7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Stop all the clocks...,
This review is from: The Quantum Universe: Everything that can happen does happen (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Sorry to abuse Auden, but that's how I felt 130 pages into this. I'm not a scientist, I grew up terrified of the sciences at school, so I made my home in the comfortably woolly ground of the humanities. I found that as I edged my way to 30, though, I needed some answers about the world and life in general. I don't have any faith and I felt that something big was missing from my picture of everything. I guess I craved, and still do crave, some kind of understanding. I discovered physics through BBC's Horizon and I remember just sitting spellbound one night listening to a theoretical physicist talking about the double slit experiment, how the nature of observation can apparently alter perceived reality. Physics, quantum mechanics, QED, M-theory, superstrings, multiverses, the poetry of supernovae dying to create the essential building blocks of all life in the universe... I'm entranced (still terrified!) but utterly entranced by the lot of it. I really, really want to understand, but I don't speak mathematics and I doubt I ever will, so I'm handicapped from the start. The language of the universe seems to be written in figures, not in human tongues, so I need a translator from the world of science to help me. A scientist with the skills of both philosopher and poet, and a desire to bridge the gulf between the maths/words worlds. I'm finding that these particular visionaries are incredibly rare and precious people - we need more of them!
Sorry, waffling, just wanted to set out where this reader was coming from. I haven't read any Hawking yet, because I feel like I need to work my way up to it - get in training, as it were. But I started with Max Tegmark's wonderful, dazzling, generous website (must recommend to all who are perplexed and eager, or even the lucky experts out there) then dipped a toe in a few Michio Kaku books, a little bit of Laurence Krauss, and then I discovered the wonderful man who was Richard Feynman - I'd give my eye teeth to have met him. Anyway, those are some of the highlights of the journey so far. Should also include Bill Bryson's Short History of Nearly Everything because it felt like the perfect level and tone for me, and was a great all-round eye-opener to all of science. I've had less luck with the work of David Deutsch, Lisa Randall and some of Brian Greene - they're undoubtedly brilliant, but I felt quite overwhelmed much of the time.
Unfortunately this offering from Brian Cox and Jeff Forshaw falls firmly in the feels-like-drowning camp. The first few chapters zipped along okay, a nice scene-setting full of interesting history notes, and then... then the clocks were introduced. I managed to keep swimming for another 50 pages, I went back and re-read everything several times until I could practically recite it, but I got to the point where the clocks were no longer making any sense to me, and the sheer effort and stress of trying to understand, and feeling like a total troglodyte for floundering, made me set the book aside. I vowed I'd pick it up again, but it's been 2 months and it's still sitting on the window shelf, slowly fading in the sun. I can't blame either author for being too smart for me to follow, so please don't think I'm criticising them for my being thick, but they just don't bridge the communication gap for me- the prose it too deeply rooted in science and maths, in literally describing the maths especially, without anything much in the way of lifelines to grab hold of when you get out of your depth. There's also not much humour here, no lightness. The tone is strictly descriptive and rather monotonous, to be honest. Sure, I'm not looking for laughs, I'm looking for answers, but if Richard Feynman can make you smile and wonder and gape and mentally dance all at the same time, it's not impossible to do. Maybe you just need to be a Nobel-prize winning artistic and scientific genius with a diabolical sense of fun in order to do it. Not so suprising that we're not falling over them...