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the Complete Review
the complete review - science

The Sun, the Genome,
and the Internet

Freeman Dyson

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To purchase The Sun, the Genome, and the Internet

Title: The Sun, the Genome, and the Internet
Author: Freeman Dyson
Genre: Science
Written: 1999
Length: 134 pages
Availability: The Sun, the Genome, and the Internet - US
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  • Tools of Scientific Revolutions
  • Based on Lectures given at the New York Public Library in 1997, and published in conjunction with the NYPL.

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Our Assessment:

B : interesting ideas, well conveyed -- but far too little.

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Nature A- 29/4/1999 Walter Gratzer
New Scientist A- 26/6/1999 Marcus Chown
Technology Review A- 9-10/1999 Wade Roush

  From the Reviews:
  • "You may not always agree with Dyson's view of the future, but this fascinating book by one of the great scientific visionaries of our time will certainly make you think" - Marcus Chown, New Scientist

  • "Dyson's arguments are illuminating even if his strictures are sometimes less than just," - Walter Gratzer, Nature

  • "It's been a long time since a respectable scientist voiced such grand aspirations in print, making Dyson's book refreshing and thought-provoking, if a bit farfetched." - Wade Roush, Technology Review

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       We have always admired Freeman Dyson highly. A talented scientist with many interests he has also managed to convey his interests and thoughts in his thoughtful and accessible writing. From the brilliant (and brilliantly titled) Disturbing the Universe to the present he has never failed to be provocative and insightful -- and to express himself well.
       This small book, based on lectures given at the New York Public Library in 1997 again allow him to share his interesting thoughts with a wider audience. Meandering about through three chapters Dyson discusses the tools of scientific revolutions (so the subtitle of the book). Suggesting how science advances and could advance in the future, as well as the unexpected consequences of advancement, Dyson offers his broad and unusual perspective on significant questions facing the world.
       Dyson's greatest asset as a scientist and thinker is his openness to all possibilities. He understands that the unexpected is often the most likely of outcomes, and he is prepared to entertain that and most other possibilities. Dyson does not insist on being right, as so many scientists do, or get bogged down in a single idea. He truly is interested in the big picture, and is more than willing to acknowledge when he strays down the wrong path (as he does here in cheerfully recounting his 1985 guesses as to the three most important technologies of the coming century).
       Dyson is also a humanist in the broadest sense of the word. His writing always shows his humanist background (nowhere more clearly than in Disturbing the Universe, though it is also evident hear). In addition (though perhaps one should suggest that it is something that one should expect from a scientist, as well as a humanist) his great concern for the true betterment of the human condition comes to the fore here. For Dyson one of the marvels of science is that it can make life so much better for so many, and one of his goals is to help in that regard. In this small book he also gives some examples of what has been -- and what can and should be -- done to better the conditions of the world's population.
       Dyson's thoughts are always intriguing, his examples well-chosen and fascinating. He is an admirable fellow, and this is an admirable book. Our one regret is that there is so little of it, that he breezes through these topics, touching on them but not going into great detail. Nevertheless, we can recommend it for anyone interested in the future, and the possibilities before us.

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The Sun, the Genome, and the Internet: Reviews: Freeman Dyson: Other books by Dyson under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Freeman Dyson is Professor Emeritus of Physics at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton University. Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award, he has written numerous works. He is also the father of Esther, who gets a lot of press of her own. In 2000 he was awarded the Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion -- a payday worth almost a million dollars.

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