October 21, 2012

Review - Paradox (Jim Al-Khalili)

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.

Let's solve puzzles - those that are easily mistaken for truly unsolvable paradoxes. Physicist Jim Al-Khalili is doing exactly that in his book Paradox, namely unraveling some of the biggest riddles of science, from Maxwell's Demon to Schrödinger's Cat straight to the Paradox of the Twins.
This is exactly the kind of book which on one hand sounds immensely fascinating, while on the other hand has a high potential to dip into heavy technical jargon. Needless to say I was pleasantly surprised that this excursion into the world of physics is accessible even for those who have only basic knowledge regarding the presented conundrums. Explanations are, if at times somewhat lengthy, easy to follow and at the same time the author's voice lacks the often prosaic tone non fiction is unfortunately too often prone to. The surprisingly fun style in which the book is written certainly made it doubly enjoyable for me.
As the author not just resorts to his favorite, but ultimately to a selection of better known perceived paradoxes, I believe this book provides the perfect entry to those who are generally interested in science, but have thus far shied back from books like this one, out of fear of not being able to understand explanations or ending up utterly bored. Trust me, this won't happen here! Not only will you learn a thing or two, it will be highly entertaining too.
In short: An amusive and educational trip into the world of paradoxes!

4/5 Trees

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the NetGalley book review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

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