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Seeing Further: The Story of Science, Discovery, and the Genius of the…

by Bill Bryson (Editor)

Other authors: Margaret Atwood (Contributor), Philip Ball (Contributor), John D. Barrow (Contributor), Gregory Benford (Contributor), Paul Davies (Contributor)16 more, Richard Dawkins (Contributor), Georgina Ferry (Contributor), Richard Fortey (Contributor), Maggie Gee (Contributor), James Gleick (Contributor), Rebecca Newberger Goldstein (Contributor), Richard Holmes (Contributor), Steve Jones (Contributor), Oliver Morton (Contributor), Henry Petroski (Contributor), Martin Rees (Contributor), Simon Schaffer (Contributor), Stephen H. Schneider (Contributor), Neal Stephenson (Contributor), Ian Stewart (Contributor), Margaret Wertheim (Contributor)

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8521418,889 (3.48)26
As editor of "Seeing Further," Bryson has rounded up an extraordinary roster of scientists who write and writers who know science in order to celebrate 350 years of the Royal Society, Britain's scientific national academy. The contributors include Margaret Atwood, Steve Jones, Richard Dawkins, James Gleick, Richard Holmes, and Neal Stephenson, among many others, on subjects ranging from metaphysics to nuclear physics, from the threatened endtimes of flu and climate change to our evolving ideas about the nature of time itself, from the hidden mathematics that rule the universe to the cosmological principle that guides "Star Trek."… (more)
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    A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson (anthony_agbay)
    anthony_agbay: It's also an exploration of science and scientific thought, but goes much deeper into the history of all the players. It's interesting to know the history and then read some of the thoughts on the people you have just read about.
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» See also 26 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 14 (next | show all)
This is a collection of essays written to celebrate the 350th anniversary of the Royal Society of London, edited and curated by the omnipresent Bill Bryson. The main attraction for me was that the essays, each focusing on a member of the Society, or a discovery, or on some aspect of its innumerable contributions to human knowledge, were written by a large cast: authors like James Gleick, Margret Atwood, and Neal Stephenson rub shoulders with actual scientists and mathematicians like Richard Dawkins, Ian Stewart, and Gregory Benford. This means there's a variety of perspectives, which is both good and bad. My favorite was Stephenson's explanation of how superstar philosopher/mathematician/inventor/general scientific badass Gottfried Leibniz's bizarre monad philosophy compared not only with archrival Isaac Newton's discoveries, but also with contemporary work into the nature of reality. It's a perfect example of a talented author tackling a difficult subject (I'm not sure anyone knows exactly what Leibniz was thinking, but he's been ridiculed by everyone from Voltaire on down) with style and thoughtfulness. My other favorite was Dawkins' essay on Darwin, which is a similarly good example of how to clearly explain exactly why a complicated idea not only makes sense, but explains the world better than its alternatives. While there were several that either fell short of the mark or were otherwise lacking of interesting content (Margaret Wertheim's piece in particular had an almost unbearably high ratio of words to ideas, and was full of freshman undergrad-type vagaries), overall it was an excellent collection. If you're looking for a quick sampler of perspectives on scientific issues, you could certainly do worse, and it made me aware of the Society's vast influence on the modern world. ( )
  aaronarnold | May 11, 2021 |
5706. Seeing Further The Story of Science, Discovery, and the Genius of the Royal Society, edited by Bill Bryson (read 14 Sep 2020) This 490 page book contains 22 essays by mostly British scholars, on various aspects of science, past and present. I nearly always finish a book I start but almost quit when early on I read an essay which was hard to understand. But the next essay was comprehensible and interesting so I kept reading and finished the book. I will not claim I comprehended all the concepts discussed but there was enough fascinating that I think I got something from the book. Lots of things to think about. ( )
  Schmerguls | Sep 14, 2020 |
A mostly-very-good collection of essays to mark the 350th anniversary of the Royal Society. The contributions by James Gleick, Margaret Atwood, Richard Holmes, Richard Fortey, and Neal Stephenson were those I liked best. ( )
  JBD1 | Jun 23, 2019 |
Right from the start, the dishonesty of the book's title was an extreme aggravation to me. It takes a mildly amusing collection of essays and contorts them into a cheap marketing gimmick - selling them as something more grandiose and more thorough than they really are. I had at least hoped the essays themselves would have had some bearing on the title of the book, though this was frequently not the case.

In broad terms there are really two books here: one, a collection of essays on science and its history (in a simple, popularized format for those of us with slim forebrains) and the other, an assortment of rambling platitudes from the departments of arts&humanities. These belong more to the domain of literary criticism than science - they dwell heavily on personal feelings and attitudes towards science, and make a great deal of irrelevant connections that never seem to come to any point.

For example, though a lot of readers seemed to like the Margaret Atwood essay, I can hardly see why. While tracing out the literary history of the mad scientist, she ultimately reinforces rather than repudiates the cliche, and does little to contrast the stereotype with science actually applied. It is a literary essay wrapped between a host of personal anecdotes and specious ethical dilemmas.

One essay concerns itself almost entirely with theology; another attempts to vindicate some obscure philosophical views of leibnitz with tortured reinterpretations of modern science. it reminded me of religious scholars who pretend to discover modern laws of physics in their antiquated books. One essay harps endlessly on seeing a picture of the earth from outside... and how stultifying it is, for some inexplicable reason. There follows a brief essay on eschatology...

What does science mean to _us_, where is _our_ place in the universe, how can we _cope_ with this knowledge, where does science leave heaven? These sorts of meaningless open-ended questions are better suited to an introductory philosophy course than either a science or a history book, but it characterizes the tenor of many of these essays. Now you may enjoy that sort of thing personally, but it has no bearing on the purported subject of the book, and it doesn't justify its placement on the science shelf of the bookstore.

All that being said, there are a lot of genuinely good essays here, both scientific and historical, that are worth reading. They just deserved a better book. ( )
  the_lemur | Nov 9, 2017 |
This collection included some excellent essays as well as a handful that sagged. I would have appreciated a bit more unity as only very liberally defined threads hold the collection together and very rarely do the authors seem to be in conversation with one another. ( )
  StefanieBrookTrout | Feb 4, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 14 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Bryson, BillEditorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Atwood, MargaretContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Ball, PhilipContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Barrow, John D.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Benford, GregoryContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Davies, PaulContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Dawkins, RichardContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Ferry, GeorginaContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Fortey, RichardContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Gee, MaggieContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Gleick, JamesContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Goldstein, Rebecca NewbergerContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Holmes, RichardContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Jones, SteveContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Morton, OliverContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Petroski, HenryContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Rees, MartinContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Schaffer, SimonContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Schneider, Stephen H.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Stephenson, NealContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Stewart, IanContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Wertheim, MargaretContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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The edition (of "Gulliver's Travels") I read was not a child's version, of the kind that dwells on the cute little people and the funny giant people and the talking horses, but dodges any mention of nipples and urination, and downplays the excrement.
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As editor of "Seeing Further," Bryson has rounded up an extraordinary roster of scientists who write and writers who know science in order to celebrate 350 years of the Royal Society, Britain's scientific national academy. The contributors include Margaret Atwood, Steve Jones, Richard Dawkins, James Gleick, Richard Holmes, and Neal Stephenson, among many others, on subjects ranging from metaphysics to nuclear physics, from the threatened endtimes of flu and climate change to our evolving ideas about the nature of time itself, from the hidden mathematics that rule the universe to the cosmological principle that guides "Star Trek."

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