British-born polymath physicist Dyson (The Sun, the Genome, and the Internet, 1999, etc.) addresses the most controversial issues of the day with a sharp mind unblunted by time.
Most of these previously published essays originally appeared in the New York Review of Books. Dyson enriches them with insightful personal recollections from a score of notables. He remarks on Edward Teller’s extraordinary kindness to students, describes what it was like to be Richard Feynman’s student and in a particularly moving essay portrays Robert Oppenheimer as a genius whose flaw was restlessness. Among the recurring topics: why Albert Einstein was a “revolutionary” but Jules Henri Poincaré was a conservative; the question of whether science is driven more by tools or ideas; why science is inexhaustible. The book’s four sections—“Contemporary Issues in Science,” “War and Peace,” “History of Science and Scientists,” “Personal and Philosophical”—contain information about the author’s life, and the general tone is optimistic. He believes that biological engineering will inevitably be enlisted to enhance species or even create new ones (microbes that clean up pollution, for example) and that humans will colonize space. Himself an agnostic, Dyson sees a place for religion in society and even supposes that there may be something in the paranormal.
Studded with wondrous gems—and just enough provocation to stimulate debate.