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Dancing Wu Li Masters: An Overview of the New Physics (Perennial Classics)

3.99 of 5 stars 3.99  ·  rating details  ·  6,487 ratings  ·  282 reviews
Gary Zukav has written "the Bible" for those who are curious about the mind-expanding discoveries of advanced physics, but who have no scientific background. Like a Wu Li Master who would teach us wonder for the falling petal before speaking of gravity, Zukav writes in beautifully clear language—with no mathematical equations—opening our minds to the exciting new theories...more
Paperback, 416 pages
Published August 1st 2001 by Perennial Classics (first published 1979)
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Riku Sayuj
Dec 10, 2012 Riku Sayuj rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Prof Himanshu Rai
The happiest thought I take out of this book is the fact that science is no longer taking a direction opposite to that of religion, philosophy or spirituality - all the noblest endeavors of mankind were fundamentally tied together after all. It was just that we, with our obsessive propensity to classify and divide had made the artificial boundaries.

The only complaint about the book is the fact that it goes into needless depth about the fundamentals of classical physics and then skims over the "n...more
Lane Wilkinson
I can't even dignify this book with an inclusion on my 'science' bookshelf. Surely, the most dangerous rhetoric is that which sounds plausible. 'Dancing Wu Li Masters' does the whole "Ancient Chinese Secret" treatment of particle physics that was so popular during the 1970s. Unfortunately, I worry that too many who read this bestseller were irrevocably taken with an esoteric, transcendental, and ultimately fallacious interpretation of contemporary science.
Yesterday, I read some scathing comments about this book, and the closely related The Tao of Physics, in Woit's Not Even Wrong. Apparently, there used to a be an approach to quantum mechanics called S-matrix theory, which was popular among left-leaning physicists in the early 70s. Woit refers to "The People's Republic of Berkeley". It was something to do with "abolition of the aristocracy of particles", which I must say I didn't completely get, but you can see how this might appeal. As I underst...more
This is a book that lightly, and perhaps appropriately, suggests a connection between eastern religions and the developments in 20th century physics, notably Einstein's theories of relativity, Heisenberg's uncertainty principle, and the collective effort, from Max Planck through Einstein to Nils Bohr and many others, to develop quantum theory, quantum mechanics and other dimensions of "quantum" reality.

The fundamental issue is that logic breaks down in the quantum world. This is explained well....more
Well, I read this book at the advice of Jeff Sneider who recommended it highly. I agree. This book, while difficult in places, does lead me to question my view of reality, which has been purely Newtonian (read the book to understand). I'd rate this book right up with Godel, Escher, and Bach. I will think often about it.

It may be very well be true, that everyone lives in Aristotle's metaphorical cave, seeing shadows of the essence of reality. Actually, quantum mechanics pretty much says it IS tr...more
Mind-blowing. In the interest of the required hyperbole book review demands: frustratingly fascinating. Frustrating because the mind grasps quicker what can be conveyed through language. Frustrating because, when read, you can't help but get the endorphine, intellectual rush that demands you share the knowledge with all. Frustrating because, something clicks, your mind abstractly grasps the idea, but when trying to convey these exciting new concepts to friends and loved ones, you feel grossly in...more
As an engaging introduction to an enthralling science, for people who've never studied physics, this book is fantastic. I appreciated the historical approach to the topic, learning one piece of the puzzle at a time in the order of those who made the discoveries; I feel like this really helped my understanding. I'm someone who has held a fear of math and physics for years, but Zukav writes in a clear and thorough fashion, stopping himself every once a while to ensure that the reader is with him....more
This is the worst book ever written. From his completely nonsensical leaps from point to point, to his annoying tendency to follow each mention of "matter" with "(pun?)" to his pseudo-knowledge of quantum mechanics and belief that randomness = free will to his decision not to explain the uncertainty principle in any way that might make sense and make it seem less mystical to his just plain terrible writing and awful, irrelevant quotations I can safely say that this is the worst piece of snake oi...more
Max Ostrovsky
It was tough reading a book concerning "new" physics written over 30 years ago. I couldn't stop thinking about updates and what recent theories have added to the discussion. That said, the book wasn't what I was expecting. Sure, I was expecting a discussion of physics and its tie into the everything-ness philosophies of the world. The explanations were thorough and clear. But I wanted some sort of connection. What was the point of the book?
And maybe this is just too much of me getting in the wa...more
Keith Mukai
This is probably as good as a physics-for-the-layman book can get. But that doesn't mean it's perfect. Far from it, in fact.

The strength of the book is Zukav's review of the history of physics. He does a good job setting up and explaining the major breakthroughs so that you, the reader, can appreciate their significance in pretty substantial ways. That's quite a feat. His clarity gets weaker as he starts to go into the weirder aspects of quantum mechanics though. At times he's so eager to jump t...more
The annoying this about this book is that mostly it's wonderful. Gary Z has a clear, lucid prose style, and his explanation of wave-particle duality etc is as good as any I've come across. So when he says that subatomic particles are "conscious" or that he believes in telepathy, it's that much more frustrating. I have a number of very bright friends who get taken in by New Age snake oil because of careless use of language in a book like this.
James Swenson
According to the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, it is impossible to know both the exact position and momentum of a particle: in fact, perfect knowledge of one makes it impossible to know anything about the other. The Dancing Wu Li Masters is a book about quantum physics and metaphysics, in which, as far as I can tell, all of the physics is correct, and, ironically, everything else is uniformly wrong.

Gary Zukav, if he had written the previous sentence, would have replaced the word "ironically...more
Not an easy read but sooo full of awesome new physics explanations. Also hard to get into with a needy two-year-old, but I know life will only get increasingly busy day by day. If you want clear explanations of quantum mechanics, relativity, and particle physics and Feynman diagrams (with a dose of Eastern philosophy and some Buddhism) look no further than this excellent book. A lot of the foot-notes were contributed by big physicist names and I really enjoyed them, having a physics background....more
Dave Maddock
[The] history of science in general often has been the story of scientists vigorously fighting an onslaught of new ideas. This is because it is difficult to relinquish the sense of security that comes from a long and rewarding acquaintance with a particular world view. (p. 191)

...criticizes the guy promoting eastern mysticism which, by his own admission, hasn't changed much since the 2nd c. AD (p. 312). Good thing he doesn't have the character flaw of feeling safe in a particular world view, unl...more
Eric M. Witchey
Oct 27, 2008 Eric M. Witchey rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in the mystery of mind and the universe
When a writer can make something I believed inaccessible to me seem like dinner conversation in which I can participate, I'm thrilled to the core. Thanks to Gary Zukav. Without him, many other books I've read would never have made sense at all. How could I have approached The Elegant Universe without having read this first? How could I sit down at Thanksgiving with my high-energy physicist brother without having read this book?
May 11, 2014 Red rated it 2 of 5 stars
Shelves: docu
what's wrong with this book is it's lack of integrity. let me explain that. written by someone not educated in physics tells a tale full of adventure and eastern wisdom. he tells us in a hidden way that physics is boring and the people who are doing it even more but if you put the right spectacles on they are endurable. that's what i call lack of integrity. physics wasn't served by this. in the contrairy.
Brutally terrible. Do yourself a favor and shred it before opening to the first page. I'd have given it 0 stars if that was possible. Typical wacko hippie crap disguised (poorly) as quantum mechanics. And the writing! It hurts to think about it.
Nick Wallace
Muddling science with belief can become tedious, especially in this volume.
Scott Compton
Aug 03, 2007 Scott Compton rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: lookers interested in quantum physics
Hmmm. There's no such thing as matter, Damn G.
Ryan Miller
I'm not completely unversed in science, but neither am I knowledgeable enough about quantum physics to properly analyze the science of this book. I found that many of Zukav's explanations helped me understand the basics of his arguments. At the same time, the way he connected this scientific method of examining the world experimentally and mathematically to the ancient tenets of Zen Buddhism (which is neither scientific nor mathematic) seemed a bit convenient. The effort to use science to prove...more
This is quantum mechanics in Zen-Buddhist form. Zukav attempts to break down the scientific theories that comprise quantum physics into a form digestible by the average person. He does a great job breaking it down, but loses points for a lack of entertainment.

The phrase “Wu Li” in the book’s title refers to one possible Chinese translation of the word “physics.” Each chapter in the book has an alternate translation of “Wu Li,” such as “Nonsense” and “I Clutch My Ideas.”

One of the main goals of...more
My favorite quote from the novel:

“’Reality is what we take to be true. What we take to be true is what we believe. What we believe is based upon our perceptions. What we perceive depends upon what we look for. What we look for depends upon what we think. What we think depends upon what we perceive. What we perceive determines what we believe. What we believe determines what we take to be true. What we take to be true is our reality.”

Touted as an easy layman’s introduction to the history of Quant...more
Aaron Holmes
So far, so bad. Zukav is neither a physicist nor an eastern mistic, and it shows in his book. I am not a physicist either, so I can't attest to the veracity of the underlying physics Zukav puts forward. What I can do is take notice of the inconsistencies in his logic and explanations of quantum mechanics.

Zukav continually asserts that things exist solely because someone is there to observe them. He takes the question, "if a tree falls in the woods and there is noone around, does it make a sound...more
Jeffrey Cohan
"The Dancing Wu Li Masters" explains quantam/subatomic physics to the layperson about as clearly as humanly possible. Zukav certainly succeeded in whetting my appetite to learn more about this frontier of science.

Zukav's focus is on the philosophical implications of the "new physics." In describing the evolution of physics, he places it in the contexts of language, perception, and our relationship to reality.

Where the book falls short, or actually irritates, is in his frequent and superficial r...more
Scarlett Sims
Jan 31, 2011 Scarlett Sims rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: non-physicists
I would probably actually give this 3.5 stars. I guess I'll just do the pros and cons of the book in bullet point type form.

-Zukav really elucidated some concepts that I had learned about several times but never fully understood. I definitely feel I have a better grasp on physics.
-The writing style is easy for a non-specialist to read. It isn't colloquial like Mary Roach or "culturally relevant" like Brian Greene, but it isn't overly technical, either. To understand it you definitely have t...more
Lewis Cawthorne
The history of science is accurate, you just have to read over twice as much rambling interpretation as you work through it. I like well thought out philosophy, but this isn't it. The book puts forward interesting eastern inspired interpretation while failing to mention there are lots of other valid interpretations of the results. For a book that pushes interpreting the results so hard, it is surprising that the Copenhagen interpretation is only mentioned a couple of times and Many Worlds in one...more
Sharayu Gangurde
This is an amazing book and amazing so, because it revitalized the science training within me! As a teenager, I was so absorbed and completely fascinated by Neils Bohr's postulates, Max Planck's Theory that Physics was the air i breathed! And, after that phase I realized I was so out of touch of this very nature- atoms/protons/ quasi-protons/ quarks! Wow! This book truly is meant for the ordinary layman who is or was never a science student! I can even think of a few friends I can gift this book...more
Robert Monk
Fascinating information presented so you can get it without getting deep into the science/math. A little too concerned with showing how mystic and zen-like reality really is, although I imagined it would be much more stretching this way than it actually is. Some thoughts inspired/pushed along by the book:

Intuitive Speculation Inspired by The Dancing Wu Li Masters

Picture two coils of wire spooled out side by side: this is like energy in time. Adjacent patterns of Being like to get tangled.

There was some very interesting stuff in this book,.... BUT!

A good deal of discussion gets spent claiming that light photons are conscious. This is extrapolated from the fact that light photons have been shown to instantly react to changes in their environment (faster than light could have delivered such information). In a typically American yearning for spirituality this fact is used as evidence of both a collective unconscious and the consciousness of photons. This is just too much of a stretc...more
In two words: Hippy Physics. Zukav published this manuscript in the 1970s and it really shows. Quantum theory was just coming into it's own and American exploration with mysticism and the philosophies of the East may have seemed like a perfect pair at the time. Some aspects of the comparison are compellingly coincidental I'd say, and there are times where Zukav tries to hard. In particular, I think the Taoist, and to a lesser extent, the Buddhist comparisons are the richest.

But this is by no me...more
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The more we know about reality... 2 9 Aug 05, 2013 10:26PM  
  • The Tao of Physics: An Exploration of the Parallels between Modern Physics and Eastern Mysticism
  • Wholeness and the Implicate Order
  • Quantum Questions: Mystical Writings of the World's Great Physicists
  • The Holographic Universe
  • Quantum Enigma: Physics Encounters Consciousness
  • Chaos, Creativity, and Cosmic Consciousness
  • The Self-Aware Universe: How Consciousness Creates the Material World
  • The Field: The Quest for the Secret Force of the Universe
  • The Way of Zen
  • An Introduction to Black Holes, Information and the String Theory Revolution: The Holographic Universe
  • The Holotropic Mind: The Three Levels of Human Consciousness and How They Shape Our Lives
  • The World Treasury of Physics, Astronomy & Mathematics from Albert Einstein to Stephen W. Hawking & from Annie Dillard to John Updike
  • The Mind's I: Fantasies and Reflections on Self and Soul
  • At Home in the Universe: The Search for the Laws of Self-Organization and Complexity
  • The Emperor's New Mind: Concerning Computers, Minds, and the Laws of Physics
  • The Quantum and the Lotus: A Journey to the Frontiers Where Science and Buddhism Meet
  • Science and the Akashic Field: An Integral Theory of Everything
  • Warped Passages: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Universe's Hidden Dimensions
Gary Zukav is the author of The Dancing Wu Li Masters, winner of The American Book Award for Science; Soul Stories, a New York Times bestseller; and The Seat of the Soul, a New York Times, USA Today, Los Angeles Times, and Publishers Weekly #1 bestseller. His books have sold millions of copies and are published in sixteen languages. He is a graduate of Harvard and a former U.S. Army Special Forces...more
More about Gary Zukav...
The Seat of the Soul Soul Stories The Heart of the Soul: Emotional Awareness The Mind of the Soul: Responsible Choice Spiritual Partnership: The Journey to Authentic Power

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“Reality is what we take to be true.
What we take to be true is what we believe.
What we believe is based upon our perceptions.
What we perceive depends upon what we look for.
What we look for depends upon what we think.
What we think depends upon what we perceive.
What we perceive determines what we believe.
What we believe determines what we take to be true.
What we take to be true is our reality.”
“The value of a physical theory depends upon its usefulness. In this sense the history of physical theories might be said to resemble the history of individual personality traits. Most of us respond to our environment with a collection of automatic responses that once brought desirable results, usually in childhood. Unfortunately, if the environment that produced these responses changes (we grow up) and the responses themselves do not adapt, they become counterproductive. Showing anger, becoming depressed, flattering, crying, and bullying behavior are response patterns appropriate to times often long past. These patterns change only when we are forced to realize that they are no longer productive. Even then change is often painful and slow. The same is true of scientific theories.” 0 likes
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