A passionate but disconnected treatise whose adversarial tone makes for an ultimately unpleasant reading experience.

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Einstein's Lost Key

HOW WE OVERLOOKED THE BEST IDEA OF THE 20TH CENTURY

A physicist argues for one of Albert Einstein’s abandoned ideas in this defense of a road less traveled.

Unzicker’s (The Higgs Fake, 2013) stated primary thesis is to examine a concept that Einstein originally incorporated into his work on relativity, but later abandoned: a variable speed of light. The author argues that if one considers it as a variable, rather than a constant, the role of gravity in modeling the universe becomes a much simpler one. To support his arguments, Unzicker offers alternative explanations for several phenomena that have been used to bolster Einstein’s theory, such as English physicist Arthur Eddington’s famous observations of gravitational lensing. He also works to explain his ideas in simple, clear language. However, these efforts eventually lead the author to what appears to be his actual thesis: his dissatisfaction with the current state of modern physics and its focus on mathematical abstractions instead of visually comprehensible ideas. Einstein famously used easily diagrammed train simulations to picture and explain his theories, and Unzicker asserts that this mode of thinking is missing from modern physics, to its detriment. Overall, the author’s ideas are engaging and he presents them well. Although he doesn’t make a compelling argument for the correctness of a variable light-speed, he does succeed in framing his questions and explaining his reasoning in clear, relatively simple terms. However, his insistence on attacking the “groupthink” of the scientific community and his criticism of mathematical models over more intuitive practices becomes overly insistent. It detracts from the inherent appeal of the underlying concepts and turns an examination of one of Einstein’s unheralded ideas into a screed against the scientific establishment.

A passionate but disconnected treatise whose adversarial tone makes for an ultimately unpleasant reading experience.

Pub Date: Nov. 28, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-5194-7343-1

Page Count: 236

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Feb. 7, 2016

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Loads of good explaining, with reminders, time and again, of how much remains unknown, neatly putting the death of science...

A SHORT HISTORY OF NEARLY EVERYTHING

Bryson (I'm a Stranger Here Myself, 1999, etc.), a man who knows how to track down an explanation and make it confess, asks the hard questions of science—e.g., how did things get to be the way they are?—and, when possible, provides answers.

As he once went about making English intelligible, Bryson now attempts the same with the great moments of science, both the ideas themselves and their genesis, to resounding success. Piqued by his own ignorance on these matters, he’s egged on even more so by the people who’ve figured out—or think they’ve figured out—such things as what is in the center of the Earth. So he goes exploring, in the library and in company with scientists at work today, to get a grip on a range of topics from subatomic particles to cosmology. The aim is to deliver reports on these subjects in terms anyone can understand, and for the most part, it works. The most difficult is the nonintuitive material—time as part of space, say, or proteins inventing themselves spontaneously, without direction—and the quantum leaps unusual minds have made: as J.B.S. Haldane once put it, “The universe is not only queerer than we suppose; it is queerer than we can suppose.” Mostly, though, Bryson renders clear the evolution of continental drift, atomic structure, singularity, the extinction of the dinosaur, and a mighty host of other subjects in self-contained chapters that can be taken at a bite, rather than read wholesale. He delivers the human-interest angle on the scientists, and he keeps the reader laughing and willing to forge ahead, even over their heads: the human body, for instance, harboring enough energy “to explode with the force of thirty very large hydrogen bombs, assuming you knew how to liberate it and really wished to make a point.”

Loads of good explaining, with reminders, time and again, of how much remains unknown, neatly putting the death of science into perspective.

Pub Date: May 6, 2003

ISBN: 0-7679-0817-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Broadway

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2003

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A tiny book, not much bigger than a pamphlet, with huge potential impact.

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NO ONE IS TOO SMALL TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE

A collection of articulate, forceful speeches made from September 2018 to September 2019 by the Swedish climate activist who was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

Speaking in such venues as the European and British Parliaments, the French National Assembly, the Austrian World Summit, and the U.N. General Assembly, Thunberg has always been refreshingly—and necessarily—blunt in her demands for action from world leaders who refuse to address climate change. With clarity and unbridled passion, she presents her message that climate change is an emergency that must be addressed immediately, and she fills her speeches with punchy sound bites delivered in her characteristic pull-no-punches style: “I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act.” In speech after speech, to persuade her listeners, she cites uncomfortable, even alarming statistics about global temperature rise and carbon dioxide emissions. Although this inevitably makes the text rather repetitive, the repetition itself has an impact, driving home her point so that no one can fail to understand its importance. Thunberg varies her style for different audiences. Sometimes it is the rousing “our house is on fire” approach; other times she speaks more quietly about herself and her hopes and her dreams. When addressing the U.S. Congress, she knowingly calls to mind the words and deeds of Martin Luther King Jr. and John F. Kennedy. The last speech in the book ends on a note that is both challenging and upbeat: “We are the change and change is coming.” The edition published in Britain earlier this year contained 11 speeches; this updated edition has 16, all worth reading.

A tiny book, not much bigger than a pamphlet, with huge potential impact.

Pub Date: Nov. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-14-313356-8

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Penguin

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2019

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