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Paradox: The Nine Greatest Enigmas in Physics

3.96  ·  Rating details ·  1,917 ratings  ·  190 reviews
A fun and fascinating look at great scientific paradoxes.

   Throughout history, scientists have come up with theories and ideas that just don't seem to make sense.  These we call paradoxes.  The paradoxes Al-Khalili offers are drawn chiefly from physics and astronomy and represent those that have stumped some of the finest minds.  For example, how can a cat be both dead an
Paperback, 256 pages
Published October 23rd 2012 by Broadway Books (first published May 22nd 2012)
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Patrick Lueck Hmmm,, the black hole paradox is that FROM OUR POINT OF VIEW this is true. But, from the particle's point of view...if falls in at the speed of light.…moreHmmm,, the black hole paradox is that FROM OUR POINT OF VIEW this is true. But, from the particle's point of view...if falls in at the speed of light.

If you follow is another comment for you on this book. The old "10 years younger than your twin..." is not a paradox. Does not present anything like your black hole example. Simply true. everyone's frame of reference has its own time rate passage. simple. If I travel faster than you...then I age more slowly. Very NON-intuitve...hard to digest...and strange. but not a paradox.

I have seen many misuses of the word 'paradox..' most of us misuse the word. (less)

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Ahmed Samir
Nov 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
So this was the true definition of a popular science book. From the get-go, Jim goes on to a number of very interesting examples to put the reader at bay with what lies ahead, and amazingly he moves from one paradox to the other very swiftly.

Each paradox is discussed with the utmost care to be as clear as possible. Although I had to re-read some sections to make sure I understood, overall, it was a fantastic read. What I like most is how the author takes time to explain some scientific theories
Feb 13, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science, physics
This is an entertaining book about seeming paradoxes in physics. I highly recommend the book to people interested in special relativity, quantum mechanics, thermodynamics, and mathematics.

Is time travel possible? That is covered in chapter 7, "The Grandfather Paradox", where Al-Khalili explains what might happen if you went back in time to murder your grandfather. Is it possible? I won't say right here, because it is definitely a spoiler.

What about the so-called "twins paradox". One twin stays
Aug 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science
Fascinating ! This book deals with 9 beautiful paradoxes and their explanations. The writer and physicist Jim has done really a good job. He unfolded the paradoxes and explained things so well. The smooth covering of all the details, explanations reveal his expertise on the topics. The writing is very fluent. I believe anyone will enjoy these beautiful paradoxes. O:)
May 09, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: reviewed, science
What do you do when a friend recommends a science book to you, and a few chapters in, you realise that it has nothing to teach you? ..and the writing style is bland, and the author is at one time skipping over important distinctions, and at another muddling simple ideas with rambling? You trudge on, and change your purpose from one of learning to one of gathering ammunition for a scathing book review! Let's go!

As it turned out, I couldn't make myself finish this book in one effort. I made it all
Oct 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing
To earn an engineering degree many years ago, I took a lot of math and science courses. I struggled with the advanced mathematics, but I loved the sciences, especially physics, and I've been keen on science ever since. My home library includes many science books, running the gamut from cosmology to quantum mechanics. I don't always understand everything that I read, but I'm always fascinated by a well written book on science. And "Paradox: The Nine Greatest Enigmas in Physics" is a well written ...more
Dec 08, 2012 rated it really liked it
The title of the book I actually read was "Paradox: The nine greatest enigmas in science" by the same author. However, given they both have the same ISBN (So I can't add my copy) and the book I read was pretty much enigmas in physics, I am going to post here and assume this is just a publisher's discretion thingo between different country releases :-). Almost like Americans calling the first Harry Potter book a sorcerer's stone (rather than the philosopher's).

I really enjoyed this book. I read t
Aug 15, 2012 rated it liked it
Probabilities, puzzles, and problems abound in Jim Al-Khalili's book Paradox: The Nine Great Enigmas is Physics. If ever there was a book to prompt your brain to run in circles it's this one which offers conundrum after conundrum, rapid fire. Your enjoyment of this book will likely depend on how interested in quantum mechanics, physics, philosophy, and metaphysics you are. I've read a bunch of different reviews of the British version, those who have a physics background find it too simplistic, t ...more
Anna Kaling
I really like Jim Al-Khalili's writing style, and how he makes physics accessible without being condescending. But this book isn't really about paradoxes, as the author admits in the preface, just tricky questions that have been solved, and I found most of them uninteresting. There was too much focus on special relativity, so the explanations began to feel repetitive and I didn't learn much.

I did really enjoy the chapters on the Game Show Paradox, Shrodinger's Cat, and Fermi's Paradox. I suppose
Nov 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science
If you think this book is just a collection of physics paradoxes, you're wrong. In each chapter, Jim Al-Khalili, British theoretical physicist, delves into the real world of science, be it Einstein's theory of relativity, quantum mechanics, etc. The book starts with paradoxes that are less physics related and more probability-like. Then it moves on to more interesting dilemmas like Maxwell's demon and Shrodinger's cat. In the final chapter, Jim discusses the Fermi paradox. How likely is it for a ...more
Jan 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, science
Excellent explanation of some quite difficult physics concepts, and really interesting paradoxes were explored. This book really makes you question human existence and the uniqueness of our universe.
It wasn't too "dumbed down" as some popular science books tend to be. Would have liked to have seen some maths in there but one can only dream.
Joel Everett
Mar 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
Great book with lots of great information in there, I’d recommend for GCSE age (about 15/16) because it gives enough information to peak interest but not in any difficult detail. Intriguing read all the same.
Apr 30, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobooks, 2019
Entertaining and interesting, though at times somewhat difficult to follow and a few parts required a re-listen in order to fully grasp what was being conveyed. Glad to have read it, but wouldn't rush to re-read or recommend...
Feb 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
I love books that can get my brain firing and this one certainly did that!

The book explained 9 of the greatest enigmas in science - paradoxes that seem inexplicable (could you go back in time and kill your grandfather? And if you did, how would you be here to go back and carry out the act)

The Grandfather Paradox was just one of the paradoxes explained, my favourites discussed included Fermi’s Paradox, The Pole in the Barn Paradox, Schrodinger’s Cat (of course!), Maxwell’s and Laplace’s Demon an
Brian Clegg
Apr 11, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There is something wonderful about paradoxes - and when I give talks to people about physics, I find it's the paradoxical bits, the ones that seriously bend your mind, that really get them going. That being the case, it's a no-brainer that Jim Al-Khalili's latest book is one to look out for. It's rather unfortunate that he defines paradox incorrectly at the start, saying it is 'a statement that leads to a circular and self-contradictory argument, or describes a situation that is logically imposs ...more
Nov 02, 2012 rated it liked it
Ever wonder if it is possible to time-travel, why the night sky is not brighter, why it is impossible to build a perpetual motion machine, or why we have not had any communication from intelligent beings from other planets? This little book by Jim Al-Khalili, a quantum physicist at the University of Surrey, answers these and several other difficult questions in easy to read language with no equations.

Paradoxes are puzzles that are logical brainteasers, and the author utilizes them in his effort
Rob Slaven
Apr 15, 2013 rated it liked it
As I've said countless times lately, I received this book in a GoodReads giveaway.

With the popularity of shows like "The Big Bang Theory" it's not surprising that books of this sort are making their way increasingly into the awareness of the reading public. In a nutshell, I think this book tries to cover too much ground in too little time. For most of the topics covered a 300-page book just for one topic is not usually sufficient so to attempt to summarize this much material in 220 pages for 9
Laura Zimmerman
Sep 22, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: first-reads
I received this book through a Goodreads giveaway. I am NOT a physics or math sort of person and I entered the drawing because I hoped the book would be a Physics Made Easy sort of read.

Probably because I'm not a physics or math person, it was difficult for me to read this book and stay interested. Rather than staying engaged I found myself nodding off as I read. My hope of having these concepts in physics explained in a way that made sense to me was unfulfilled, which resulted in quickly losing
Kaleb Bierstedt
Apr 11, 2016 rated it really liked it
I found this book to be very interesting, and often times found myself taking breaks during the book to sort out some the ideas that Jim Al-Khalili brings up because some of the paradoxes have such odd logic to them. Also at the time of reading this book we were learning about similar mathematical concepts that could be applied in the Achilles and the Tortoise section in my AP Calc class, so that also helped spark my interest in the book. Although this was a good book, the use of math and physic ...more
Peter (Pete) Mcloughlin
a passable intro to weird paradoxes in physics. It talks about Olbers paradox of the dark night sky, If the universe is infinite and stars are randomly distributed there should be stars in every direction and the night sky should be blazingly bright it is not because even if the universe is infinite we can only see a finite part of it because of the big bang light hasn't reached us from parts of the universe. the book goes on with zeno's paradox, relativity and time travel paradoxes, Schroeding ...more
May 08, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: science geeks
I can't really say how readable it is if you've never taken Quantum Mechanics, but if you took it about 7 years ago it's not too bad. If you've heard of Olber's paradox (why is the sky dark at night), and wondered how it's resolved (not the way I thought it was) - (view spoiler) I won't spoil the answer.

Actually, most of the paradoxes were resolved in ways that I hadn
Oct 29, 2012 rated it did not like it
this book was far less satisfying than it could have been. I was expecting a much more technical treatment of its chosen topics but only got a notional awareness. Having studied these various paradoxes in college physics ill just have to go back and revisit this material mathematically.

Readers should expect only superficial coverage of topics in laymen's terms wrapped in TV courtroom strength logic. Understanding imparted by this book may provide fodder for coffeeshop conversation but could not
Dale Furutani
I felt one or two of the paradoxes weren't sufficiently explained which was rather disappointing, but for the most part it was a very interesting read. The author often comes across as elitist, always jumping at the chance to remind the reader he's a physicist, and you are not. However, I did enjoy the fact that he wasn't afraid to offer his personal opinion on scientific mysteries, but always made sure to preface them as his own subjective opinions. I really enjoyed that personal element.

All in
Rami Hamze
Mar 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018
For science geeks only… very interesting with a philosophical flavor.

Theoretical physicist Jim Al-Khalili known as the BBC documentary guru explains the major “contradictions” or enigmas of modern physics and stretches the concept in a very interesting way leaving you scratching your head… again, this is for geeks only, knowledge of theories such as relativity of time, Schrodinger’s cat etc. is a prerequisite

One arguement i (humbly) disagreed with or did not understand is that explaining the par
Apr 25, 2012 rated it liked it
This is a must read for people that love science without being a scientist, so I loved it. I have to admit some of the explanations were not so clear to me, because I'm not intelligent enough, but the author made serious efforts to try to be clear and easy.

Oct 30, 2013 rated it liked it
This was decent, though not earth-shattering. I was hoping to read about some paradoxes I hadn't heard of, but the author really only touched on the most famous ones. I guess I might not be the target audience for this book. Still, thorough and enjoyable explanations for the paradoxes he did talk about.
Robert Giambo
Oct 26, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: science
Topics seemed interesting (if you are interested in physics). However, for me the book was too elementary (having seen the topics discussed in other books) and I suspect is still too difficult for a more general reader
Chris Beiser
Jun 04, 2015 rated it it was ok
Reccomended by a friend with a glowing, glowing note. I think I would have loved it at the age of ten, but having taken excellent classes that covered relativity, infinite series, and Zeno's paradox, there wasn't much to see. Skimmed.
Sophie Leishman
For anyone wanting to dip their toe in to the world of paradoxes this is definitely the book for you! Written in a way that us non-science geeks can understand, it puts to bed those pesky paradoxes once and for all! A thoroughly enjoyable read and one I would definitely recommend.
May 14, 2013 rated it did not like it
Couldn't finish this book. From the beginning, it annoyed me. I thought it made a good premise, but the first paradox example was so horribly explained that I simply couldn't bother to keep reading.
Federico Carballo
Feb 08, 2015 rated it really liked it
Very nice book, engaging, well written
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The Gray Area: Paradox: What is Real? 1 2 Oct 27, 2017 02:43PM  

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Jim Al-Khalili(born Jameel Sadik Al-Khalili) is an Iraqi-born British theoretical physicist, author and science communicator. He is Professor of Theoretical Physics and Chair in the Public Engagement in Science at the University of Surrey. He has hosted several BBC productions about science and is a frequent commentator about science in other British media venues.

(taken and modified from Wikipedia

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