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...



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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From the national correspondent for PBS's MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour: a moving memoir of her youth in the Deep South and her role in desegregating the Univ. of Georgia. The eldest daughter of an army chaplain, Hunter-Gault was born in what she calls the ``first of many places that I would call `my place' ''—the small village of Due West, tucked away in a remote little corner of South Carolina. While her father served in Korea, Hunter-Gault and her mother moved first to Covington, Georgia, and then to Atlanta. In ``L.A.'' (lovely Atlanta), surrounded by her loving family and a close-knit black community, the author enjoyed a happy childhood participating in activities at church and at school, where her intellectual and leadership abilities soon were noticed by both faculty and peers. In high school, Hunter-Gault found herself studying the ``comic-strip character Brenda Starr as I might have studied a journalism textbook, had there been one.'' Determined to be a journalist, she applied to several colleges—all outside of Georgia, for ``to discourage the possibility that a black student would even think of applying to one of those white schools, the state provided money for black students'' to study out of state. Accepted at Michigan's Wayne State, the author was encouraged by local civil-rights leaders to apply, along with another classmate, to the Univ. of Georgia as well. Her application became a test of changing racial attitudes, as well as of the growing strength of the civil-rights movement in the South, and Gault became a national figure as she braved an onslaught of hostilities and harassment to become the first black woman to attend the university. A remarkably generous, fair-minded account of overcoming some of the biggest, and most intractable, obstacles ever deployed by southern racists. (Photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-374-17563-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

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