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43 of 46 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Are we reaching the saturation point for popular science books?
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...
Published 24 months ago by Big Jim

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15 of 24 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable book - but watch out for the error in Chapter 1.
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...
Published 21 months ago by Alex B


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15 of 24 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable book - but watch out for the error in Chapter 1., 5 July 2012
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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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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant book - shame about the packaging!, 2 Jan 2014
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This is an outstanding book, but my only disappointment was that when it was packaged the front cover had been bent right over.
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12 of 28 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Dull and boring, quite arrogant in places, 26 Jun 2012
This review is from: Paradox: The Nine Greatest Enigmas in Science (Hardcover)
I am hugely fascinated by science, and was really looking forward to reading this book. Sadly, I was very disappointed.

The main failing of the book is that it's plain dull, and seems to fall between two target markets. If you are a science layman, who is interested in science, but not an expert, then you'll probably find the discussions of quantum physics (which is most of the book) to be confusing, unclear and therefore boring. If you have a basic grasp of the concepts of quantum physics, then you'll find little of interest in what he says, as it doesn't get beyond the basics, so you'll find it boring. Either way, it doesn't hold the attention.

I realise that quantum physics isn't the easiest of subjects to explain, but if someone is going to try, they ought to do a better job that this. I have read plenty other books where people did a much better of it to know that this book isn't in that league.

To make matters worse, some of the book smacks of the sort of arrogance that gives scientists a bad name. For example, in the chapter that discussed why it gets dark at night (not so obvious as you might think), he ends up "proving" that there must have been a big bang, otherwise it couldn't get dark at night. Apart from the fact that he arrogantly assumes that if we can't think of another solution to the problem, then there simply isn't one (how many times have we heard that over the history of science?), he also makes hugely arrogant assertions, stated as fact, based on scant evidence. Scientists detect the faintest glimmer of energy against the background radiation, and propose theories as to some far distant planet, then proceed to tell you what colour shirt the people on that planet wear. I know, it's not quite like that, but the principle is the same, he takes a very small and unclear observation about the universe, makes some wild guesses at to what caused it, and then proceeds to "prove" things, taking those guesses as absolute fact. This could so easily have been written as "based on these assumptions, it seems likely that the answer is..." rather than "therefore it is an absolute fact that..." which is how the subject is presented.

I didn't end up reading the whole book as I was bored. This is almost unheard of for me, as I'm a compulsive reader, and very rarely abandon a book part-way through, especially a science book. That's how dull I thought the book was.

It's a great shame, as the idea of the book was very intriguing, and it could have been a great book. Unfortunately, it wasn't.
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0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars It is alright, 29 Dec 2013
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Ok book...though haven't had enough time to read this substantial item. When I do I will be better placed to write a review.
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1 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Predictable Explanationism, 13 Jun 2013
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Simon (United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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I found the book disappointing and predictable and even a little patronising and condescending. It doesn't really say anything new and could even be considered dated in the way it seeks to explain away paradoxes which some of the latest thinking has revived. If you're looking for a book that squeezes scientific materialism until the pips squeak, this is not for you. If you're looking for superficial and lightweight explanations that bolster your confidence in a scientific comfort blanket, read on.
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0 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, 8 Mar 2013
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Paradox: The Nine Greatest Enigmas in Science
Paradox: The Nine Greatest Enigmas in Science by Jim Al-Khalili (Hardcover - 12 April 2012)
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