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THE ONE

HOW AN ANCIENT IDEA HOLDS THE FUTURE OF PHYSICS

A dense philosophical exploration of the cosmos—not for the faint of heart.

The universe explained by a particle physicist.

Päs, a professor of theoretical physics and author of The Perfect Wave, examines “what we actually mean when we talk about ‘the universe.’ ” It can’t be everything we see at night; our Milky Way Galaxy, which has 100 billion stars, is only one of trillions of galaxies. It can’t be everything astronomers see because invisible gas clouds contain 10 times more matter. It can’t be ordinary matter because there is five times more “dark matter,” whose exotic makeup no one understands. The universe itself may be a meaningless concept because there may be an innumerable number of them in an uncountable proliferating “multiverse.” Standing under the stars, Päs feels that he is one with the universe. The notion that everything in the universe is part of one unified whole is called “monism,” a belief that was codified by the ancient Greeks. Most scholars agree that the Greeks invented science and made important discoveries. They also got many things wrong, but Päs focuses on philosophy, where even concepts of “right” and “wrong” are debatable. The author devotes the first third of the book to his specialty, quantum physics, in which “objects get so completely and entirely merged that it is impossible to say anything at all about the properties of their constituents anymore.” Serious explanations of quantum physics require close attention, so most readers will breathe a sigh of relief when Päs switches gears to deliver a history of science and religion in Western culture, which he describes as a battle between Christianity and monistic scholars, who were persecuted until the Renaissance, when modern science revived the ideas of ancient Greece. Päs has no doubt that the great thinkers (e.g., Spinoza and Kant) and scientists (Galileo, Newton, Einstein) were monists. This is difficult stuff, but the glossary helps.

A dense philosophical exploration of the cosmos—not for the faint of heart.

Pub Date: Jan. 17, 2023

ISBN: 9781541674851

Page Count: 368

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: Nov. 7, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2022

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UNCOMFORTABLE CONVERSATIONS WITH A JEW

An important dialogue at a fraught time, emphasizing mutual candor, curiosity, and respect.

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Two bestselling authors engage in an enlightening back-and-forth about Jewishness and antisemitism.

Acho, author of Uncomfortable Conversations With a Black Man, and Tishby, author of Israel: A Simple Guide to the Most Misunderstood Country on Earth, discuss many of the searing issues for Jews today, delving into whether Jewishness is a religion, culture, ethnicity, or community—or all of the above. As Tishby points out, unlike in Christianity, one can be comfortably atheist and still be considered a Jew. She defines Judaism as a “big tent” religion with four main elements: religion, peoplehood, nationhood, and the idea of tikkun olam (“repairing the world through our actions”). She addresses candidly the hurtful stereotypes about Jews (that they are rich and powerful) that Acho grew up with in Dallas and how Jews internalize these antisemitic judgments. Moreover, Tishby notes, “it is literally impossible to be Jewish and not have any connection with Israel, and I’m not talking about borders or a dot on the map. Judaism…is an indigenous religion.” Acho wonders if one can legitimately criticize “Jewish people and their ideologies” without being antisemitic, and Tishby offers ways to check whether one’s criticism of Jews or Zionism is antisemitic or factually straightforward. The authors also touch on the deteriorating relationship between Black and Jewish Americans, despite their historically close alliance during the civil rights era. “As long as Jewish people get to benefit from appearing white while Black people have to suffer for being Black, there will always be resentment,” notes Acho. “Because the same thing that grants you all access—your skin color—is what grants us pain and punishment in perpetuity.” Finally, the authors underscore the importance of being mutual allies, and they conclude with helpful indexes on vernacular terms and customs.

An important dialogue at a fraught time, emphasizing mutual candor, curiosity, and respect.

Pub Date: April 30, 2024

ISBN: 9781668057858

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Simon Element

Review Posted Online: March 13, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2024

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THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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