography when encountering it at the Evanston Library booksale room a couple of days a ...more
Jan 04, 2012 Scott rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My wife received this book in the mail from a Hungarian Anthropologist working in Australia. She respects him for his knowledge and success. He sent it to her because he said it was an insightful read. We have had it sitting around for a few years and she has been too busy to read it. I have lugged it around from the US, England, Hungary and now Grenada. I tried to start it once but it was awkward to hold and with two pages being on one and being bound on the short side of the paper. Now I said ...more
Nick Black
Jun 21, 2008 Nick Black rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Amazon 2008-06-10. Having recently realized the multilayered magnificence of Dyson's The Scientist as Rebel, I'm determined to read the man's extent.

Dear lord, Freeman Dyson is becoming a massive hero. The man simply doesn't write a lacking page, and much. In my reading, I've found my incidental similars in Robert Oppenheimer and John von Neumann; if I were to pattern myself after anyone, it would be Mr. Dyson. I don't know anything so uplifting and wonderful.

This book is so, so awe
Paige Ellen Stone
This is the second of the three books that Bruce Sterling says in his introduction to "Schizmatrix Plus" had a major influence on his writing of those short stories and the novel that followed. While it can be slow at times, Dyson's honesty and sense of wonder and awe at what he sees make up for that. I found it sad that this was written in '79, before the end of the "Genome Project". I would be fascinated as to what he would have to say in response to that incredible accomplishment and his own ...more
Feb 13, 2015 Ari rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Dyson is a brilliant scientist and a born contrarian. He also writes with depth and beauty. This book is one part memoir, one part reflection on science and society, one part speculation about nature. Despite being some decades old. the book feels fresh, and most of it is still exactly as relevant as when it was written.

Here is one passage that I especially liked. It describes a part of my feeling about science that I had never seen described before: "Much of the joy of science is is the joy of
Peter Mcloughlin
Freeman Dyson is a major scientist of the 20th century and founder of Quantum Electrodynamics along with Richard Feynman, Julian Schwinger. He also has the blue sky imagination to rival any science fiction writer. He is the inventor of the idea of the Dyson sphere a sphere to be built by an advanced civilization around a star to utilize all the power output of a sun. He thought big and besides worrying about nuclear apocalypse like many in the physics community also dreamed of Greening the Gala ...more
John E. Branch Jr.
Some thoughts in lieu of a genuine, full-fledged review; I read the book too long ago to have a complete recollection.

If, within the field of science, the terms "great thinker" or "genius" evoke for you no one other than Albert Einstein and perhaps Stephen Hawking, reading this book will reveal another to you. Unlike some great thinkers, Dyson is also not merely a capable writer but an admirable stylist, who is equally at ease in recounting personal history and in discussing science, arguing mil
Al Maki
Feb 28, 2014 Al Maki rated it it was amazing
Freeman Dyson is always worth reading. Extremely intelligent (a nuclear physicist), articulate, critical of his own thinking and others, unpretentious and humane. He started his career during WWII and wrote an interesting book review published this week (60 years later on 2/20/14) in the NYRB. He also turned me on to E. Nesbit, another excellent mind. You should read this and anything else you can find by him.
J Gary Sparks
May 29, 2015 J Gary Sparks rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A moving book by a theoretical physicist and mathematician reflecting on many things, most interestingly to me the morality of science. For example: his trying to explain to his young son how he worked for the British Bomber Command that was bombing the--at that time--home of his now German wife.
Martha Grace
Jan 28, 2014 Martha Grace rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is really a series of essays. It is dated--it was written in 1979, but fearlessly addresses many big questions.Growing ups in England, the opening essays are about England in WWII and stories of being involved in the bombing of Germany while living through the bombing of England. He speaks of peace an disarmament. He moves to America to study physics and worked with many of the great minds that developed the bomb after the bomb had been dropped. He looks at the future, not just in the short ...more
Sep 07, 2015 Phillip rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
T.S. Eiliot wrote, Do I Dare? time to turn back and descend the stair, with a bald spot in the middle of my hair, Do I Dare Disturb the universe?
Mr. Dyson has some wonderful insights in this part biography and part collection of essays.
I'm thankful Mr. Dyson shared his thoughts and, in the words of Eliot, dared to disturb the universe.
Angus Mcfarlane
Jul 26, 2011 Angus Mcfarlane rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
This was a great read. Dyson tells the story of his life as a physicist working at 'high levels' on quantum, nuclear and astronomy issues. However, he tells more of the social story, using literary illustrations, rather than the scientific detail (which is probably accessible elsewhere). Some of the chapters are perhaps more whimsical than practical, including a favorite topic of mine (exobiology and the search for other life). Many, however, are dealing with the very real interaction between sc ...more
Jun 25, 2012 Joseph rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'll admit I knew little of Freeman Dyson until hearing him interviewed on one of my favorite podcasts. Based on that interview, I made it a point to read this book. A physicist, astronomer, and mathematician, Dyson shows himself to be more of a deep thinker and man of letters than one might normally (and therefore narrow-mindedly, I might add) expect from a scientist with ties to Robert Oppenheimer, Edward Teller, and Los Alamos. With all that is happening today at the Fukushima nuclear power f ...more
Graeme Roberts
May 28, 2015 Graeme Roberts rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Every intelligent person should read this great book. Heavy going in a few parts, but infinitely worth it!
Dyson spends too much time justifying in retrospect behavior that (let's face it) can't be justified. If he'd stood up for his beliefs, he might not have to spend so much time on it now.

I'd seen him on A Glorious Accident, and he was one of the people I knew about before the series. He speaks better than he writes, in my opinion. But the book was worth reading, if only for the physics. If you're not interested in the physics, you've probably wandered in by chance. I can't say if you'd like the b
Alan Clark
Feb 15, 2015 Alan Clark rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Much of the book is autobiographical and I would give those parts five stars without hesitation. Other parts are scientific speculation, which were also very interesting but not entirely convincing. The least enjoyable parts for me were the philosophising, which does not appeal to me so I did not enjoy those sections anything like as much and rather skipped over them.
I was surprised and impressed by this memoir. Dyson is a fluent writer, and his background has provided him with a wealth of inspiration from all manner of disciplines. Here he manages to blend poetry, physics, politics, and morality into a coherent whole, all the while shedding light, from a simple explication of his perspective, on many pivotal decades of our past.
Aug 29, 2010 Earl rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Possibly the best popular science book available, despite being decades old. Dyson is an excellent writer with a keen understanding of his subject, though he does stray into passages in the philosophy of science that might be fallacious if read too literally.
Oct 06, 2013 Ben rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
First half is more autobiographical, the second half more essays. The history in the autobiographies is interesting, the essays are varied but not particularly compelling.
Jun 09, 2007 David rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Freeman Dyson, a well known physicist, has written several books of speculative, quirky essays, and this is one of them. Easy to read and filled with interesting ideas.
Greg Fox
Jun 29, 2009 Greg Fox rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Dyson hooks me from the first page, and I'd never been interested in Physics before. He's got some mind-blowing ideas.
Zoe Crosher
Nov 12, 2009 Zoe Crosher rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
We'll see - in the middle of WWII. But I'm in love with his intro and his photo on the back cover of the book.
the universe is expecting us to probe it! Kewl!
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