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The Accidental Universe: The World You Thought You Knewby Alan Lightman
Synopses & Reviews
From the acclaimed author of Einstein's Dreams and Mr g, a meditation on the unexpected ways in which recent scientific findings have shaped our understanding of ourselves and our place in the cosmos.
With all the passion, curiosity, and precise yet lyrical prose that have marked his previous books, Alan Lightman here explores the emotional and philosophical questions raised by discoveries in science, focusing most intently on the human condition and the needs of humankind. He looks at the difficult dialogue between science and religion; the conflict between our human desire for permanence and the impermanence of nature; the possibility that our universe is simply an accident; the manner in which modern technology has separated us from direct experience of the world; and our resistance to the view that our bodies and minds can be explained by scientific logic and laws. And behind all of these considerations is the suggestion — at once haunting and exhilarating — that what we see and understand of the world is only a tiny piece of the extraordinary, perhaps unfathomable whole.
"In his brief but engrossing latest essay collection, theoretical physicist and novelist Lightman (Einstein’s Dreams ) offers insight into the ways that recent scientific discoveries shape our understanding of ourselves and our world. Each of the seven essays here explores the philosophical fallout from a particular corner of research. The titular lead essay examines the concept of the multiverse, and the potential implications of its existence, in light of the dark energy that keeps our universe from collapsing. 'The Spiritual Universe' examines the often uneasy relationship between science and religion, while other pieces explore entropy, the vast scale of space, and unpredictable humanity's role in a universe built on physical laws and composed of forces, light, and particles we can't see. Lightman is one of the few physicists who can name-check the Dalai Lama, astronomer Henrietta Leavitt, Dostoevsky, and dark energy in the same work, while deftly guiding readers through discussions of modern physics and philosophy. Here he has composed a thoughtful, straightforward collection of essays that invite readers to think deeply about the world around them. Agent: Jane Gelfman, Gelfman Schneider Literary Agents Inc." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
“Theoretical physicist and novelist Lightman presents seven elegantly provocative ‘universe’ essays that elucidate complex scientific thought in the context of everyday experiences and concerns….Ranging from ancient intuitions and calculations to today’s high-tech inquiries, Lightman celebrates our grand quest for knowledge and takes measures of the challenges our discoveries deliver.” Donna Seaman, Booklist
“Regardless of outstanding interests in science or religion, any reader will enjoy pondering, through well-organized and graceful prose, what can be objectively proven about the world in which we live and what remains a mystery.” Emily Rapp, Boston Globe
“As he’s demonstrated in highly original novels like Einstein’s Dreams and Mr. g, Alan Lightman possesses the mind of a theoretical physicist and the soul of an artist….While Lightman hopes ‘there will always be an edge between the known and the unknown,’ he offers intriguing glimpses of how the gulf we too often perceive between science and the rest of life might be bridged.” Shelf Awareness
“Physicist and novelist Alan Lightman — who also in this book shows himself to be a gifted essayist — has written not so much about cosmology as his title might imply but about our direct, subjective experience with it….We are not observers on the outside looking in. We are on the inside too.” New York Journal of Books
About the Author
Alan Lightman is the author of six novels, including the international best seller Einstein’s Dreams and The Diagnosis, which was a National Book Award finalist. He is also the author of two collections of essays and several books on science. His work has appeared in The Atlantic, Granta, Harper’s Magazine, The New Yorker, The New York Review of Books, and Nature, among other publications. A theoretical physicist as well as a writer, he has served on the faculties of Harvard and MIT, where he was the first person to receive a dual faculty appointment in science and the humanities. He lives in the Boston area.
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