PositiveThe Wall Street JournalHow, [Hirshfeld] wonders, did long-ago astrologers \'parse and package quantitative information\' to uncover \'hidden rhythms of the cosmos\'? His answer winds through 4,000 years of human endeavor and provides potent testimony to the cognitive prowess of the ancients ... Twice in the introduction the author mentions astrology’s \'charms,\' when in fact its modern incarnation is a vector toward mass deception. His comparison of astrology to economics is inapt, as economic models, flawed as they may be, rest on some basis in reality. In the end, Mr. Boxer delivers a vivid narrative about the \'wretched\' subject that draws on our innate discomfort with indeterminacy.
PositiveThe Wall Street JournalMs. Arianrhod’s vivid account applies a modern moral lens to the rapacious actions of his fellow proto-colonists ... Throughout the latter half of the book, the Damoclean threat looming over Harriot is palpable, as the nodes of power shift around him ... To her credit, Ms. Arianrhod recommends against \'retrofitting Harriot into a celebrity star system\' among the acknowledged luminaries of science ... Thomas Harriot deserves recognition, but in the epic tale of scientific advancement, he is just—and justly—a footnote.
PositiveThe Wall Street JournalDespite its tabloid title, Chris Impey’s Einstein’s Monsters: The Life and Times of Black Holes is a sober-minded, thoroughly researched and highly readable treatment of this multifaceted topic ... Mr. Impey, a veteran research astronomer and author, views black holes as a \'gift from the universe\' ... The latter half of the book presents an array of thought-provoking topics, including gravity waves (\'ripples in space-time\'), primordial stars, the physics of the 2014 movie Interstellar and the feasibility of extracting energy from black holes.
PositiveThe Wall Street JournalThe book’s focal character is Shep Doeleman, director of the EHT [Event Horizon Telescope] project, whose career arc forms the answer to the author’s question \'What sort of person makes it his life’s work to build an Earth-size telescope to take a picture of a black hole?\' As Mr. Fletcher’s narrative reveals, Mr. Doeleman’s single-minded pursuit of Sagittarius A* makes Capt. Ahab look like a piker ... Einstein’s Shadow is an intimate portrayal of a \'Big Science\' enterprise whose aspirational, at times contentious, practitioners share \'a restless energy, a tolerance for risk and discomfort, and a gnawing need for validation.\'
PositiveThe Wall Street JournalEach twig, ant hill or rounded stone—as well as the starry backdrop of the book’s title—serves as muse for Mr. Lightman’s speculations about the physical and metaphysical realms. The elegant and evocative prose draws in the reader, and I felt as if I were strolling alongside the author while he thought aloud. Indeed, it was a challenge to keep pace, as I repeatedly wandered off into reveries triggered by the narrative. Here is a book in which even a colonoscopy becomes grist for the philosophical mill ... Mr. Lightman’s cognitive turmoil is summed up in a reflection on the death of his parents, in which he reluctantly accepts the \'impossible truth\' that they no longer exist. \'I wish I believed,\' he adds poignantly.
PositiveThe Wall Street JournalThese are complex ideas, but Mr. Rovelli’s avowed mission is to convey the beauty of modern physics, if not its convoluted underbelly. Given the book’s brevity, peripheral topics whoosh by like signposts along a superhighway ... Reading praiseworthy books like [this], I find myself at once exhilarated by the indomitable spirit that propels our exploration of nature and oppressed by the countervailing backdrop of global disharmony.