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5.0 out of 5 stars I love Landsburg
Landsburg can write very well and in this book he writes on random topics in Mathematics, Physics, Economics and Philosophy. Although the worst of all his books, it is still quite a gem.
Published 10 months ago by Adam

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars This may appeal to fans of this author
Although I dont believe it will to the general reader, the author is without a doubt a very smart, very intellectual individual and it comes across in the book but they came across to me as being pretty myopic in their outlook. Their major interests, its plainly evident, are maths, physics and economics of which they have some mastery but which, I would hazard to say, is...
Published on 21 July 2012 by Lark


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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars This may appeal to fans of this author, 21 July 2012
By 
Lark (North Coast of Ireland) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
Although I dont believe it will to the general reader, the author is without a doubt a very smart, very intellectual individual and it comes across in the book but they came across to me as being pretty myopic in their outlook. Their major interests, its plainly evident, are maths, physics and economics of which they have some mastery but which, I would hazard to say, is not as great as many of the other authors they mention in passing or who have books on the market such as Hawkins.

While the other books by the author are economics, there is only really a single, very short (a couple of pages), chapter really dedicated to that theme in this book and it deals with the efficacy of economic models. This was much like the other times this author has dealt with the themes of economics, nothing new or particularly striking or original. The rest of the book is mainly reminiscence, topical discussion or disputes, particularly with Dawkins, and underpinned by the authors interest in mathematics and physics.

Some of this was intriguing or revealing, for instance the quite literal interpretation of "fire exit" which left the author so perturbed in the nursery school that he was unable to walk about the building as the other children did, believing that to do so would be to risk incineration. I sort of thought that some of this content, and some asides about time spent discussing topics within student or academic circles, was interesting, it made me think about what motivated what followed in this book and had been a feature in others.

However, there is not much besides to recommend this book, and I really suspect that this is not enough to recommend a book at all by itself. The other chapters are characterised by the discussion or disputation of topics, such as Dawkin's response to intelligent design in the God Delusion, the outline of the arguments is incomplete and most of the responses the author makes are disappointingly incomplete also. There is a lot of assumed knowledge, also assumed agreement or assent, on the part of the reader too. All of which left me thinking that someone could have collected the e-mails or posts and counter posts of participants on a high brow online forum and the result would be much the same.

In the final instance this could be a subjective judgement, unlike the author I dont believe that philosophy and life is reduceable to his pet themes of physics, economics and math, but I do believe that, irrespective of the beliefs being affirmed, there is something entirely disappointing in reading someone who is so obviously intelligent in some ways and yet has an unenquiring mind in many respects. The book has a contents page, bibliography and references and is structured with the use of subheadings, there are figurative or illustrative supports to the written narrative too throughout. The narrative style and pace is fine, a little more conversational or communicative than other books of this kind.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Sketchy but readable, 26 Jan 2014
The author is an academic economist who wishes to make useful contributions to debates such as Intelligent Design, for instance, and has some interesting anecdotes about number theory in particular, and some other areas of 20th-21st century philosophy.

Unfortunately, as I progressed, I found this book increasingly irritating for a number of reasons:

1. He quotes writers who have written better books on his subjects - Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Douglas R Hofstadter, for instance. He is honest enough to advise us to read all their books, but if you've read their books, you won't want to read this one

2. He assumes you can only agree with him and any disagreement must be irrational. This is true of many economists, who professionally reduce the world to simple forms they can toy with, and get lost on the way back up to the complexities of real life. His "proof" that protectionism is "always bad", for example, deploys a crass utilitarian worldview - if an American gets a good camera more cheaply from a Chinese factory than an American factory, then it must be "good". It doesn't occur to him to examine the impact of unemployment in America or exploitative labour conditions (to produce the cheaper goods) in China. His economics being so partial and ill-considered, the reader must be put off the many areas where he is merely an interested amateur

3. When the going gets tough, he points to external sources and swerves away from attempting his own explanation. This tactic makes the books confusing: it walks up towards advanced thinking, then turns away before properly engaging

4. Even when the going is not so tough, he seems to lose interest in a topic and bring it to an abrupt end without taking the time to develop a really convincing case. He frequently uses rather flimsy word games where a rigorous thought experiment would be enlightening

5. Although this was a UK edition, much of the content is mired in Americanisms. I really don't care about the tactics used to get Intelligent Design mumbo-jumbo into American classrooms, for instance, but local American detail is key to some of his arguments

In the end, yes, there is some good stuff in here, delivered in a chatty style. But a book of philosophy it ain't.

Maybe this author needs a stricter editor?
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5.0 out of 5 stars I love Landsburg, 3 Sep 2013
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Landsburg can write very well and in this book he writes on random topics in Mathematics, Physics, Economics and Philosophy. Although the worst of all his books, it is still quite a gem.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Freakonomics as written by Jeremy Clarkson, 5 July 2012
I love this sort of book, and grabbed it when I saw it without looking inside. I wish I'd checked first, the lack of any references would have been a giveaway. I'm not a heavyweight reader, but this book is so lightweight that it's worthless. I can't believe Levitt allowed his name to be associated with this book - Freakonomics towers over this, as does any other book I've read on any of the subjects that Landsburg tackles.
I have to be honest and say that I didn't actually finish it. I got to the point where he "proves" that ESP exists by declaring his own literal definition of ESP and using that. At that point I threw the book down in disgust. I mostly agreed with his conclusions, but all his arguments are a couple of lines of logic, leaving gaping holes that don't seem to have occured to him.
If you've never read anything (or even thought much) about these subjects then you might get something out of this book, but if you are after something even remotely challenging then look elsewhere.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Good, but not for the academically rigourous., 1 Jun 2011
Being fascinated by the links between physics, mathematics, economics and philosophy, I was expecting this to be a fantastic read, and in some ways it is, it really opens up new ways of thinking. However, on the other hand, some of Dr Landsburg's arguments are very simplistic, especially when it comes to the economics side of analysis.

To summarise briefly, great to stimulate the brain and develop deeper ways of thinking, but don't accept his conclusions on many things - whether the author was simplifying concepts on purpose or not, I don't know, but there certainly are some intellectual holes - I would highly recommend reading deeper into certain issues in here if they interest you.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Good but beware the kindle edition, 2 May 2011
By 
Amazon Customer (Bristol, England) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Big Questions: Tackling the Problems of Philosophy with Ideas from Mathematics, Economics and Physics (Kindle Edition)
I thoroughly enjoyed this book except for what I assume to be the sloppy translation to kindle format.
In particular, although there is a hyperlinked table of contents (and even a hyperlinked index) you cannot navigate directly to it via "Go to..."
Also there appears to be a lot of spurious spaces within words (possibly where words were broken across lines in the original?) and a systematic use of "of" where "off" is meant. Maybe this is true in the book also but if so it is outrageously bad proofreading.
As I say - this is a criticism of the kindle version of the book rather than the content but it is the only kindle book I have bought so far with these problems.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Good book, 11 Oct 2010
Easy style, easy to follow and full of insights. However much of the book also reads as random trivia about mathematics (which doesn't hhave to be a bad thing).
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars 2,5 stars... Landsburgs Worst, 10 Nov 2010
Landsburg admits in the first chapter that this book will just be random musings from him. And so it is. Random trivia on math, economics, quantum physics. I didn't know much about theses fields when I first picked it up and so I was glad to prowl through Landsburg's easy writing. Still the book is a little loose.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An instant classic, 26 Jan 2011
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Sometimes ramblings and meanderings make for a bad read, this one however is excellent! Landsburg in this third book tackles the big questions of philosophy with the logic of a mathematician, the hard science delivered by Physics and the insights of a rogue economist.

This is certainly not boring by any means, even though the topics covered are boring in an academical sense, Landsburg has this pleasant knack of making his books fun, enjoyable and down to earth practical. Ok some of it is more pedantic such as the maths behind Hercules severing the heads of the Hydra, but it's bloody interesting to the rest of us to know that mathematically, Hercules would have won eventually!

The section on 'what should you study' made me take a fresh look at how my academic and self study approach was going and now I have honed right in to my direction in life thanks to this book. Landsburg provides clear and objective arguments, underpinned by the pure logic of mathematics while at the same time being emotive in style which appeals to the wider audience.

No pretensions, no big-headedness, just clear cut thinking that gets through the mire of technical jargon.

Den.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars waited to purchase this book for a long time (more than a year)...., 29 Sep 2010
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yawn. There isnt much math, physics or economics in this book. Just Philosophy.
Quite a boring read.
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