The Scientist as Rebel

The Scientist as Rebel

5.0 1
by Freeman Dyson
     
 

ISBN-10: 1590172167

ISBN-13: 9781590172162

Pub. Date: 11/14/2006

Publisher: New York Review Books

An illuminating collection of essays by an award-winning scientist whom the London Times calls “one of the world’s most original minds.”

From Galileo to today’s amateur astronomers, scientists have been rebels, writes Freeman Dyson. Like artists and poets, they are free spirits who resist the restrictions their cultures

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Overview

An illuminating collection of essays by an award-winning scientist whom the London Times calls “one of the world’s most original minds.”

From Galileo to today’s amateur astronomers, scientists have been rebels, writes Freeman Dyson. Like artists and poets, they are free spirits who resist the restrictions their cultures impose on them. In their pursuit of Nature’s truths, they are guided as much by imagination as by reason, and their greatest theories have the uniqueness and beauty of great works of art.

Dyson argues that the best way to understand science is by understanding those who practice it. He tells stories of scientists at work, ranging from Isaac Newton’s absorption in physics, alchemy, theology, and politics, to Ernest Rutherford’s discovery of the structure of the atom, to Albert Einstein’s stubborn hostility to the idea of black holes. His descriptions of brilliant physicists like Edward Teller and Richard Feynman are enlivened by his own reminiscences of them. He looks with a skeptical eye at fashionable scientific fads and fantasies, and speculates on the future of climate prediction, genetic engineering, the colonization of space, and the possibility that paranormal phenomena may exist yet not be scientifically verifiable.

Dyson also looks beyond particular scientific questions to reflect on broader philosophical issues, such as the limits of reductionism, the morality of strategic bombing and nuclear weapons, the preservation of the environment, and the relationship between science and religion. These essays, by a distinguished physicist who is also a lovely writer, offer informed insights into the history of science and fresh perspectives on contentious current debates about science, ethics, and faith.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781590172162
Publisher:
New York Review Books
Publication date:
11/14/2006
Series:
New York Review Books Collections Series
Pages:
400
Sales rank:
704,961
Product dimensions:
5.83(w) x 8.51(h) x 1.03(d)

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The Scientist as Rebel 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a delightful collection of short stories well, it is really a collection of book reviews written by the author in recent years for *New York Review*. But each of them was edited and brought up to 2006. Some of the revisions were in response to reader correspondence. In any case, I was sorry when I reached the end, and I am hoping for more. The author Freeman Dyson (author of ¿Disturbing the Universe¿) has a unique talent for bringing the characters and the protagonists to life, and many of the stories are inspired by the author¿s own experiences, and some are biographies of scientists (Feynman, Oppenheimer, Teller, and more) and others of people Dyson met in his career or in his life. Dyson ponders and answers the question: ¿Why do some scientists like Einstein gain cult status, while others like Poincare are forgotten by the public?¿ This lovely little book is a gem, and it is proof that it is possible for the same person to be a brilliant scientist and a great story teller at the same time observing the world we share, and helping us reflect on big questions of war and peace, on the environment, on space flights, and on whether there might be intelligent life out there. The book is divided into five chapters, the last one consisting of Biographical Notes. Each of the four real chapters consists of a handful of stories (sections, essays or reviews) which can stand alone. A sample of titles of the sections: Can Science be Ethical? (the gap between rich and poor, and more.) Bombs and Potatoes. (reflections, and recollections from WWII work on the nuclear bomb.) Russians. (starting with History and ending with recollections of persons Dyson met in Russia.) The Force of Reason. (a rebel from the Manhattan Project, WWII work on the nuclear bomb.) Seeing the Unseen. (the beginning of atomic physics.) The World, the Flesh, and the Devil. (I will not spoil the plot on this one!) Religion from the Outside. (I will let you find out for yourself!) PS.: Freeman Dyson devoted a good part of his life to science: I recently opened a whole volume of ¿Communications in Mathematical Physics¿, entirely devoted to the research and the advances pioneered by Dyson. Review by Palle Jorgensen, November 2006.