PositiveThe Wall Street JournalSome of Mr. Parisi’s essays here arose from articles or public lectures, others from interviews, making the collection more like a series of snapshots than a continuous narrative. While the scientific explanations are admirably lucid, the tone is somewhat dry and the human side of research gets less attention than one might hope for.
PositiveThe Wall Street JournalA heady mix of history, philosophy and cutting-edge theory that is fascinating, provocative and at times infuriating ... Emerging from the weird trip that fills the middle of his book, we return to safer ground as Mr. Päs goes back to what he does best, pondering how Einstein’s theory of gravitation—general relativity—might figure within the quantum whole ... For all its frustrations and false leads, his dizzying tour through the monist multiverse is stimulating and engrossing.
PositiveThe Wall Street JournalClose offers a sympathetic biography of the \'shy, modest\' man and famous particle, shedding rather more light on the complexities of the latter.
MixedWall Street JournalThe Soul of Genius tells three stories—those of Curie, Einstein and the Solvay Conference—and makes connections that sometimes feel forced.
PositiveWall Street JournalProbable Impossibilities maintains [a] syncretic spirit, tackling big questions like the origin of the universe and the nature of consciousness, always in an entertaining and easily digestible way ... One of the best pieces in Mr. Lightman’s consistently thought-provoking book describes a journey to Memphis following the death of his last surviving parent. This is the humanist side to balance the scientific one. The materialist Alan Lightman sees no contradiction in also being spiritual, though the term needs clarification.
Guido Tonelli tr. Erica Segre and Simon Carnell
PositiveThe Wall Street JournalMr. Tonelli writes lyrically ... The style, tone and difficulty-level of the book are what one might expect in a lecture aimed at a general audience. All that’s missing are the PowerPoint slides. There are interesting digressions into other cultural areas—Greek myth, Renaissance art and so on—sometimes to illustrate important technical ideas such as symmetry, or merely as pleasant asides. Word origins are another humanistic sweetener ... What researchers hope for is the unexpected. What funders prefer is to know the outcome in advance. It’s a paradox that top-level scientists like Mr. Tonelli negotiate with aplomb.
PanThe Wall Street JournalRadiant doesn’t do this promising material justice. The approach is bold, using imaginary dialogue and inner thoughts to flesh out the women’s stories, but the narrative tone flips uneasily between novelistic dramatization and biographical info-dumping. Too often, major life events are told as backstory rather than portrayed as lived experiences. In a dramatized documentary film, we know when we’re seeing an actor and when we’re hearing a commentator. In Radiant that’s hard to tell, and this makes the book difficult to engage with.
MixedThe Wall Street JournalMr. England aims to show how life could have arisen spontaneously through natural processes in a God-given universe. In order to do that, he needs a clear definition of what counts as life ... The spiritual dimension also falls by the wayside, though thankfully he takes this up at the end of what is frankly a difficult, though potentially very important, book ... Every Life Is on Fire comes to us from the forefront of scientific inquiry; a novel species whose fate remains to be determined.
Sean B. Carroll
PositiveThe Wall Street Journal... entertaining ... breezy, anecdotal, informative and amusing ... exquisitely adapted to a familiar niche in the popular science ecosystem.
MixedThe Wall Street JournalTaking a traditional view of intellectual history, Mr. Strathern considers the 17th century as the era when the \'new science\' of chemistry could at last “shed its oriental esoteric past ... Mendeleyev’s Dream is chronological, rather slow and, apart from an occasional quip, pretty sober ... Strathern’s book is...historically comprehensive[.]
PositiveThe Wall Street JournalIf you find it hard to think about half-silvered mirrors, then be warned that there are a great many of them in this book. Suitably arranged, they can be used to create a variety of photon mazes rich in theory-testing possibilities. Mr. Ananthaswamy helpfully supplies schematic diagrams, though the actual mirrors are unlike the ordinary kind ... Mr. Ananthaswamy interviewed many leading theoreticians and experimentalists in the course of writing this book, and he covers a large and complex field in an admirably accessible way. Historical or biographical details are mostly subordinated to scientific and philosophical issues, though we glimpse a few colorful characters.
RaveWall Street JournalThe three rebels make intriguing heroes in Mr. Becker’s informative and enjoyable book. Their stories illustrate how personality, prestige and prejudice can play a role in elevating or marginalizing ideas in physics, as in any other branch of academic life. Mr. Becker takes a frankly partisan view, and while he acknowledges technical problems on all sides of the debate, his reasonable desire for a coherent narrative somewhat elevates the claims of the dissidents against the mighty Bohr. At times Copenhagen almost seems like the heart of an evil empire ... History is written by the victors, and journalism is the first draft of history. Since the quantum contest is still being fought, we should perhaps consider What Is Real? to be journalism rather than history. That is in no way meant pejoratively: Adam Becker has written an excellent, accessible account of an intricate story. Whether he has chosen to wear the right uniform will be for future readers to judge.
Gino Segre and Bettina Hoerlin
RaveThe Wall Street Journal...[a] superb biography ... Given the authors’ personal connections, their scientific expertise, and the wealth of research they have undertaken, it is clear that they have produced a definitive study of Fermi’s life and work.