Home Authors Books Subjects Events Software Features Links Newsletter Gifts Blog Write Review What's New
Review - 25 Big Ideas - Robert Matthews
Once upon a time it was possible to know pretty all there was to know in science. Even someone with a general interest could have a good overview of all that science had to offer. But over the last 100+years, everything has changed. The subject has blossomed out of all proportion; individuals haven't a hope of keeping up, and scientists are confined to a tiny area of speciality.
What Robert Matthews has done very effectively is to take 25 of the most significant areas in modern science ("the science that's changing the world" as the subtitle puts it) and explains them. Each section has a general description, a time line, a "jargon buster" definition of a few key terms (not always the most obvious ones), a couple of comment boxes, some notes and further reading - each chapter is like a condensed book. We meet in breathless fashion everything from game theory to GM crops, from the selfish gene to plate tectonics and relativity.
In a way that's the problem here - although this is well written, it feels too like a textbook because it's almost entirely focused on the science and there's not enough of the people and context, an inevitable consequence of that condensation. Even the science itself can be a little clipped and dry.
Taking a more detailed look at the area this reviewer knows most about - quantum entanglement - it's generally well handled. Matthews doesn't slip into the common mistake of saying that Einstein's anti-quantum theory EPR paper of 1935 was based on challenging the uncertainty principle (though he does say that Einstein was wrong in it, which is slightly misleading). He also ascribes the idea of quantum computers to David Deutsch, who certainly took the concept a stage further, but was pre-dated by Richard Feynman. But that's a minor moan - it's mostly a good summary.
All in all, it is a useful taster when you want to know where to head off. It's not a bad idea to get hold of this book to get a quick background in the topics, before diving in more deeply to the ones you find most interesting. Matthews' suggestions for further reading aren't necessarily the best - come back to this site for some recommendations - but the book will give you a chance to pick out those aspects of science that excite your imagination.
Only in paperback
Reviewed by Brian Clegg
This site has no connection with Popular Science magazine or other sites and publications with a similar name.
Much of the content of this site is written by popular science writers or friends of popular science writers. Inevitably many of the reviews in such a small community are written by or about someone we know. We always aim to be impartial in our reviews, but there is a connection which we need make clear, as there is no intention to deceive. The content of any review or article is solely the opinion of the author and should not be read or understood on any other basis. The site exists to promote popular science writing and popular science authors and for this reason should be considered promotional material, just as the editorial reviews in an online bookshop or the blurb on the back of a book should be considered promotional.
The website should not be eaten or used where it can come into contact with water.
Disagree with our review? Want to comment on a feature? Contact us at info@ popularscience.co.uk - have your say!
Part of the site
Copyright © Creativity
Unleashed Limited 2005
Last update 05 June 2007