Customer Reviews for

Art and Physics : Parallel Visions in Space, Time, and Light

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 13, 2000

    New Words and Images for Understanding the World

    Many people find the insights of particle physics impossible to visualize and modern art difficult to talk about. Leonard Shlain has taken on these two imponderables and woven them together, demonstrating that artists give us new ways to 'see' the world at the same time [and, oddly, often before] scientists give us new ways to think about the world. From Euclidian space and the art of the Classical World, through Newtonian Mechanics and the Renaissance discovery of perspective, to Einstein's epiphanies and modern art's reordering of the world, this book is a stunner. Dr. Shlain's elegant prose is accompanied by well-chosen reproductions of artworks that help us visualize the spacetime continuum and other 'givens' that cannot be conceived using our ordinary three-dimensional ways of thinking. When words fail, images offer other ways of knowing. This, incidentally, is the theme of his later and equally insightful book 'The Alphabet Versus The Goddess.' In the historical duel between word and image, alphabetic literacy, with all its obvious benefits, has limited our ability to perceive the world as a whole and led to hierarchies of power and control. We need both and it's helpful to realize that, if we learn to 'read' the language of art, we can get clues about where our culture may be headed next. These two books have given me a much more fully-integrated sense of human history that will inform my teaching and writing in philosophy.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 14, 1999

    A mind expanding experience!

    Scientists and artists increasingly dwell in two separate realms, separate and unequal. Leonard Shlain does a service to both groups and educated laypersons with his wonderfully insightful Art and Physics. In the book's introduction, Shlain reports that the impetus for the book came after he took his daughter to an art museum. He knew the art was 'great' but couldn't intelligently respond to his daughter's question about what unifying themes made works from differnt eras 'great'. The answer, Shlain concludes convincingly in Art and Physics, is that art is considered great where it expresses for humanity new ways to understand space, time and light. Renaissance artists like Giotto helped humanity to understand perspective. Impressionists helped us understand the ephemeral nature of time. Similarly, physicists are considered great when their work (via equations and theories) enables humankind to better understand the nature of time and space. I found some explantions about art, philosophy, and science inaccurate at times, but anyone with a high school level education in art history, basic physics, and philosophy should be able to appreciate Shlain's basic points. The book is, after all, for a popular audience. Like Shlain's daughter, I too had difficulty identifying themes that made art 'great' but with Art and Physics, that's no longer the case.

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