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4.1 out of 5 stars
Paradox: The Nine Greatest Enigmas in Physics
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on 4 June 2013
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
on 10 January 2014
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
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
on 15 February 2015
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
on 5 July 2012
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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on 26 March 2015
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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on 22 April 2015
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
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on 25 April 2015
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.
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on 25 April 2015
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
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