Fire in the Mind
by George Johnson

British reviews

One of the most stimulating books of popular science to have been written for some time. . . . [Johnson] writes well, with a keen appreciation of what might puzzle general readers. In this book he brings his considerable expository gifts to bear on the theories being developed at the Santa Fe Institute. Ray Monk, The London Observer.

Johnson presents a laudable link between three faith systems . . . all of which, because they are derived from human desire, chase the same elusive goal -- the ordering of chaos. . . . [An] excellent account. Michael White, Sunday Times of London.

Johnson declares himself an agnostic in the debate between science as pure discovery and science as pure construction, yet his book is the most powerful I have ever read in describing the mythic dimensions of science and in revealing the deep common origins of the spiritual and scientific quests. . . . Those who believe that science is value-neutral and culture-independent, that its truth gives us some magical access to the absolute, will hate this book. But those excited by science precisely because it does have a mythic dimension will find here a treasure of powerful writing and beautiful imagery. The account of how light binds atoms together and thus ultimately gives us a universe alone makes the book worth reading. Johnson's explication of chaos theory is the clearest I know, and his analysis of Santa Fe scientists' attempts to prove that information is as basic a constituent of the universe as mass, energy, and space-time stretches the imagination. Danah Zohar, The Independent on Sunday.

In the spirit of "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. . . . Compression is the essence of science [and] Johnson proceeds to compress with utter clarity, almost casually tap-dancing his way through particle physics, quantum theory, cosmology and evolutionary biology. . . . "Fire in the Mind" is a connoisseur's gazeteer. . . . Vibrant and exhilarating and even inspirational . . . a god's-eye view of the terrain. Imagine that this book could have been sent back a hundred years, to the time of Darwin and of James Clerk Maxwell mulling over electromagnetism and entropy. What is the corresponding book from a hundred years ahead which might turn our present perspectives inside out? Ian Watson, New Scientist.

Johnson offers a spectacular tour of the most compelling theories of current science, enough for several popular science books. But for all his obvious love for science and scientists he avoids suggesting that science has all the answers worth having. . . . His readers will find that this makes him a fine travelling companion and also, perhaps, a more effective judge of when science is superior than those who see all other beliefs as mere tradition, to be consigned to the dustbin of history. Jon Turney, The Financial Times.

This is a very fine book. . . . a tour de force of enormous scope. . . In the brilliantly written chapter on the structure of the atom, Johnson describes how the physicists piled abstraction on abstraction when they probed beyond the proton to the neutron, the neutrino and the quark. William Reville, The Irish Times.
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