Lush with ideas and bold in its analysis of the status quo, this book reorients our view of science and the universe.

FEAR OF A BLACK UNIVERSE

AN OUTSIDER'S GUIDE TO THE FUTURE OF PHYSICS

A renowned cosmologist argues that empowering scientific outsiders and taking risks on nontraditional ideas will result in transformative science.

“I hope to convince my readers that diversity in science is not simply a social justice concern, but that it enhances the quality of the science we accomplish.” So writes Brown University physics professor Alexander, the 2020 president of the National Society of Black Physicists as well as an electronic musician, at the beginning of this captivating scientific journey. He points out that deviance often results in innovation, and women and minorities often innovate more, leading to a logical conclusion: “Perhaps it is time to value and elevate minorities, thus enabling them to make major contributions, not in spite of their outsider’s perspective, but because of it.” The author’s own contributions include unraveling the mysteries of the early universe and advancing ideas relating to quantum gravity, and he deftly explains these and more in accessible and often personal prose. But it’s Alexander’s enthusiasm for seriously exploring theories on the frontier of physics that makes this more exciting than most similar books: Are life and the universe truly decoupled? Did the wave function of the universe undergo self-observation at its realization, and was this a form of cosmic proto-consciousness? The author draws on research from a variety of disciplines—physics, cosmology, biology, philosophy—to bolster his compelling arguments. As he shows, the current models of our universe—and the theories scientists use to construct them—may be called into question, requiring creative, interdisciplinary thinking to resolve. This beautiful and surprising book will leave readers wanting to learn more about the author and his mind-bending ideas, and it makes a perfect complement to Chanda Prescod-Weinstein’s recent book, The Disordered Cosmos.

Lush with ideas and bold in its analysis of the status quo, this book reorients our view of science and the universe.

Pub Date: Aug. 31, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5416-9963-2

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: May 28, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2021

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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A refreshing celebrity memoir focused not strictly on the self but on a much larger horizon.

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WILL

One of Hollywood’s biggest stars delivers a memoir of success won through endless, relentless work and self-reckoning.

“My imagination is my gift, and when it merges with my work ethic, I can make money rain from the heavens.” So writes Smith, whose imagination is indeed a thing of wonder—a means of coping with fear, an abusive father with the heart of a drill instructor, and all manner of inner yearnings. The author’s imagination took him from a job bagging ice in Philadelphia to initial success as a partner in the Grammy-winning rap act DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince. Smith was propelled into stardom thanks to the ministrations of Quincy Jones, who arranged an audition in the middle of his own birthday party, bellowing “No paralysis through analysis!” when Smith begged for time to prepare. The mantra—which Jones intoned 50-odd times during the two hours it took for the Hollywood suits to draw up a contract for the hit comedy series The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air—is telling, for hidden within this memoir lies a powerful self-help book. For Smith, all of life is a challenge in which one’s feelings are largely immaterial. “I watched my father’s negative emotions seize control of his ample intellect and cause him over and over again to destroy beautiful parts of our family,” he writes, good reason for him to sublimate negativity in the drive to get what he wanted—money, at first, and lots of it, which got him in trouble with the IRS in the early 1990s. Smith, having developed a self-image that cast him as a coward, opines that one’s best life is lived by facing up to the things that hold us back. “I’ve been making a conscious effort to attack all the things that I’m scared of,” he writes, adding, “And this is scary.” It’s a good lesson for any aspiring creative to ponder—though it helps to have Smith’s abundant talent, too.

A refreshing celebrity memoir focused not strictly on the self but on a much larger horizon.

Pub Date: Nov. 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-984877-92-5

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 9, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2021

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