Science “popularizing” doesn’t get much more comprehensible, or provocative, than this.

At the junctures of science and philosophy, the real world takes shape.

Throughout history, humanity has repeatedly discovered that the world is much larger and more diverse than previously thought. Danielsson, a professor at Sweden’s Uppsala University with specialties in string theory and cosmology, believes this is no less the case today and that we have only begun to grasp the nature of our own world and the larger universe(s). For all its scientific detail and speculation, this engrossing book is a closely reasoned critique of competing philosophies on the nature of consciousness, free will, and physical reality. Danielsson brings an unusually broad grasp of science and philosophy to bear in evaluating—and, in many cases, dispensing with—erroneous ideas about the world, and he is never less than evenhanded in addressing those theories—some enshrined in the cultural imagination—that are demonstrably untrue. A lucid introduction by Carlos Fiolhais, professor of physics at the University of Coimbra, sets the stage for Danielsson’s persuasive argument, which uses as its starting point the view that physics is the “mother” science that strives to explicate and define the real world. In this framework, it is about observation and testing as opposed to the incorporeal or spiritual mysteries that even some distinguished colleagues propound, dualistic notions on reality that are little different from religious belief. Danielsson’s message is clear: Do not mistake our evolving descriptions of the world, which are simply attempts to represent it, with the world itself. Mathematical models, however useful, are not the same as the real world. Computers do not think. Free will and determinism are both illusions. There is no consciousness separate from the body. Danielsson’s clarity of thought and expression and his use of illuminating literary and historical references are equal to the quality of his writing.

Science “popularizing” doesn’t get much more comprehensible, or provocative, than this.

Pub Date: Feb. 21, 2023

ISBN: 9781954276116

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Bellevue Literary Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 9, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2022


Alternately admiring and critical, unvarnished, and a closely detailed account of a troubled innovator.

A warts-and-all portrait of the famed techno-entrepreneur—and the warts are nearly beyond counting.

To call Elon Musk (b. 1971) “mercurial” is to undervalue the term; to call him a genius is incorrect. Instead, Musk has a gift for leveraging the genius of others in order to make things work. When they don’t, writes eminent biographer Isaacson, it’s because the notoriously headstrong Musk is so sure of himself that he charges ahead against the advice of others: “He does not like to share power.” In this sharp-edged biography, the author likens Musk to an earlier biographical subject, Steve Jobs. Given Musk’s recent political turn, born of the me-first libertarianism of the very rich, however, Henry Ford also comes to mind. What emerges clearly is that Musk, who may or may not have Asperger’s syndrome (“Empathy did not come naturally”), has nurtured several obsessions for years, apart from a passion for the letter X as both a brand and personal name. He firmly believes that “all requirements should be treated as recommendations”; that it is his destiny to make humankind a multi-planetary civilization through innovations in space travel; that government is generally an impediment and that “the thought police are gaining power”; and that “a maniacal sense of urgency” should guide his businesses. That need for speed has led to undeniable successes in beating schedules and competitors, but it has also wrought disaster: One of the most telling anecdotes in the book concerns Musk’s “demon mode” order to relocate thousands of Twitter servers from Sacramento to Portland at breakneck speed, which trashed big parts of the system for months. To judge by Isaacson’s account, that may have been by design, for Musk’s idea of creative destruction seems to mean mostly chaos.

Alternately admiring and critical, unvarnished, and a closely detailed account of a troubled innovator.

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2023

ISBN: 9781982181284

Page Count: 688

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 12, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2023


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

Close Quickview