Books by Roger Highfield

Roger Highfield is the science editor of The Daily Telegraph in Britain and the author of several books.


NON-FICTION
Released: March 22, 2011

"A fleshed-out, persuasive chronicle of the bright side—collective enterprise—of the evolutionary road."
With New Scientist editor Highfield (The Science of Harry Potter, 2003, etc.), Nowak (Biology and Mathematics/Harvard Univ.; Evolutionary Dynamics, 2006, etc.) presents a panoramic view of the role of cooperation in the evolution. Read full book review >
NON-FICTION
Released: June 12, 2006

"The how of cloning, beautifully told by optimists who believe that wise heads and good science will justify the whys."
This book from the "father" of the world's first cloned animal ranges from autobiography to medical history to an extensive discussion of the policies and ethical issues raised by Dolly. Read full book review >
HISTORY
Released: Oct. 1, 1995

From the English team that brought you The Arrow of Time (1991), more on the general theme that the most interesting things in life are nonlinear, asymmetric, chaotic, and complexin short, not user-friendly, but perhaps computable. Coveney, a senior research scientist at the Schlumberger Cambridge Research Laboratory, and Highfield, the Daily Telegraph's science editor, have combed the avant-garde labs from hither to yon to come up with a review of virtually (no pun intended) all that's current and choice in modeling ``complexity.'' The term, not easily defined, speaks to the interactions of subparts of systems that yield processes and outcomes that are greater than the sum of the parts. The weather, chemical reactions, population dynamics, ``emergent'' brain phenomena such as consciousnessall are complex phenomena challenging scores of researchers armed with the latest versions of computer-based cellular automata, neural networks, artificial intelligence, and so on. This is heady stuff, not easily absorbed in the short summaries that describe this or that particular model. On the other hand, chapters that sketch the background and the seminal ideas from Charles Babbage to Alan Turing, Kurt Gîdel, and John von Neumann are useful contexts for the vast array of examples the authors provide. When they do elaborate a model (for example, the use of infrared data to model at what point in time the ingredients of a cement slurry ``set''), they are very good indeed. It is suggested that readers approach the last chapter first: It captures the authors' grand vision of what might be possible (e.g., molecular-based computers and a universal mind) but sounds a proper warning as well on what folly can also be wrought. Overall, their enthusiasm marks the authors as true believers that the efforts of mankind (yes, mostly men) to take on complexity, achieving both beauty and order, will succeed. (8-page color insert, not seen) Read full book review >
NONFICTION
Released: May 1, 1994

This lively account of Einstein's relationship with family and friends represents the opening salvo in what will likely be a barrage of ``tell-all'' books based on his papers. In the late 1980s scholars were given virtually unlimited access to Einstein's collected papers and personal correspondence. A series of revelations has ensued about the great physicist's turbulent personal life, such as his fathering of an illegitimate daughter. The authors of this volume, both British science journalists, put forth a compelling argument that, contrary to public perception, Einstein wasn't such a nice guy after all. His letters contain nasty comments about his parents, wives, scientific colleagues, and closest friends. (His favorite put-down was ``philistine.'') His unceasing flirtation with women, his disregard for other people's feelings, and his inability to achieve intimacy destroyed both marriages. For the last 22 years of his life he never visited his youngest son, Eduard, who spent most of his adulthood either in mental institutions or under the care of a guardian. Highfield and Carter go so far as to assert that Einstein's ``emotional myopia'' left behind a series of ``damaged lives.'' According to the authors, the executors of Einstein's estate suppressed the truth for decades to prevent these embarrassing disclosures. Highfield and Carter usually indict Einstein with his own words. They do offer enough damning direct source material to ensure that there's more than just a kernel of truth to this revisionist treatment. But too often they speculate on Einstein's emotional frame of mind or recreate conversations or events based upon second-hand accounts from dubious sources. And by virtually ignoring Einstein's considerable humanitarian and pacifist writings, the book hardly offers a balanced portrayal. His scientific contributions are given a superficial treatment, and the reader learns virtually nothing about his complex religious and philosophical outlook. In that sense, this portrait is tantamount to a Rembrandt biography that sporadically mentions that the Dutchman doodled on a canvas. Read full book review >
HISTORY
Released: June 1, 1991

It is the ambition of all research, the authors quote 19th- century scientist Willard Gibbs, ``to find the point of view from which the subject appears in its greatest simplicity.'' However, it is the ambition of these same authors (Coveney: Physical Chemistry/Univ. of Wales; Highfield: science editor of the London Daily Telegraph) to demonstrate that simplicity doesn't get you very far in the real (macroscopic) world of time and space. Thus, the die is cast. The authors' aim in this not-so-easy treatise is to find objective bases for the irreversibility of time. Rather than discourse on varying interpretations of time in the manner of Stephen J. Gould in Time's Arrow, or assume the positivist stance of Stephen W. Hawking in A Short History of Time- -where he dismisses time as subjective—the authors make a case for uncertainty and ``dynamical'' chaos. Their approach is historical, pointing out that Newton's laws of motion, Einstein's relativity theory, and quantum mechanics all treat time as symmetrical—time can move forward and backward in the equations. But we know otherwise and so did 19th-century formulators of the second law of thermodynamics—entropy increases and isolated systems move inexorably toward thermal equilibrium. It is only with Prigogine and colleagues, recent computer modeling, and theories of chaos and catastrophe that the authors arrive at a state of the science in which they believe time's arrow is objectively demonstrated. All this may not mean a lot to people who take life, death, and decay as a given. However, for the intellectually curious there is much food for thought. In addition, the authors provide some fascinating examples of biorhythms and patterning in chemical and biological clocks, and in self-organizing systems from slime molds to the mammalian embryo. (Color and b&w photographs—not seen.) Read full book review >