THE DANCING UNIVERSE by Marcelo Gleiser

THE DANCING UNIVERSE

From Creation Myths to the Big Bang
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 An attempt to bridge the gap between spiritual and scientific inquiries into the nature and origins of the universe, from a physics professor at Dartmouth. Actually, Gleiser believes that the studies of cosmologists such as himself are spiritual; it's just that scientists seek to prove their intuitions, rather than to rely on faith. He finds the notion that scientists are cold and objective, rather than passionate, to be ludicrous and even offensive, and his accounts of the work of Einstein, Copernicus, and Newton wonderfully personalize the essentially spiritual quests these men made on their paths to discoveries with reproducible results. Einstein spoke of a ``cosmic religious feeling,'' for instance. To go back a long way indeed, the Pythagoreans were a monastic order of sorts, their mathematical discoveries a way of proving order in the universe and, to their minds, a divine intelligence. Sometimes, Gleiser is hard pressed to find much spirituality at work--in the endeavors of Niels Bohr, for instance. Nonetheless, the spirituality that is evident in the groundbreaking work of many great scientists is convincingly illuminated by Gleiser in this rather unique overview. He begins with a survey of various creation myths, from Hopi to Zoroastrian to Christian, and shows their links to the early astronomy of the Babylonians and Greeks. He devotes a great deal of attention to the Greeks, then moves on to the ideas of the ``pious heretic,'' Galileo; the origins and intent of Newton's laws of motion; the discovery of the laws of thermodynamics; and the turbulent discoveries of the modern age, beginning with Einstein and progressing through quantum physics and on to the ramifications of the uncertainty principle. Even if one cares little for Gleiser's spiritual asides, this is an exceptionally clear summary of 2,500 years of science and a fascinating account of the ways in which it often does intersect with spiritual beliefs. (30 b&w drawings, not seen)

Pub Date: Nov. 17th, 1997
ISBN: 0-525-94112-6
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Dutton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 1997




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