An intensely detailed investigation of modern scientific fields that defy common sense.



Another attempt to explain quantum mechanics that sometimes succeeds.

A bedrock of science is that things happen for a reason. The window breaks after the rock strikes it, not before. Also, it doesn’t break because the stars are misaligned. This is the concept of cause and effect, writes physics professor Halpern, who begins with a history of science beginning with the ancient Greeks, who didn’t trust observation because human senses were imperfect. True knowledge, they taught, required deep thought. Aristotle explained a few things correctly but got many wrong. Once thinkers took observation seriously—Galileo was probably the first scientist—centuries of straightforward scientific explanations followed until the 20th century, when Einstein’s relativity muddled matter, energy, time, and space and then quantum mechanics proved that reasonable things such as locating a particle precisely are impossible—but the impossible happens routinely. Light changes from a wave to a particle and back again. Devoting two-thirds of his text to history, Halpern delves so deeply into quantum mechanics that readers unfamiliar with college physics will struggle. At this point, he introduces Carl Jung, the brilliant Swiss psychiatrist who both learned from and influenced physicist Wolfgang Pauli during 25 years of their relationship, beginning in the 1930s. Jung believed that humans share a collective unconscious revealed through religion, mythology, and art, with dreams playing a central role. That dreams rarely make sense stimulated Jung, who emphasized synchronicity, the idea that coincidences are connected provided one looks deeply enough. Thus, it was no accident that Mark Twain was born and died in a year of Halley’s comet. The experience left Pauli fascinated by mysticism, numerology, and psychic phenomena without contributing much to his scientific acumen. Since synchronicity is unprovable, few scientists take it seriously. Halpern is no exception, but he presents it as a painful example of the difficulty of understanding phenomena that seem to lack cause and effect.

An intensely detailed investigation of modern scientific fields that defy common sense.

Pub Date: Aug. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5416-7363-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: April 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

Did you like this book?

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.



Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

Did you like this book?