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Paradox: The Nine Greatest Enigmas in Physics [Kindle Edition]

Jim Al-Khalili
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)

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Book Description

This book is about my own personal favourite puzzles and conundrums in science, all of which have famously been referred to as paradoxes, but which turn out not to be paradoxes at all when considered carefully and viewed from the right angle.

A true paradox is a statement that leads to a circular and self-contradictory argument, or one that describes a logically impossible situation. Our subject is 'perceived paradoxes' - questions or thought-experiments that on first encounter seem impossible to answer, but which science has been able to solve.

Our tour of these mind-expanding puzzles will take us through some of the greatest hits of science - from Einstein's theories about space and time, to the latest ideas of how the quantum world works. Some of our paradoxes may be familiar, such as Schrödinger's famous cat, which is seemingly alive and dead at the same time; or the Grandfather Paradox - if you travelled back in time and killed your grandfather you would not have been born and would not therefore have killed your grandfather. Other paradoxes will be new to you, but no less bizarre and fascinating.

We will ask such questions as: how does the fact that it gets dark at night prove the Universe must have started with a big bang? Where are all the aliens? And why does the length of a piece of string vary depending on how fast it is moving?

In resolving our paradoxes we will have to travel to the furthest reaches of the Universe and explore the very essence of space and time. Hold on tight.

Product Description


"Readers who enjoy mental challenges and scientific mysteries will have fun with Al-Khalili's lighthearted, accessible discussion." Publisher's Weekly

Book Description

'This book is about my own personal favourite puzzles and conundrums in science' Jim Al-Khalili

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1286 KB
  • Print Length: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Transworld Digital (12 April 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B007QUY4WW
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #73,282 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

JIM AL-KHALILI OBE is an Iraqi-born British academic, author and broadcaster. He is a leading theoretical physicist based at the University of Surrey, where he teaches and carries out research in quantum mechanics. He has written a number of popular science books, including Pathfinders: The Golden Age of Arabic Science and Quantum: A Guide for
the Perplexed. He has presented several television and radio documentaries, including the BAFTA- nominated Chemistry: A Volatile History and The Secret Life of Chaos.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Both on TV and in print Al-Khalili has the knack of making difficult ideas comprehensible to the average viewer or reader. I particularly liked his treatment of the the Shrodinger's cat thought experiment. A lot of other accounts, but not Al-Khalili's, seem to miss the basic point that Shrodinger was not arguing that the cat was dead and alive at the same time, but presenting a 'reductio ad absurdum' of the interpretation of quantum theory which would have led to this conclusion.
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48 of 52 people found the following review helpful
Make no mistake, this is a well written, easy to read and understand book on some of the major paradoxes (the clue is in the title) in science. The problem is that anyone who has picked up any of the popular science books published in the past 5 years or so will be very familiar with many if not most of these. So the question is, did this book need to be written? Probably yes. I think Prof Al-Khalli gets away with it because the book is written in such a very accessible way and even if you are aware of much of the content this book will still illuminate and entertain so is probably worth the investment. Of course if you haven't read any popular science books in the past 5 years then this may all be new to you so you should definitely read the book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good. Could have been more detailed 10 Jan. 2014
By John W
I enjoyed this. Any book that manages to include Monty Hall, why the sky is dark at night, Schrodinger's cat and the Fermi paradox (amongst others) has got to be interesting!

The author's reluctance to show any maths does get in the way at times though, and some explanations seemed rather incomplete because of this. And a few times I thought imprecise use of language led him to actually contradict himself, which should have been spotted.

On the plus side though, lack of maths means that all that is required of the reader is some logical thought, so it is very accessible.

My copy had a printing flaw which made an area of every left-hand page a bit blurred, though still readable.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Scientific page turner 23 Mar. 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I do like his style of explaining things, and have enjoyed his documentaries (particularly "everything and nothing"). So having read a few pages of the kindle sample, I bought the whole lot and it has a been a stimulating brain teasing page turner. I do love apparently-paradoxical puzzles, and Jim Al Khalili presents us witty a range from the simplest to the most mind bending.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating 15 Feb. 2015
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Well worth reading, I think I have a slightly better understanding of why the weird stuff physicists argue over are important, even if I don't really understand them!
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29 of 38 people found the following review helpful
By Alex B
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I found this book both interesting and enjoyable. The discussion on the implications of Einstein's theory was well presented. However I have to warn you about an error in Chapter 1 of the book which I will highlight briefly below.

To explain how knowledge affects probabilities the author gives the following example. Suppose you call a pet shop and tell them that you want to buy two male kittens. The owner tells you that he has just taken delivery of two kittens, a black and a tabby. If he tells you no more, then the chance that they are both males is 1 in 4 (assuming 50% of all kittens are male). If the owner tells you he has looked at the tabby and it's a male, then the odds of two males becomes 50%. All fine so far, but here comes the mistake. According to the author, if the pet shop owner tells you he has looked at one of the kittens and found it to be a male, but does not tell which one, then the odds of two males is 1 in 3 or 33%.

In fact, as soon as you know that at least one of the two kittens is male, the odds of two males becomes 50%, whether or not you know which one the pet shop owner checked. I would have thought such an error would have been spotted before the book was published and it did make me wonder whether I could rely on the more complicated explanations in the rest of the book. I also emailed the Professor pointing out what I believe is a mistake in the book, but so far, he has not replied.

Had it not been for the mistake I would have scored this book more highly. It is well written and I found it enjoyable and interesting.

Update - Since writing the orginal review I have now had email correspondence with Pof. Al-Khalili. He has agreed that the example in chapter 1 is incorrect and he intends to get in touch with his publishers to correct future editions of the book.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Paradox explanations are too long 26 Mar. 2015
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I found his explanations of each paradox too long. It would have been better if he had used more 'paradoxes' with shorter explanations. He strays too far from the subject, so it gets rather boring at times. I struggled to finish the book. The topic of Schroedinger's Cat has been covered so much in other books - he could have left that one out.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Paradox by Jim Al-khalili 3 Nov. 2012
By Mole
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is a generally entertaining book that would particularly suit A-level science students, or adults with a general interest in science but no deep knowledge. It covers nine scientific "paradoxes", some very well known and others more specialist. The style of writing is informal, sometimes excessively so, but clear and engaging. Some of the discussions of the paradoxes felt like they could have done with more explanation, rather being left having to take Al-khalili's word for it, but I suppose a balance had to be struck between detail and readability. One example of this is Olber's Paradox - why the sky is dark at night. Al-khalili suggests that darkness of the night sky is proof of the Big Bang, but doesn't really provide enough detail to show anything more than that the dark sky is *consistent* with the occurrence of the Big Bang. Notwithstanding that, the book's a good read.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Well Written
a well written, informative and interesting book for those who like science, as it helps get your head around some of the more difficult stuff
Published 10 days ago by Bob
3.0 out of 5 stars I like Prof Jim Al-Khalili a lot
I like Prof Jim Al-Khalili a lot, but this book of his was a heavy drag.
Some may like it so it would be unfair to criticise it out of hand.
Published 10 days ago by Keith Shephard
5.0 out of 5 stars It must be very difficult for a highly intelligent person to explain...
It must be very difficult for a highly intelligent person to explain complex ideas in terms that the rest of us can understand , but Jim Al-Khalili does it
Published 13 days ago by peter william iddon
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 21 days ago by KENNETH HAWE
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book to read for the questioners out there.
Thoroughly enjoyed reading this book.

Jim Al-Khalili once again demonstrates his expertise and is able to use "normal" every-day-to-day language to explain such... Read more
Published 22 days ago by Rachael Moule
4.0 out of 5 stars not his) but I have enjoyed this very much
Very interesting, I had to reread some bits to really understand what he was explaining (my fault, not his) but I have enjoyed this very much.
Published 2 months ago by Richard Tolbart
2.0 out of 5 stars You'll think it's your fault, but it isn't..
Maybe it's me, but this bestseller seemed to be little more than a cut-and-paste job from better writers, combined with an insistent grating populist tone (hang on to your hat,... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Daddy
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
As Described, fast service
Published 2 months ago by D. Buttery
5.0 out of 5 stars GREAT GUY, GREAT BOOK.
Very interesting. gets the grey matter working.
Published 4 months ago by anthony coles
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
excellent read
Published 10 months ago by dr alan houston
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