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Time Travel: A History (2016)

by James Gleick

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6622726,894 (3.63)8
Gleick's story begins at the turn of the twentieth century with the young H. G. Wells writing and rewriting the fantastic tale that became his first book, an international sensation, The Time Machine. A host of forces were converging to transmute the human understanding of time, some philosophical and some technological--the electric telegraph, the steam railroad, the discovery of buried civilizations, and the perfection of clocks. Gleick tracks the evolution of time travel as an idea in the culture--from Marcel Proust to Doctor Who, from Woody Allen to Jorge Luis Borges. He explores the inevitable looping paradoxes and examines the porous boundary between pulp fiction and modern physics. Finally, he delves into a temporal shift that is unsettling our own moment: the instantaneous wired world, with its all-consuming present and vanishing future.… (more)
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English (26)  Spanish (1)  All languages (27)
Showing 1-5 of 26 (next | show all)
While this didn't go as deep into the science and stuck more with the literary and cultural aspects of the history of time travel, I still found Gleick's conversational style good enough to keep me interested from start to finish.
( )
  TobinElliott | Sep 3, 2021 |
The book tells the history of the way people have thought about time and time travel, through our literature, films and science. An interesting take on a fascinating topic, Gleick catalogs all the major perspectives and tracks the changing ways we've thought about out experience in time. ( )
  poirotketchup | Mar 18, 2021 |
Kept me reading despite being just an analysis of usage of the time travel concept in books and film. Goes into too much detail of every example, recapping the plots for no benefit. ( )
  Paul_S | Dec 23, 2020 |
Loved it! Gleick not only writes beautifully, but he clearly loves this subject. Everything loops around The Time Machine and, to a smaller extent, the theory of relativity. There are summaries of time travel stories, explanations of paradoxes, grumpy philosophers, before-their-time physicists, time capsules, forays into social psychology, British jokes, and everything in between. It ends up being this wonderful, engaging whole packed full of things to learn, and where I stand now, I think it’s the best non-fiction book I’ve read this year.

8/10 ( )
  NinjaMuse | Jul 26, 2020 |
Gleick has really perfected this kind of book: fun, readable, page-turning history with lots of good quotations, weird facts, and clear explanations of theory. For a pop history/science book, The Information legit changed the way I see the world. This one isn't quite as profound or hard-hitting, but it definitely is fun to read and had some real "WHOA WHAT" moments. ( )
  Jetztzeit | May 15, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 26 (next | show all)
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Epigraph
Your now is not my now; and again, your then is not my then; but my now may be your then, and vice versa. Whose head is competent to these things?-Charles Lamb (1817)

The fact that we occupy an ever larger place in Time is something that everybody feels. -Marcel Proust (1927?)

And tomorrow Comes. It’s a world. It’s a way. -W.H. Auden (1936)
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To Beth, Donen, and Harry
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A Man stands at the end of a drafty corridor, a.k.a. the nineteenth century, and in the flickering light of an oil lamp examines a machine made of nickel and ivory, with brass rails and quarts rods—a squat, ugly contraption somehow out of focus not easy for the poor reader to visualize, despite the listing of parts and materials.
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Gleick's story begins at the turn of the twentieth century with the young H. G. Wells writing and rewriting the fantastic tale that became his first book, an international sensation, The Time Machine. A host of forces were converging to transmute the human understanding of time, some philosophical and some technological--the electric telegraph, the steam railroad, the discovery of buried civilizations, and the perfection of clocks. Gleick tracks the evolution of time travel as an idea in the culture--from Marcel Proust to Doctor Who, from Woody Allen to Jorge Luis Borges. He explores the inevitable looping paradoxes and examines the porous boundary between pulp fiction and modern physics. Finally, he delves into a temporal shift that is unsettling our own moment: the instantaneous wired world, with its all-consuming present and vanishing future.

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From the acclaimed author of The Information and Chaos, here is a mind-bending exploration of time travel: its subversive origins, its evolution in literature and science, and its influence on our understanding of time itself.

The story begins at the turn of the previous century, with the young H. G. Wells writing and rewriting the fantastic tale that became his first book and an international sensation: The Time Machine. It was an era when a host of forces was converging to transmute the human understanding of time, some philosophical and some technological: the electric telegraph, the steam railroad, the discovery of buried civilizations, and the perfection of clocks. James Gleick tracks the evolution of time travel as an idea that becomes part of contemporary culture—from Marcel Proust to Doctor Who, from Jorge Luis Borges to Woody Allen. He investigates the inevitable looping paradoxes and examines the porous boundary between pulp fiction and modern physics. Finally, he delves into a temporal shift that is unsettling our own moment: the instantaneous wired world, with its all-consuming present and vanishing future.
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