SCIENCE OBSERVED: Essays Out of My Mind by Jeremy Bernstein

SCIENCE OBSERVED: Essays Out of My Mind

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A mixed bag of recent Bernstein writings (since Experiencing Science, 1978)--several of them columns from The American Scholar, others from such diverse sources as The Dial and Geo. Leading off is a long piece on artificial intelligence (from The New Yorker) that's somewhat uneven in itself--interesting and effective when it focuses on MIT polymath Marvin Minsky, whose long quotes are marvels of clarity, but rendered diffuse by Bernstein's interpolations of past history and the work of other major figures. Best of the collection is a zesty day-in-the-life of Stanley Kubrick (during the filming of 2001); here we see the author as a charming foil for Kubrick's eccentricities--which include playing no mean game of chess. Bernstein also comes off nicely in some personal recollections--infused with present wisdom--of witnessing atomic bomb tests in Nevada and working with Freeman Dyson on safe reactors and atom-powered planes, and some tales of early studies at Harvard and the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. Other pieces include a go at explaining quarks, some thoughts on Einstein and Mach, and an essay on Oppenheimer which is mostly a reflection on the recently published early letters. An article railing against TV distortions of science will give considerable pleasure to foes of Carl Sagan. Toward the end come a few semi-fictive or romantic pieces which verge on the fey or the arch. Overall, though, there's enough rigor and vigor (and, occasionally, comic relief) to carry the reader over the more wearying parts.

Pub Date: Feb. 19th, 1981
Publisher: Basic Books