Day the Universe Changed

Day the Universe Changed

by James Burke
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Day the Universe Changed by James Burke

The Day the Universe Changed presents a sweeping view of the history of science, technology, and human civilization and examines the moments in history when a change in knowledge radically altered man's understanding of himself and the world around him.
James Burke examines eight periods in history when our view of the world shifted dramatically:

  • In the eleventh century, when extraordinary discoveries were made by Spanish crusaders.
  • In fourteenth-century Florence, where perspective in painting emerged.
  • In the fifteenth century, when the advent of the printing press shook the foundations of an oral society.
  • In the sixteenth century, when gunnery developments triggered the birth of modern science.
  • In the early eighteenth century, when hot English summers brought on the Industrial Revolution.
  • In the battlefield surgery stations of the French revolutionary armies, where people first became statistics.
  • In the nineteenth century, when the discovery of dinosaur fossils led to the theory of evolution.
  • In the 1820s, when electrical experiments heralded the end of scientific certainty.
Based on the popular television documentary series, The Day the Universe Changed is a bestselling history that challenges the reader to decide whether there is absolute knowledge to discover-or whether the universe is "ultimately what we say it is."

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780316091916
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Publication date: 11/29/2009
Sold by: Hachette Digital, Inc.
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 452,650
File size: 17 MB
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About the Author

James Burke, the BBC's chief reporter on the Apollo missions to the moon, was awarded the Royal Television Society silver medal in 1973 and the gold medal in 1974. The PBS series Connections was over two years in the making, the research and filming taking the author to twenty-three countries. James Burke lives in London.

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The Day the Universe Changed: How Galileo's Telescope Changed The Truth and Other Events in History That Dramatically Altered Our Understanding of the 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
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BHLindsey More than 1 year ago
Burke’s book is both brilliant and, to my mind, deeply flawed. One of the great strengths of The Day the Universe Changed is that it presents the concept and the history of Western philosophical and scientific paradigms in a form that any decently-educated individual can understand. The idea of revolutionary paradigm shifts is not original with Burke, but he is far more approachable than more original authors like Thomas Kuhn. Burke also places those paradigm shifts in their complete contexts; to him, science does not exist in a vacuum, but is simultaneously a potential driver and a product of the philosophy, art, politics, and religious thought that surrounds it. Burke traces the evolution of scientific understanding from its roots in Greece all the way through quantum theory, showing how the various branches (medicine, astronomy, geology, navigation, etc.) interact, progress, and sometimes conflict with each other. His work here is very clear without being dry, showing how small and seemingly unrelated events often combine into either major steps forward or, at times, dead ends. Burke’s understanding and clear exposition of paradigm formation and change alone make his work worth reading. Unfortunately (to my mind), Burke’s own underlying philosophy is Relativist; Burke believes that reality is in the eye of the beholder and that changes in the way we perceive reality (i.e. a paradigm shift) means a change in reality, itself. In Burke’s own words, “The universe is what we say it is. When theories change, the universe changes. The truth is relative” (p. 290). I personally deny this. Reality has objective form and objective content; if our perceptions change over time, it is a result of growth or deterioration in our understanding and observation. In conclusion, I believe that although his ultimate conclusions are flawed by their philosophical underpinnings, his observations in general are informative and this book is well worth reading.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
In this book James Burke attempts to look at the key events in the history of science. Burke attempts to trace scientific advancement from the Ionian Greeks to the twentieth century. I suggest this book, but be warned, you have to be patient with Burke. In his writings, he tends to wander somewhat from topic to topic, somewhat like the stereotypical college professor. It is important to remember that despite some of his unfocused points in the book, he still very accurately traces scientific progress and paradigm shifts in the views of the discussed period. This book is a font of knowledge. This book goes in to detail in explaining how and why discoveries and advancement happen. He discusses this point in his philosophical chapter at the conclusion of the book. He states that multitudes of ideas have come from brief flashes of insight. Others have come from an accumulation of knowledge over time that lead to a new set of rules or beliefs in a given field. In this area of discussion, Burke is correct. This is one example of the highlights of the book. Throughout the course of piece, Burke explains what was behind the development of new scientific ideas. For example, Burke describes ideas such as that of Brunelleschi's perspective painting, which he discovered while attempting to create three dimensional building plans for clients. On the other hand, Darwin's "On the Origin of Species" was a cumulated effort of over twenty years of study. Both of these advancements had profound effects on the future of science and the world. Brunelleschi's paintings changed Europeans views on the world, both philosophically and practically, while Darwin's theories on evolution set down in his book greatly influenced men such as Haeckel and Marx. Without a doubt, Burke is a master of analysis, and his skills shine through in his book. For all the positive points in this book, there are also negatives. As stated above, Burke tends to ramble during certain points in the book. He spends several paragraphs describing something completely unrelated to the topic of discussion. Although these divergences from the linear story-line are informative, they can confuse and mislead the reader. Also, on several occasions during the book Burke goes in to too much detail. One excellent example came from the discussion of the discovery and affects of the printing press. Although it is important to understand the spread of the printing press, it is not necessary to spend an entire paragraph listing off names of cities and the year that the press arrived in that area. It is important information, just not to the discussion at hand. This is one of the major flaws of this book, but there are a few others. One of the most major is that Burke focuses mainly on Europe, not the world at large. It is true that many important advancements have come from Europe. However, almost all of the ideas discussed in this book came from Europe. He rarely advancements such as the Indian concept of zero, which would change the face of mathematics, or the development of stirrups by the Mongols which would help to create the class of knight in feudalism. Burke accredits too much to the Europeans. It shows a possible bias, which is not conducive to a unbiased examination of science. Burke's examination of the advancement of science has many redeemable qualities. However, it is hard to get over some of the difficulties in reading it. However, I would suggest reading this book.