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4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5 stars
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on 6 January 2013
Hmmmm. Goldfish in a bowl try to reason what the dried ant eggs and larva they eat are and how there is an ant egg and larva rain morning and night. They cite Plato, Nemo and Perchinger and the old silver-gold cynic by the pirate's treasure chest at the bottom of the bowl tells them to shut up and just enjoy life. It's an ineffable mystery.
The question though is a legitimate one, in fact my curiosity and Jim Holt's interview with Stephen Colbert made me buy it, but, to put it in a goldfish bowl, it's just a load of s..emantics with some light intervals. I fear the cynic was right.
I mean when you postulate the possibility of a world with 17 dimensions we have as much chance understanding it as an ant has Beethoven's ninth. Or us the consciousness of an ant in our own world.
The parts I found most stimulating were the chapter on Sir Roger Penrose and his query into why the apparent rules of existence turn out to be explicable in mathematical terms and the fun interview with John Updike at the end. I had to wallow through a lot of sometimes tiring pin-head angel counting to get to them though.
The part that disappointed me most was Holt's own answer to the question he puts in his title. He is inspired by the philosopher Derek Parfit who almost literally lives in an ivory tower, being a fellow of All Souls College in Oxford, doing no teaching just studying. I don't want to spoil the potential reader's fun by telling him how Holt finishes his detective story, but let me say that I think Holt should have slept a little longer on his solution. Even if Simplicity or Fullness were `selectors' I fail to see how these concepts are generated from nothing, and why they would even generate a loaf of bread let alone an infinite universe as majestic, horrific, wonderful and fun as ours. I even fail to see why logic itself has to be a fundamental principle of existence. Lewis Carroll would surely have contested that. It might be the fundamental principle of our own goldfish bowl but who knows what is fundamental in the world of seventeen dimensions?
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on 1 February 2016
interesting ideas about philosophy
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on 9 March 2013
This book is full of knowledge. It is a very comprehensive research about very very complicated question. You are travelling in our time, recent and very distant past with the author. You are meeting very important persons in their fields and looking for a answer for very deep subject. So it is very natural that Jim Holt use a very high level english. I'm sure that readers like me can have difficulties to follow the sentences and get a meaning from it. But I've struggled hardly and I'm very happy to read this book. It was sad to read Chapter 15 where the author is writing about his "last farewell" to his mother.
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on 24 September 2016
enjoyed it
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on 9 January 2013
As a doctor and professor of public health, i was involved during my lifetime in a number of events, organization and concepts from non existing, to being important – but never fully known or understood, either by participants or outside. These activities included: Health for all as world movement stepping from definition of health; Healthy cities as a European movement, capable to work in peace, during war, and afterwards among all people (Yugoslavia and Croatia); AIDS preventing it by panic of prevention; Health and Human Rights (with Jonathan Mann at Harvard); Preventing genocide and first successful cases in doing it (not just snctioning it); multiple cases of protecting communities (Dubrovnik, Libertas, Whire Way, Save Life, Oluja, Peaceful reintegration ...Wounded Christ..Health congress, internet health journal..) My basic approach was and is of initiating and developing partnership with people. Showing them how to recognize within themselves and others existence of something they were not conscious about – from nothing to something. I do the sam with myself, wife, family, friends ... politics, science, God. Up to know my experience is of a permanent living between something and everything, in infinite realities, which influence us, but we can always influence them. This book led me to better understanding of myself, people I love, I live with, my state, Europe, now and tomorrow – atheism and God.
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on 2 December 2015
No complaints
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on 14 January 2015
Good title and cover but too 'clever' for me - couldn't get very far with it.
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on 30 June 2013
The author considers all possible perspectives, a strategy which makes the discussion a bit vague and directionless in my opinion.
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on 21 August 2014
What? No Nietzsche? Hello! Eternal Recurrence!
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on 12 October 2012
Their are two sides to this book
A scientific methodology based on an approach which has allowed us to advance on a practical level
A philosophical approach which has helped humanity to ....... (please fill in the blanks)
But anything that makes people thing is worthwhile... ?
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