While the author overreaches, her wonderfully lucid explanations of modern physics often hit their marks.

Matter Over Mind

A panoramic account of the cosmos infers political and moral lessons for the whole of humanity.

Trained as a musician and raised by mathematicians, first-time author Walker merged the two interests in her master’s thesis, which explored the possibility of composing music based on chaos dynamics. Her interest in the intersection of physics and human creativity pervades her book, in which the author investigates the distance that separates the constitution of nature and the cognitive processes whereby human beings attempt to apprehend it. She finds that the universe turns out to be infinitely rich in character, comprised of patterns so multitudinous and complex as to elude any comprehensive human perception. In her view, abstract thought, while the root cause of humans’ progress as a species, employs the imposition of limited categories far too narrowly curtailed to comprehend the vastness of the cosmos. After providing a brief biographical account of her own developing interest in physics, Walker takes the reader on a tour of the universe, touching on a broad spectrum of topics, including dark matter and energy, the relativity of space and time, and the Big Bang theory. She then turns to humanity’s place within that tableau, considering the nature of consciousness, morality, and politics. Walker’s erudition is astounding—there is very little of intellectual interest that is not covered by this book, and she provides one of the most accessible introductions to chaos theory available. But that virtue doubles as a vice, since the volume stalls under the weight of its own ambitions; the author simply covers too much too briefly. In addition, her knowledge of moral and political theory is not on the same level as her impressive expertise in physics; for example, her account of the theoretical foundations of American government is respectable but not searching. There’s also a touch of naiveté in her optimism that a certain understanding of physics can transcend the ideological divisions of the left and the right: “We can even merge them into one holistic philosophy. And there is a way to accomplish this which is so simple and natural and good natured that I don’t understand why it isn’t staring us all in the face more plainly.” The prose is admirably clear, and the challenging but approachable accounts of modern physics avoid being overly “mathy.”

While the author overreaches, her wonderfully lucid explanations of modern physics often hit their marks.

Pub Date: Feb. 15, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4575-4359-3

Page Count: 294

Publisher: Dog Ear

Review Posted Online: June 15, 2016

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD

A LIFETIME OF RECORDINGS

Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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