Throughout history, scientists have come up with theories and ideas that just don't seem to make sense. These we call paradoxes. The paradoxes Al-Khalili offers are drawn chiefly from physics and astronomy and represent those that have stumped some of the finest minds. Read more...
Throughout history, scientists have come up with theories and ideas that just don't seem to make sense. These we call paradoxes. The paradoxes Al-Khalili offers are drawn chiefly from physics and astronomy and represent those that have stumped some of the finest minds. For example, how can a cat be both dead and alive at the same time? Why will Achilles never beat a tortoise in a race, no matter how fast he runs? And how can a person be ten years older than his twin?
With elegant explanations that bring the reader inside the mind of those who've developed them, Al-Khalili helps us to see that, in fact, paradoxes can be solved if seen from the right angle. Just as surely as Al-Khalili narrates the enduring fascination of these classic paradoxes, he reveals their underlying logic. In doing so, he brings to life a select group of the most exciting concepts in human knowledge. Paradox is mind-expanding fun.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2012-07-02
- Reviewer: Staff
Tailor-made for puzzle fans and science aficionados. Al-Khalili’s (Quantum: A Guide for the Perplexed) latest dives into “deep questions about the nature of time and space and the properties of the Universe”—and shows just how tantalizing these problems can be. Al-Khalili, a quantum physicist at the University of Surrey, sets the stage for well-known problems like the “Monty Hall paradox,” in which a contestant’s attempt to guess which of three boxes contains the keys to a Lincoln Continental provides an object lesson in conditional probabilities. With ancient Greek scholar Zeno’s paradox (if a tortoise gets a head start in racing the swift Achilles, can Achilles overtake his laggardly opponent?), the author explores converging infinite series in mathematics. A chapter on Maxwell’s Demon (can there be a perpetual motion machine) gives a lesson in thermodynamics, and the infamous puzzler starring Erwin Schrödinger’s hapless cat provides a quick lesson on quantum mechanical basics. Al-Khalili even tackles relativity and time travel with the “Twin Paradox” (one twin circles the galaxy near the speed of light and returns to find the other twin is now several years older than she is). Readers who enjoy mental challenges and scientific mysteries will have fun with Al-Khalili’s lighthearted, accessible discussion. Illus. Agent: Patrick Walsh (U.K.). (Oct.)