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When Einstein Walked with Gödel: Excursions to the Edge of Thought (International Edition) Hardcover – 15 May 2018
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"Holt ....performs his observational comedy within the realm of the higher sciences -- math, theoretical physics, philosophy -- but gives us enough setup that we're in on the joke . . . I don't know of another writer quite like him . . . When Einstein presents a remarkably unified sensibility . . . I found Holt's essay on the Riemann hypothesis to be totally charming. In fact, this was my experience for nearly the whole book. In piece after piece, Holt acts as a model host, giving us only the best bits while paring away most difficulties . . . It's a perfect bedtime book, with each essay providing a luminous devotional on weighty topics, delivered with a light touch." --David Kordahl, Los Angeles Review of Books
"I've just discovered the brilliant essays of Jim Holt . . . When Einstein Walked with Gödel: Excursions to the Edge of Thought . . . offers lucid and entertaining accounts of deep problems in physics, maths and philosophy." --Martin Rees, Physics World
"A smart, erudite, and witty guided tour of some of the most colorful episodes and characters in the history of science and mathematics." --Jimena Canales, Undark
"These are bold, thought-provoking pieces . . . Stories of real humans and their mathematical, physical and philosophical theories--some of the most complex ever devised." --Andrew Jaffe, Nature
"In these pieces, plucked from the last 20 years, Holt takes on infinity and the infinitesimal, the illusion of time, the birth of eugenics, the so-called new atheism, smartphones and distraction. It is an elegant history of recent ideas . . . Holt is an amphibious kind of writer, so capably slipping from theology to cosmology to poetry, you're reminded that specialization is a modern invention." --Parul Sehgal, The New York Times
"Jim Holt . . . is one of the very best modern science writers." --Steven Poole, The Wall Street Journal
"Science writing of the caliber on display in When Einstein Walked with Gödel is a boon in these times of looming scientific illiteracy. Holt makes his recondite subjects seem not only fascinating but fun." --Steve Donoghue, The Christian Science Monitor
"[A] fantastic essay collection [filled] with stories about eccentric geniuses and groundbreaking ideas at the intersection of science and philosophy . . . Holt delivers this feast of wild genius, oddball thinkers, and sheer creativity in his signature accessible style of writing and playful tone." --Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"Jim Holt's When Einstein Walked with Gödel is a thrilling trek through some of the greatest insights in physics, philosophy, and mathematics. Insightful, enlightening, and entertaining, Holt explores how a collection of thinkers--some quirky, some tragic, all ingenious--redefined the very boundaries of space, time, and knowledge." --Brian Greene, author of The Hidden Reality: Parallel Universes and the Deep Laws of the Cosmos
"Jim Holt's essays are full of wonder and wisdom, irreverence and wit. And they also possess a special quality: reading them is like getting a joke--beyond the words, there's a sense of revelation and unity, ours to enjoy." --Edward Frenkel, Professor of Mathematics at the University of California, Berkeley, and author of Love & Math: The Heart of Hidden Reality
"Jim Holt not only has an unerring sense for locating the most interesting questions lying on the borders of philosophy, science, and mathematics; he also has a talent for expressing the human and emotional dimensions of the life of the mind. The blend goes toward making When Einstein Walked with Gödel an unusually absorbing and stimulating collection of essays." --Rebecca Newberger Goldstein, author of Plato at the Googleplex: Why Philosophy Won't Go Away
About the Author
Jim Holt writes about math, science, and philosophy for The New York Times, The New Yorker, The Wall Street Journal, and The New York Review of Books. His Why Does the World Exist?: An Existential Detective Story was an international bestseller.
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Godel replies, “Even if it’s funny, the three of us won't be able to prove it.”
Chomski says, “What are you talking about? Of course it’s funny. You’re just telling it wrong!”
Simply put, if you find the above amusing (BTW this joke is not in the book), then you are the type of person who will enjoy this volume. Holt presents a compendium of essays he has written over the past two decades for The NYROB, The New Yorker, The NY Times and other various periodicals.
He displays his usual wit and ability to cut to the core of various metaphysical and ethical issues and foundational issues in physics. There is always a refreshing point of view or unique distillation of core concepts in each of his essays.
This is a highly entertaining volume and the essays can be read at leisure and out-of-sequence without any loss of enjoyment. Also highly recommended is Holt’s previous volume WHY DOES THE WORLD EXIST?
Holt states that he intends his essays to go to the depth of a cocktail party discussion. But, as one reads on and on, it becomes increasingly obvious that the book is discussing some of the most important questions that can be asked. What is truth? What is the likely end of the universe? Can the human mind fathom the underlying laws of nature? Why does mathematics describe the world so well? And on and on.
If you are the kind of person who thinks these questions are mainly good for entertainment at dinner parties then you will enjoy the hor dourves sized essays in this book. Ultimately however, while these questions may be irresolvable with the common consent of the human race, it is necessary for every person to try to answer these as best they can. Our answers may be partial—might even contradict one another—but at least we can be fully mature human beings who can give a reasonable account of our life.
To relegate the deepest questions to cocktail party subjects is, paradoxically, to provide an answer: I only care about how much fun I can have at cocktail parties.
So while I actually enjoyed reading the book and getting an hor dourves sized taste of some subjects I hadn’t known about, I don’t recommend purchasing it. There is too much of a flippant attitude--of “Oh isn’t it interesting. This scientist just proved the universe will end in a reverse of the Big Bang called the Big Crunch. Can you pass the stuffed mushrooms?”
Well written, interesting material but with an essentially pernicious attitude. Not recommended.