Books by David Darling

Released: April 17, 2018

"The authors offer some beguiling insights on what math is about and how it has evolved but no royal road to easy understanding."
A science writer and astronomer and his student, a teen math prodigy, join forces to elucidate fields of math they find weird. Read full book review >
Released: June 1, 1995

An entry in the Beyond 2000 Series provides a thoughtful, comprehensible overview of the scientific possibilities and ethical issues involved in genetic engineering. Darling outlines the profound progress made in our understanding of genetics, beginning with the solution to the mystery of the genetic code of DNA. Its workings are explained in a coherent manner, with excellent illustrations that simplify complex concepts. The example of cystic fibrosis is used to explain the mechanics of inherited diseases as well as the ethics of genetic screening, amniocentesis, abortion, and gene therapy. The author points out that the question of who owns what in the world of genetic engineering is not clear-cut. A book with the information and perspective readers need to make future decisions about the important issues concerning the value of genetic engineering, and its costs. (further reading, glossary, diagrams, full-color and b&w photos) (Nonfiction. 10+) Read full book review >
Released: June 1, 1995

What will they think of next? That's the sense of wonder generated by this entry in the Beyond 2000 series, which looks ahead to the day when tiny submarines patrol arteries, destroying hostile germs and fat buildups and other tiny devices digest garbage on waste dumps. These advances might come through the science of nanotechnology, which involves building structures and machines from individual atoms and molecules. Darling looks at the history of miniaturization and gives a detailed explanation of how computer microchips are made. Most exciting is the research involved in creating microscopic versions of machines such as gears, pumps, and motors, aptly known as micromachines. The author has a real gift for writing about complicated technology; he presents the potential for both good and evil that can arise out of such scientific leaps. (further reading, glossary, diagrams, full- color and b&w photos) (Nonfiction. 10+) Read full book review >
Released: March 1, 1995

One scientist's hopeful meditations on the possibility of a consciousness beyond death. In the Western world, science has largely replaced religion as the means to explain the universe. In this environment, death has become ever more terrifying as rationalists dismiss as naive the idea of a blissful heaven: When the brain dies, that's it. Physicist/astronomer Darling (Equations of Eternity, 1993, etc.) seeks to renew the hope for an eternal soul—to put the ghost back in the machine—without losing an audience of rational, science-minded thinkers. Starting anthropologically, he leads us from the dawn of self-consciousness through the evolution of the self and the concept of that self somehow surviving the death of the body. But, says Darling, ``I,'' the individual who exists in linear time, is a grand illusion, a ``chimera of the brain.'' Individual consciousness is a tiny sliver of the space-time continuum; in fact, the brain is not the source of consciousness but merely a regulator, a processor of consciousness, as lungs process air and stomachs digest food. Our brains make each of us unique, he contends, but they severely restrict the way we experience reality. Darling describes a universal consciousness, ``an integral, irreducible part of reality,'' that exists outside the confines of the human mind. It is to this larger consciousness that we shall return when the body dies and self and time are stripped away. A joyful preview of this transcendent oneness has been granted, according to Darling, to those who have mastered Eastern meditation techniques and those who have had near-death experiences. When we learn to set aside our limiting selves, death will lose its terror. Darling's ideas are comforting, but hardly definitive, and certainly not original. He coats standard, trickle-down mysticism with pseudo-scientific terms, hoping to make it easier for Western skeptics to swallow. Read full book review >
Released: July 14, 1993

In another speculative volume, Darling (Deep Time, 1989) foresees a grand and glorious future as he ponders the nature and destiny of humanity. With degrees in physics and astronomy, he's able to write knowledgeably, if glibly, about current conundrums and issues—so, in a sense, his latest offering serves to introduce readers to current ideas in cosmology, computer science, and evolution. But there are caveats. Darling writes didactically, without nuance. It's as if it were common consensus, for example, that the divisions of the brain are neat and simple: left for logic, right for feeling; that mathematics is neither discovered nor invented but resonates with reality; that the fundamental particles are the electron and quark; and that, at the level of quantum mechanics, it's the intervention of the observer that causes a ``fundamental, unknowable disturbance in the system.'' All this leads Darling to embrace the thesis that human consciousness is both necessary and sufficient for establishing reality. These are ideas that have been heard before in David Bohm, John Wheeler, and the proponents of the anthropic principle. Here, they're brought to apotheosis in a final anthropic principle in which the mind evolves, bodies fade, and some sort of universal consciousness arises and permeates the galaxies: That's the grand and glorious future. Meanwhile, a perverse thought keeps stirring: Isn't this solipsism turned inside out? Read full book review >