This really is something of an anomaly for me. I'm usually in the middle of reading five or six books at any given time, and actually getting to the last page of any of them is a rare event. But I managed to plug through The Peter Principle, Outliers, The Peacekeepers and Zeno's Paradox.
But today I'm writing about a book titled Zeno's Paradox (by Joseph Mazur). The thing that caught my eye on this book was its subtitle: Unraveling the ancient mystery behind the science of space and time. Now, I've always wanted to unravel the ancient mystery behind the science of space and time, and was quite happy to find a book that could do it for me. I have to say, I wasn't disappointed.
The book presents an overview of how scientific thought developed, beginning with the Greeks and drawing a (relatively) straight line to the latest theories of quantuum dynamics and particle physics. It was a heck of a read - very story based, like Gladwell, but not afraid to include some equations (algabra & calculus!). There's also quite a bit about the psychology of perception, a topic I'm deeply interested in. In fact, that's sort of the core question behind it all. Is the universe continuous or not? Does time and space flow smoothly, or is it merely a series of discrete events? Is motion an illusion? Is time? Whoa... that's some deep stuff.
I wish I'd read this book in high school, or at least in college. Not that I would have fully understood and appreciated it back them, but it might have helped bring to life the mystery, passion and personalities behind the development of scientific and mathematical thought. The guys who came up with all these weird equations and laws that I had to memorize - these guys were deeply curious about how the universe works. They were doing stuff because they wanted to, not because some professor was insisting on it. They were challenging conventional thought. They were pretty darn cool.
So - Zeno's Paradox, by Joseph Mazur, gets two big thumbs up. I'd suggest going to your local book store to pick up a copy, but unfortunately before you get there, you'd have to travel half the distance... and then half the remaining distance... and you'd never actually arrive. Thank goodness for the internet - you can order the book without actually trying to go anywhere - and hey, motion is an illusion anyway, right?