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25 Big Ideas in Science: The Science That's Changing our World [Paperback]

Robert Matthews
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

15 Sep 2005

From the Big Bang to the Theory of Everything, Sunday Telegraph Science Correspondent Robert Matthews takes us on a tour of twenty-five of the biggest ideas in modern science. Along the way, he explains how the theory that proved Einstein wrong might one day make teleportation possible; how the principles of mathematics could be used to broker peace treaties; and why the key to understanding some of the deepest mysteries of the universe could be linked to the barcode on our groceries. Matthews uncovers the major personalities in the history of science, from World War Two code breaker Alan Turing and his test for artificial intelligence, to modern scientists such as Richard Dawkins and Stephen Hawking. He explains key terms throughout and each ‘big idea’ also features a timeline charting the key discoveries.

Product details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Oneworld Publications; First Edition edition (15 Sep 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1851683917
  • ISBN-13: 978-1851683918
  • Product Dimensions: 22.1 x 16.8 x 1.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,018,498 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

More About the Author

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Product Description


"Easily accessible and packed with research."

(The Times Higher Educational Supplement)

"…it's interesting and it's intelligent … the book is really not that hard to read and not as dry as a soya biscuit…"

(Buzz Magazine)

"…a very readable account of the major concepts in today's science."

(Chemistry World)

"With its very accessible accounts of complex ideas and with its impressive range of topics, it is my opinion that it cannot fail to be a handy companion for making sense of the implications of the latest developments in science."

(Journal of Biological Education)

" Matthews makes important and exciting ideas accessible."

(Science News)

--Favourable mention in article entitled "Under The Microscope" by Professor William Reville

(irish times)

About the Author

Robert Matthews is Visiting Research Fellow at Aston University and Science Correspondent for The Sunday Telegraph. He writes regular columns for, among others, The New Scientist and Focus magazine, and has published papers on a range of subjects from cryptography to cosmology. Most famously, his research on Murphy’s Law (why toast always lands butter-side down) won him a discourse to the Royal Institution of Great Britain.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Robert Matthews is one of the very best popular science writers around. He is the anchorman for the science magazine BBC Focus as well as being science correspondent for The Sunday Telegraph. Reading this book would be an excellent way to get up to speed on some of the biggest ideas in science. However, it doesn't look that inspiring, which is probably why it isn't as popular as it ought to be. If you can see past this, you'll be well rewarded.

Having said that, I think BBC Focus is missing a trick. It could do worse than publish a collection of his best articles or even a collection of his slightly irreverent `last word' pieces. New Scientist used to publish collections of Inside Science articles that proved very popular.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great book 23 Dec 2013
The best popular-scientific book I've read in years. In nice little stories the book describes many breakthroughs in science. A little gem of a book. Highly recommended !
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 5.0 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Broad, not deep, yet a lot to Chew on 5 July 2010
By Herbert L Calhoun - Published on
This author sets out not just to take the reader up to the frontier of science, but to also show us the beauty in the insights of the scientific discoveries that have come about, and to point out how crooked the path to scientific discovery can really be. He shows that there is nothing linear at all about scientific discovery, or even the scientific process. A great deal of it is subjective, and the result of serendipity and chance.

It is an exciting tour de horizon of the latest and some of the most exotic topics in science: that takes us from developments in consciousness, to those in Anthropology, on to those in game theory, artificial intelligence and information theory. In this latter class he includes Chaos and Catastrophe theory as well as Cellular Automata and Extreme Value theory. Then of course he goes on to the most fascinating science of all, the physics of reality. But here he does not just delve on the familiar topics such as String Theory and the Quantum Physics, but also gets deep into Cosmology: the Anthropic Principle, dark energy/matter and parallel universes.

Although as the reader might expect, a single volume cannot hope to treat all of these in enough depth to satisfy a specialist, the author nevertheless makes a fine effort in these tightly written and compact pieces, to leave us with enough to whet our appetites.

For those who might want to pursue these topics further, there is a lavish bibliography, at the end of each of these twenty-five chapters, which included, much to my surprised, the latest works of two of the game theory gurus from my era of the 1960-70s: Steven Brams and Nigel Howard. Many may recall, that Howard, in a very inventive way, extended and further broadened the platform of the game-theoretic theme of the Prisoner's Dilemma, and in the spirit of the Rand Corporation and Princeton U's Nobel Prize winner, John Nash, explored with great skill the consequences of both "mixed motive" and "mix strategy Zero and Non-zero-sum games." Brams, on the other hand, the reader may recall, introduced something called the "theory of moves," which continues down a different branch of the same tree as that of Howard and Nash.

The bonus of the book of course is that for those of us who may have even forgotten the jargon and terms, the author sets aside in side panel boxes, mini-tutorials to give the reader just the right amount of definitions and explanation of concepts not to leave him hanging. For a book that is very broad but not very deep, it gives the curious reader a lot to chew on. Five stars.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable Survey for Science Enthusiasts 4 May 2008
By Irfan A. Alvi - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is an enjoyable book for science enthusiasts, and I think it deserves to be more widely known and read.

The selected 25 "big ideas" of science cover a broad range of topics which are well chosen, although of course no list of just 25 ideas will include all of everyone's favorites.

The format of the book is very effective -- and is a model for similar survey books -- since each topic has its own nutshell summary, timeline, glossary, special interest boxes, end notes, and recommendations for further reading. In total, each topic gets 6 or 7 pages, so covering one topic per day is a good pace.

The quality of writing is high, with discussions which are clear, concise, and reasonably deep given the number of pages per topic. One complaint is that the discussion of the EPR paradox isn't quite correct, but this is forgivable considering the overall excellence of the book.

I can recommend the book for all science enthusiasts, and I anticipate that people who already have some science background will benefit the most from the book, since the book (rightly) presumes that readers have elementary scientific literacy. And even people with considerable science background are likely to learn plenty of interesting things (as I did), which is a credit to the breadth and depth of Matthews' knowledge.
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