Wednesday, June 15, 2011

25 Big Ideas - the Science that's Changing our World

Author:         Robert Matthews
Published:   2007
Publisher:    Oneworld Publications
Paperback: 200 Pages

The 25 Big Ideas described in this book are based on the discoveries which make a point that the universe in which we live in is magical, bizarre, strange and defies common sense. These ideas have challenged many eminent scientists and mathematicians. These ideas prove that in reality science is not as objective as it is made out to be but it has its own uncertainties and subjectivity since it is a human endeavor. There is still a long way to go before we understand completely our universe.

The book consists of 25 chapters (one for each idea) categorized under the following heads as follows:
  • Ourselves - and Others: Consciousness, Small World Theory, Game Theory
  • Doing the Impossible: Artificial Intelligence, Information Theory, GM Crops
  • Life: Out of Africa, Nature versus Nurture, The Selfish Gene
  • The Earth: Catastrophism, Plate Tectonics
  • Mathematics that Counts: Bayes's Theorem, Chaos, Cellular Automata, Extreme Value Theory
  • In Sickness and in Health: Evidence-based Medicine, Epidemiology
  • The Physics of Reality: Special Relativity, Quantum Entanglement, The Standard Model, The Theory of Everything
  • The Universe- and Our Place In It: The Big Bang, Dark Energy, Parallel Universe, The Anthropic Principle

Each chapter is brief (6-8 pages) and self-contained. It begins with a very succinct summary which introduces the idea in a nutshell and explains it relevance in our day to day life. This serves as an appetizer for the the reader to proceed with the chapter. The chapter then takes us through the story of how the idea evolved, its current state of understanding. It also explains the associated technical terms  and provides suggestions for further reading.

A very well-written book which attempts to explain the abstruse ideas in a very interesting manner . But it requires the reader to have at least a high-school level knowledge of science and mathematics to fully appreciate and enjoy it.

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