Quantum physics does not sit lightly on the brain. In fact, Schrödinger's cat, a feline in an opaque box who's paradoxically both dead and alive, was created by Erwin Schrödinger to help people conceptualize the quantum possibilities of both/and, instead of the more common either/or. Still, the new science doesn't find an easy mental perch. Ergo, the need for, and elegant achievement of, this book.
The main text is made up of short essays on specific ideas, forming an encyclopedia of the new sciences, but the book starts off with four clear and engaging overview essays. "Kinds of Being" introduces ancient, classical, and quantum physics, followed by "Order in Science and Thought," which surveys ideas of complexity, such as chaos, evolution, and games theory. "The New Sciences of the Mind" is next, attempting to answer questions like "What is a mind? What is awareness? Must a mind, to be a mind, be conscious?" and "The Cosmic Canopy" is the last of the introductory essays, dealing with high-energy phenomena in cosmology and particle physics. Once you've chewed these chapters over, you're ready to access the nearly 200 specific questions and concepts in the A-to-Z, which makes up the bulk of the book, starting with Absolute Zero and wending its way through Entropy, Lamarckism, and Planck's Constant, Quantum Gravity, Reductionism, and Supersymmetry to Wormholes and Wrinkles in the Microwave.
The book is excellently cross-referenced, and the advanced ideas of science are discussed intelligently and explained concisely, cutting through the jargon to bring the fascination of the concepts into lucid focus. --Stephanie Gold [via]