Fascinating look at the human mind. Subliminal is a sequel of sorts to The Drunkard's Walk in that both books look at our most basic assumptions and eFascinating look at the human mind. Subliminal is a sequel of sorts to The Drunkard's Walk in that both books look at our most basic assumptions and explanations of the world and the people around us and then proceed to systematically show how wrong they are. It's a bit dry in places and is really more of a short overview of several research studies, but I'd recommend it....more
Overall this was an interesting, informative read. If you've read many pop cosmology books (and I guess I have) you've already read about these ideasOverall this was an interesting, informative read. If you've read many pop cosmology books (and I guess I have) you've already read about these ideas many times before, but this book is unique in that the author doesn't just describe what current science tells us about the history of the universe, he also actively debunks alternate theories and philosophies (mostly religious) along the way. To be honest, he beats that dead horse maybe a little too much, but he's probably earned that right throughout his career so I cut him some slack. ...more
I wasn't too impressed with this. I feel like the authors pandered too much to their intended target audience, who I'm not sure actually exists. Are tI wasn't too impressed with this. I feel like the authors pandered too much to their intended target audience, who I'm not sure actually exists. Are there really people who are terrible at math and don't know anything about science that would be interested in reading a couple hundred pages about quantum theory? I doubt it. I would guess most people who read this are like me: know a little about it, would like to know more, and don't like being talked down to. So on that level, this book is annoying. Also, the authors introduce a "clock" method that just tangles everything up and makes it more confusing. Is it really that hard to discuss probabilities? I get that it's sometimes counter-intuitive, but again: the people who may need the clock explanations are not the ones who will read this book.
On the plus side, there are some very beautiful sections that show how elegant (and completely foreign) quantum theory can be. I also appreciated the methodical historical approach they took, showing how our picture of the world has been built up and added to over time. But in the end, when I want a refresher course on quantum physics I'll stick to Feynman and Deutsch and Penrose. ...more
Interesting but superficial and the subject matter is scattered enough that it's ultimately forgettable. I'm never sure who the targets audience is foInteresting but superficial and the subject matter is scattered enough that it's ultimately forgettable. I'm never sure who the targets audience is for books like this--it's obviously geared towards someone who is terrible at math, but those aren't the kind of people who are willingly going to read a book about math. And anyone who has an average understanding of math will be constantly bored by the junior-high level explanations. It's a mystery to me....more
One of the most Important books I’ve ever read. The book is basically an extended discussion of how we can improve as a species, and the challenges weOne of the most Important books I’ve ever read. The book is basically an extended discussion of how we can improve as a species, and the challenges we face trying to do that. It’s not necessarily focused on detailed specifics on what we should do (although there are several), but is more focused on how we need to think so we can apply those principles to any situation. While I think that Deutsch may be overly optimistic in some areas (e.g. government reform), his optimism and his ultimate faith in humanity is contagious and exciting. This book won’t change the world in my lifetime, but I think the ideas he puts forward will keep us going in the right direction.
My favorite passage, which discusses the suppression of creative ideas (i.e. optimism) throughout history (note: "optimism" is defined by Deutsch as the belief that "all evils are caused by insufficient knowledge"): "The inhabitants of Florence in 1494 or Athens in 404 BCE could be forgiven for concluding that optimism just isn't factually true. For they knew nothing of such things as the reach of explanations or the power of science or even laws of nature as we understand them, let alone the moral and technological progress that was to follow when the Enlightenment got under way. At the moment of defeat, it must have seemed at least plausible to the formerly optimistic Athenians that the Spartans might be right, and to the formerly optimistic Florentines that Savonarola might be. Like every other destruction of optimism, whether in a whole civilization or in a single individual, these must have been unspeakable catastrophes for those who had dared to expect progress. But we should feel more than sympathy for those people. We should take it personally. For if any of those earlier experiments in optimism had succeeded, our species would be exploring the stars by now, and you and I would be immortal."
Those last few sentences give me goosebumps.
I really can't recommend this book highly enough. There are flaws, sure. The Socrates chapter is a little too contrived, and sometimes his thought experiments get bogged down in weird mental gymnastics. But the reach of this book is so grand and the message so exciting that it's easy to forgive the missteps. I can't remember the last time I read something that made me proud to be a human and proud to be alive. One of the quotes on the back cover expresses my opinion of The Beginning of Infinity perfectly: "I almost cannot believe this book exists."...more
Overall I was pretty disappointed with this book. The first half or so is historical background, the next few chapters set up the science, and then whOverall I was pretty disappointed with this book. The first half or so is historical background, the next few chapters set up the science, and then when he finally gets around to directly focusing on what I thought the twin points of the book are (M-theory is the only candidate for the Theory of Everything, and a divine Creator isn't necessarily needed for the universe to have been set in motion), he literally devotes a page to each of them and the book is over. This would have worked much better as a magazine article.
But having said all that, Hawking and Mlodinow do a great job of simplifying concepts without seeming to dumb them down too much, and despite all its problems I still enjoyed the brief time I spent reading it. I would definitely recommend The Cosmic Landscape by Leonard Susskind for anyone wanting a more in-depth look at these questions. ...more
Fascinating book. I guess I'm in the minority of people who actually liked the author, or at least the persona he puts forth in the book. I read thisFascinating book. I guess I'm in the minority of people who actually liked the author, or at least the persona he puts forth in the book. I read this shortly after reading Leonard Mlodinow's book The Drunkard's Walk, which deals with many of the same themes and comes to many of the same conclusions regarding Wall Street, but Taleb comes right out and says what he thinks about economists and stockbrokers and their worth while Mlodinow just presents the data and mildly compares them to grade schoolers before moving on.
The only criticism I had is that the book could have probably been 100 pages shorter without losing much, but I liked the author and I liked the subject so I didn't mind staying around. I also must admit I found his frequent attacks on the French hilarious. This was my first exposure to the ideas of the narrative fallacy and the ludic fallacy, and it's given me a lot to think about. ...more
Fascinating book, even though I disagreed with a large chunk of it. For starters, if Tipler's view of the eventual Resurrection is correct (that is, eFascinating book, even though I disagreed with a large chunk of it. For starters, if Tipler's view of the eventual Resurrection is correct (that is, every person who ever lived will be resurrected as a computer simulation in the Omega Point and then placed in a simulated environment where all "bad things" are removed), of what use is being a Christian, or making good moral choices? Tipler also appears to take some Biblical passages very literally (the star of Bethlehem is stressed as being an actual star, for example) yet disregarding others seemingly at random (such as the Fall occurring at some point in metazoan evolution and not as depicted in Genesis, or the feeding of the 5,000).
The thing that left me puzzled the most though was his explanation of Christ's resurrection as a result of electroweak quantum tunneling. If every copy of Jesus across the multiverse used this procedure, there either 1) wouldn't be enough energy to "borrow" and none of the copies of Christ would rise, or 2) only a finite number of Christs, hence an infinitely small percentage of all the total Christs across the multiverse, would have risen and the rest would have remained dead.
What is more, for someone whose theology is wholly dependent on the existence of the multiverse, Tipler's plane wave explanation is not effective on any level. I discovered Tipler through reading Deutsch's The Fabric of Reality, which does a much, much better job in that area. Also, Tipler's antagonistic tone is pretty grating through much of the book, not to mention unnecessary. I found it annoying that he mentions several times that scientists do not want to carry the laws of physics to their ultimate conclusion because they lead to God, when Tipler is (as far as I know) the only scientist who equates the Omega Point with God. He paints this as a conscious decision on the part of scientists, which I thought was unfair.
Having said all of that though, I thought the book was fascinating, thought-provoking, and above all refreshing to see someone try to apply science to their faith, and not the other way around. Tipler hasn't convinced me that his God is the traditional Judeo-Christian God, but the Omega Point does seem to fit most of the requirements--eternal, omnipresent, omniscient, triune, omnipotent, etc., along with explanations of miracles, prayer, and the existence of evil. For that I would recommend it to anyone who, like me, sees no conflict with science and faith, and is interested in refining exactly what they believe and why they believe it, even if they don't find anything in this book that they actually believe. It's never bad to question why you believe what you do, it's only bad to never question it....more