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When Einstein Walked with Gödel

When Einstein Walked with Gödel

Excursions to the Edge of Thought

Jim Holt

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

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From Jim Holt, the New York Times bestselling author of Why Does the World Exist?, comes an entertaining and accessible guide to the most profound scientific and mathematical ideas of recent centuries in When Einstein Walked with Gödel: Excursions to the Edge of Thought.

Does time exist? What is infinity? Why do mirrors reverse left and right but not up and down? In this scintillating collection, Holt explores the human mind, the cosmos, and the thinkers who’ve tried to encompass the latter with the former. With his trademark clarity and humor, Holt probes the mysteries of quantum mechanics, the quest for the foundations of mathematics, and the nature of logic and truth. Along the way, he offers intimate biographical sketches of celebrated and neglected thinkers, from the physicist Emmy Noether to the computing pioneer Alan Turing and the discoverer of fractals, Benoit Mandelbrot. Holt offers a painless and playful introduction to many of our most beautiful but least understood ideas, from Einsteinian relativity to string theory, and also invites us to consider why the greatest logician of the twentieth century believed the U.S. Constitution contained a terrible contradiction—and whether the universe truly has a future.

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When Einstein Walked with Gödel


In 1933, with his great scientific discoveries behind him, Albert Einstein came to America. He spent the last twenty-two years of his life in Princeton, New Jersey, where he had been...

Praise for When Einstein Walked with Gödel

"In these pieces, plucked from the last 20 years, Holt takes on infinity and the infinitesimal, the illusion of time, the birth of eugenics, the so-called new atheism, smartphones and distraction. It is an elegant history of recent ideas. . . . Holt is an amphibious kind of writer, so capably slipping from theology to cosmology to poetry, you’re reminded that specialization is a modern invention . . . Part of what makes Holt so exciting is his ability to gather these disciplines under his shingle, to make their knottiest questions not only intelligible but enticing, without sacrificing rigor . . . Even if the paces of a few decades (and too many I.Q. points to count) separate us from these giants, we’re lucky to have Jim Holt help us eavesdrop." —Parul Sehgal, The New York Times

"Science writing of the caliber on display in When Einstein Walked with Gödel is a boon in these times of looming scientific illiteracy. Holt makes his recondite subjects seem not only fascinating but fun." —Steve Donoghue, The Christian Science Monitor

"[A] fantastic essay collection [filled] with stories about eccentric geniuses and groundbreaking ideas at the intersection of science and philosophy . . . Holt delivers this feast of wild genius, oddball thinkers, and sheer creativity in his signature accessible style of writing and playful tone." —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

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"In these pieces, plucked from the last 20 years, Holt takes on infinity and the infinitesimal, the illusion of time, the birth of eugenics, the so-called new atheism, smartphones and distraction. It is an elegant history of recent ideas. . . . Holt is an amphibious kind of writer, so capably slipping from theology to cosmology to poetry, you’re reminded that specialization is a modern invention . . . Part of what makes Holt so exciting is his ability to gather these disciplines under his shingle, to make their knottiest questions not only intelligible but enticing, without sacrificing rigor . . . Even if the paces of a few decades (and too many I.Q. points to count) separate us from these giants, we’re lucky to have Jim Holt help us eavesdrop." —Parul Sehgal, The New York Times

"Science writing of the caliber on display in When Einstein Walked with Gödel is a boon in these times of looming scientific illiteracy. Holt makes his recondite subjects seem not only fascinating but fun." —Steve Donoghue, The Christian Science Monitor

"[A] fantastic essay collection [filled] with stories about eccentric geniuses and groundbreaking ideas at the intersection of science and philosophy . . . Holt delivers this feast of wild genius, oddball thinkers, and sheer creativity in his signature accessible style of writing and playful tone." —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

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Reviews from Goodreads

Jim Holt

Jim Holt writes about math, science, and philosophy for The New York Times, The New Yorker, The Wall Street Journal, and The New York Review of Books. His Why Does the World Exist?: An Existential Detective Story was an international bestseller.

image of Jim Holto
(C) Dominique Nabokov

Jim Holt

Read Jim Holt at the New Yorker

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

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