[A] thought-provoking treatment of an array of issues at the frontier of science and philosophy. . . . Well worth our attention.” —PopMatters
“Engaging and varied. . . . Books like this invite us to direct our curiosities—both as groups and individuals—in useful ways.” —North of Oxford
“Engrossing. . . . Danielsson’s clarity of thought and expression and his use of illuminating literary and historical references are equal to the quality of his writing. Science ‘popularizing’ doesn’t get much more comprehensible, or provocative, than this.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Danielsson takes readers on an odyssey through the width and depth of his field, and it is truly a fascinating journey. Touching on subjects as diverse as evolutionary biology, philosophy, and even popular culture, Danielsson makes his topics both appreciably substantial and approachable.” —Library Journal (starred review)
“There are some mind-bending ideas and the philosophical reflections on math and physics are stimulating. . . . This pensive take on physics has much to offer.” —Publishers Weekly
“The World Itself offers a bold perspective on mathematics, physics, and the nature of reality. There’s much I agree with and less that I don’t, but Ulf Danielsson, a leading theoretical physicist, proves himself an insightful and patient guide through some of the universe’s deepest mysteries.” —Brian Greene, author of The Fabric of the Cosmos and Until the End of Time
“Danielsson is Sweden’s most important public writer on the implications of natural science. His lucid, powerful, passionate, and engaging work advances original arguments of great importance. The World Itself is destined to become a modern classic as it upends many of the received wisdoms about the scientific worldview.” —Martin Hägglund, author of This Life: Secular Faith and Spiritual Freedom
“Danielsson displays a remarkably broad understanding of science and philosophy, and dispenses with false notions about the world in this brief, yet provocative book. I hope it stimulates lots of discussion and debate, as it should. For those who have thought about these issues, there is much of interest here. For those who haven’t, this is a great place to start.” —Lawrence M. Krauss, author of A Universe from Nothing and The Known Unknowns
“In this accessible and beautifully written book, Danielsson argues for views diametrically opposite to mine on the nature of intelligence, consciousness, and physical reality—I highly recommend it!” —Max Tegmark, author of Our Mathematical Universe and Life 3.0: Being Human In the Age of Artificial Intelligence
How does the mind of a theoretical physicist work? Danielsson (theoretical physics, Uppsala Univ. in Sweden) takes readers on an odyssey through the width and depth of his field, and it is truly a fascinating journey. Touching on subjects as diverse as evolutionary biology, philosophy, and even popular culture, Danielsson makes his topics both appreciably substantial and approachable for lay readers who are curious about the nature of physics but do not necessarily have a strong background in science or mathematics. The closing chapter entitle "Does Free Will Exist?" will likely enchant readers and leave them with more to contemplate. Happily, the book's final pages include a list of recommended further reading for each chapter. VERDICT An excellent addition to any science collection, Danielsson's book serves as an exceptional ingress into the universe of theoretical physics and how it relates to a diverse cross section of human interests.—Jennifer Moore
At the junctures of science and philosophy, the real world takes shape.
Throughout history, humanity has repeatedly discovered that the world is much larger and more diverse than previously thought. Danielsson, a professor at Sweden’s Uppsala University with specialties in string theory and cosmology, believes this is no less the case today and that we have only begun to grasp the nature of our own world and the larger universe(s). For all its scientific detail and speculation, this engrossing book is a closely reasoned critique of competing philosophies on the nature of consciousness, free will, and physical reality. Danielsson brings an unusually broad grasp of science and philosophy to bear in evaluating—and, in many cases, dispensing with—erroneous ideas about the world, and he is never less than evenhanded in addressing those theories—some enshrined in the cultural imagination—that are demonstrably untrue. A lucid introduction by Carlos Fiolhais, professor of physics at the University of Coimbra, sets the stage for Danielsson’s persuasive argument, which uses as its starting point the view that physics is the “mother” science that strives to explicate and define the real world. In this framework, it is about observation and testing as opposed to the incorporeal or spiritual mysteries that even some distinguished colleagues propound, dualistic notions on reality that are little different from religious belief. Danielsson’s message is clear: Do not mistake our evolving descriptions of the world, which are simply attempts to represent it, with the world itself. Mathematical models, however useful, are not the same as the real world. Computers do not think. Free will and determinism are both illusions. There is no consciousness separate from the body. Danielsson’s clarity of thought and expression and his use of illuminating literary and historical references are equal to the quality of his writing.
Science “popularizing” doesn’t get much more comprehensible, or provocative, than this.