A compendious work that will intrigue serious readers; others may find it overlong and too comprehensive.

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COSMOSAPIENS

HOW WE ARE EVOLVING FROM THE ORIGIN OF THE UNIVERSE

Hands has spent the last 10 years assembling a critical overview of scientific orthodoxy in an attempt to answer the fundamental questions “what are we?” and “why are we here?”

The author, who has had managerial responsibilities in the British government and has tutored in physics and management studies for the Open University, acknowledges the help of more than 50 accredited scientists with expertise in the fields he explores. The first target of his scrutiny is modern cosmologists, who face the dilemma of attempting to explain the putative origin of the universe in a big bang. Hands finds their efforts to be fundamentally inadequate due to their necessary reliance on both Einstein's general relativity theory and the Standard Model of particle physics. Even though “each has been extremely successful in making predictions that have been verified by observation and experiment within its own realm,” they are incompatible theoretically. Another of the author’s bones of contention concerns the rate of expansion of the universe and whether it is constant or cyclical. He examines various attempts to explain the process, including string theory, loop theory, and the existence of undetectable dark matter and energy. In the author's view, an even more fundamental issue is that scientists today mistakenly “conflate mathematical theory with scientific theory.” Moving on to the origins of life on Earth, Hands suggests that Darwin's reputation is overblown and finds fault with the current “gene-focused paradigm.” Although the author refutes the claims of intelligent design proponents, he accepts the views of the Jesuit Pierre Teilhard de Chardin that the evolution of self-reflective humans has created a new stage in the evolution of the biosphere by our use of tools, artistic creations, and philosophy. Hands speculates on new stages of development involving “psychic” energy, and he provides an extensive glossary, which is helpful given the amount and depth of the material, much of which is esoteric.

A compendious work that will intrigue serious readers; others may find it overlong and too comprehensive.

Pub Date: Jan. 5, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4683-1244-7

Page Count: 688

Publisher: Overlook

Review Posted Online: Sept. 21, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2015

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Loads of good explaining, with reminders, time and again, of how much remains unknown, neatly putting the death of science...

A SHORT HISTORY OF NEARLY EVERYTHING

Bryson (I'm a Stranger Here Myself, 1999, etc.), a man who knows how to track down an explanation and make it confess, asks the hard questions of science—e.g., how did things get to be the way they are?—and, when possible, provides answers.

As he once went about making English intelligible, Bryson now attempts the same with the great moments of science, both the ideas themselves and their genesis, to resounding success. Piqued by his own ignorance on these matters, he’s egged on even more so by the people who’ve figured out—or think they’ve figured out—such things as what is in the center of the Earth. So he goes exploring, in the library and in company with scientists at work today, to get a grip on a range of topics from subatomic particles to cosmology. The aim is to deliver reports on these subjects in terms anyone can understand, and for the most part, it works. The most difficult is the nonintuitive material—time as part of space, say, or proteins inventing themselves spontaneously, without direction—and the quantum leaps unusual minds have made: as J.B.S. Haldane once put it, “The universe is not only queerer than we suppose; it is queerer than we can suppose.” Mostly, though, Bryson renders clear the evolution of continental drift, atomic structure, singularity, the extinction of the dinosaur, and a mighty host of other subjects in self-contained chapters that can be taken at a bite, rather than read wholesale. He delivers the human-interest angle on the scientists, and he keeps the reader laughing and willing to forge ahead, even over their heads: the human body, for instance, harboring enough energy “to explode with the force of thirty very large hydrogen bombs, assuming you knew how to liberate it and really wished to make a point.”

Loads of good explaining, with reminders, time and again, of how much remains unknown, neatly putting the death of science into perspective.

Pub Date: May 6, 2003

ISBN: 0-7679-0817-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Broadway

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2003

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A tiny book, not much bigger than a pamphlet, with huge potential impact.

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NO ONE IS TOO SMALL TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE

A collection of articulate, forceful speeches made from September 2018 to September 2019 by the Swedish climate activist who was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

Speaking in such venues as the European and British Parliaments, the French National Assembly, the Austrian World Summit, and the U.N. General Assembly, Thunberg has always been refreshingly—and necessarily—blunt in her demands for action from world leaders who refuse to address climate change. With clarity and unbridled passion, she presents her message that climate change is an emergency that must be addressed immediately, and she fills her speeches with punchy sound bites delivered in her characteristic pull-no-punches style: “I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act.” In speech after speech, to persuade her listeners, she cites uncomfortable, even alarming statistics about global temperature rise and carbon dioxide emissions. Although this inevitably makes the text rather repetitive, the repetition itself has an impact, driving home her point so that no one can fail to understand its importance. Thunberg varies her style for different audiences. Sometimes it is the rousing “our house is on fire” approach; other times she speaks more quietly about herself and her hopes and her dreams. When addressing the U.S. Congress, she knowingly calls to mind the words and deeds of Martin Luther King Jr. and John F. Kennedy. The last speech in the book ends on a note that is both challenging and upbeat: “We are the change and change is coming.” The edition published in Britain earlier this year contained 11 speeches; this updated edition has 16, all worth reading.

A tiny book, not much bigger than a pamphlet, with huge potential impact.

Pub Date: Nov. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-14-313356-8

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Penguin

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2019

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