Are Universes Thicker Than Blackberries?: Discourses on Godel, Magic Hexagrams, Little Red Riding Hood, and Other Mathematical and Pseudoscience Topics

Overview

"Something about Gardner's prose—straight-ahead, factual, free of literary pretension—is deliciously addictive."—Michael Dirda, Washington Post Book World
Martin Gardner—"one of the most brilliant men and gracious writers I have ever known," wrote Stephen Jay Gould—is the wittiest, most devastating debunker of scientific fraud and chicanery of our time. In this new book Gardner explores startling scientific concepts, such as the possibility of multiple universes and the theory that time can go backwards. Armed ...

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Overview

"Something about Gardner's prose—straight-ahead, factual, free of literary pretension—is deliciously addictive."—Michael Dirda, Washington Post Book World
Martin Gardner—"one of the most brilliant men and gracious writers I have ever known," wrote Stephen Jay Gould—is the wittiest, most devastating debunker of scientific fraud and chicanery of our time. In this new book Gardner explores startling scientific concepts, such as the possibility of multiple universes and the theory that time can go backwards. Armed with his expert, skeptical eye, he examines the bizarre tangents produced by Freudians and deconstructionists in their critiques of "Little Red Riding Hood," and reveals the fallacies of pseudoscientific cures, from Dr. Bruno Bettelheim's erroneous theory of autism to the cruel farces of Facilitated Communication and Primal Scream Therapy. Ever prolific, and still engaging at the spry age of eighty-eight, Gardner has become an American institution unto himself, a writer to be celebrated.

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Editorial Reviews

The Washington Post
Something about Gardner's prose -- straight-ahead, factual, free of literary pretension -- is deliciously addictive. His mathematical pieces are often way beyond me, but I've read virtually all his essays on writers and books and charlatans, and I like to reread them. It's good to be in periodic touch with a mind of such rare sense and clarity. — Michael Dirda
Publishers Weekly
Gardner is a revered figure among science buffs for his long tenure at Scientific American, The Annotated Alice and his many other publications. This latest collection brings together recent columns and introductions to new editions of neglected gems like Chesterton's The Man Who Was Thursday. The first two sections cover familiar Gardner topics: science and games. In the third section, Gardner (who bills himself a philosophical theist) muses on religion and religious figures and ties in with the last section on Freudians and psychics. This is not one of Gardner's stronger collections. Too often he seems petulant in an Andy Rooney sort of way, but without Rooney's underlying sense of fairness. He brands Gary Wills a near-heretic for Wills's criticisms of the Catholic Church; Gardner concludes his critique with a six-point catechism demanding to know what Wills himself believes. Wills's Why I Am a Catholic has been in print for almost a year, ample time for Gardner to have added an afterword, as he has for a few of his other essays. Gardner's distaste for Freudian and feminist interpretations of the Little Red Riding Hood story seems to stem mainly from their sexual content. His own interpretation is a simplistic, albeit plausible, tale of good and evil. Gardner's best essays cover old stomping grounds: literature like the Oz stories or Edgar Wallace's The Green Archer, and the tricks used by psychics and various New Age tricksters. Still, die-hard Gardner fans may find worthwhile reading here. 30 illus. (July) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
America's favorite skeptic (Visitors From Oz, 1998, etc.) presents another smorgasbord of common sense, practical criticism, and entertainment. The subtitle only begins to do justice to the range of these essays from various periodicals, primarily Gardner's long-running column in the now-defunct Skeptical Inquirer. For many readers, the real fun will consist of watching the author turn his microscope on the pseudoscientific and irrational. You can practically see him shaking his head at some of the interpretations of the classic fairy tale he examines in "Little Red Riding Hood." And his essay on Ernest Hemingway, which Gardner himself frankly describes as "a hatchet job," will likely make even that writer's admirers think twice about Hemingway's brutal egotism. Nor does the author find much to admire in Indian guru (and messiah of theosophy) Krishnamurti. But Gardner's full arsenal of indignation only becomes apparent in essays on medical or psychological quackery such as therapeutic touch, primal-scream therapy, and facilitated communication. The psychologist Bruno Bettelheim, whose work with autistic children was once considered definitive, does not escape Gardner's scorn for his contention that maternal coldness is at the root of autism. His exposé of primal-scream therapy concludes with a transcript of therapists bullying a young girl through a "reenactment" of her birth-a session that resulted in the child's death. The menu is not restricted to debunking, however; Gardner displays his enthusiasms for GK Chesterton, L. Frank Baum's Oz books, and mathematical puzzlements. His sense of humor peeks through in clerihews and parodies, as well as in occasional asides about his more serioussubjects. There are copious notes for readers interested in following up the author's research. A must for fans of Gardner, and for rationalists of all stripes.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393325720
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 6/19/2004
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 1,227,534
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Martin Gardner (1914-2010) is regarded as one of the world's leading experts on Lewis Carroll and his work. The author of more than a hundred books, he wrote the "Mathematical Games" column for Scientific American for twenty-five years and has been hailed by Douglas Hofstadter as "one of the great intellects produced in this country in this century."

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Table of Contents

Preface
Pt. I Science
1 Multiverses and Blackberries 3
2 A Skeptical Look at Karl Popper 12
3 Rudolf Carnap, Philosopher of Science 19
4 Some Thoughts About Induction 23
5 Can Time Go Backward? 29
Pt. II Mathematics
6 Against the Odds (a story) 49
7 Fun with Mobius Bands 57
8 Is Mathematics "Out There"? 61
9 Ian Stewart's Flatterland 64
10 Kurt Godel's Amazing Discovery 67
11 New Results on Magic Hexagrams 74
Pt. III Religion
12 The Strange Case of Garry Wills 85
13 Mad Messiahs 94
14 Oahspe 101
15 The Vagueness of Krishnamurti 112
Pt. IV Literature
16 Chesterton's The Man Who Was Thursday 125
17 Ernest Hemingway and Jane 135
18 Three Parodies of Famous Poems 144
19 Edgar Wallace and The Green Archer 147
20 Afterword to The Green Archer 159
21 The Tin Woodman of Oz 164
Pt. V Moonshine
22 Little Red Riding Hood 177
23 The Brutality of Dr. Bettelheim 188
24 Facilitated Communication: A Cruel Farce 195
25 Distant Healing and Elisabeth Targ 203
26 The Therapeutic Touch 211
27 Primal Scream Therapy 215
28 Eyeless Vision 225
29 Magic and Psi 244
30 How Mrs. Piper Bamboozled William James 252
31 "Dr." Henry Slade, American Medium 263
Index 273
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