At the start Cranks, Quarks and the Cosmos
looks to be concerned with how to distinguish cranks from brilliant scientists - what was it about Einstein's theory of relativity that got it past the skeptics? As the book goes on however, it widens into a look at twentieth century science and scientists in general, selected from Bernstein's newspaper articles. He writes about the life and work of Erwin Schrödinger,Alan Turing, Primo Levi and Tom Lehrer, to name but a few, always examining how their work fitted in with the culture in which they lived.
Some of the chapters are based around Bernstein's interviews with scientists, others are more of the nature of comments on biographies of the scientists concerned. I had some doubts about the latter - Bernstein would criticise other books, but seemed to avoid the structure of a book review, and so would seem just to be trying to get one up on other writers. But apart from that minor criticism I felt there was much of interest in this book, and it gives fascinating look at many of the principal characters involved in creating twentieth century science, but without requiring any scientific knowledge on the part of the reader.