Reviews elsewhere on the web:
Anoop Sarkar
Time Magazine
New Scientist

Freeman Dyson

Infinite in all directions

Infinite in all directions by Freeman Dyson is a version of his 1985 Gifford Lectures, which were entitled 'In Praise of diversity'. The first part of the book looks at diversity in science, looking at such varied topics as string theory, black holes, the Oort Cloud and the matamorphosis of butterflies - and that's just one lecture. Dyson goes on to compare the position of Athens in Greek science with that of Manchester in the industrial revolution an there are chapters looking at the beginning of life on earth as well as the ultimate fate of the universe.

The second part of the book looks at diversity in human affairs, but from a scientist's point of view. Dyson spends a few chapters looking at the problems of big projects, such as space missions, and shows how a large number of smaller projects usually produce better value for money. In the later chapters of the book Dyson gives his opinions on nuclear weapons and other cold war issues - possibly a bit out of date now. I felt that the book did suffer a bit from Dyson's tendency to jump from one subject to another without spending a sufficient time on any, but it does have an extensive list of further reading for those interested in a particular topic. Dyson is a significant figure in the scientific world, and if you want to find out his opinions on a large number of subjects then this book would be a good place to start.

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Paperback 352 pages  
ISBN: 0060728892
Salesrank: 547457
Weight:0.62 lbs
Published: 2004 Harper Perennial
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Paperback 352 pages  
ISBN: 0060728892
Salesrank: 2218337
Weight:0.62 lbs
Published: 2004 HarperCollins
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Paperback 352 pages  
ISBN: 0060728892
Salesrank: 475382
Weight:0.62 lbs
Published: 2004 Harper Perennial
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Product Description

Infinite in All Directions is a popularized science at its best. In Dyson's view, science and religion are two windows through which we can look out at the world around us.

The book is a revised version of a series of the Gifford Lectures under the title "In Praise of Diversity" given at Aberdeen, Scotland. They allowed Dyson the license to express everything in the universe, which he divided into two parts in polished prose: focusing on the diversity of the natural world as the first, and the diversity of human reactions as the second half.

Chapter 1 is a brief explanation of Dyson's attitudes toward religion and science. Chapter 2 is a oneā€“hour tour of the universe that emphasizes the diversity of viewpoints from which the universe can be encountered as well as the diversity of objects which it contains. Chapter 3 is concerned with the history of science and describes two contrasting styles in science: one welcoming diversity and the other deploring it. He uses the cities of Manchester and Athens as symbols of these two ways of approaching science. Chapter 4, concerned with the origin of life, describes the ideas of six illustrious scientists who have struggled to understand the nature of life from various points of view. Chapter 5 continues the discussion of the nature and evolution of life. The question of why life characteristically tends toward extremes of diversity remains central in all attempts to understand life's place in the universe. Chapter 6 is an exercise in eschatology, trying to define possible futures for life and for the universe, from here to infinity. In this chapter, Dyson crosses the border between science and science fiction and he frames his speculations in a slightly theological context.