Age of Wonder
Richard Holmes has a new book called The Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science. It’s about an interesting period (1770 to 1830) in England when there was no split between the cultures of scientists and poets. It was a very eventful period in history with some of the most intriguing characters (e.g. Banks, Herschel, & Davy) in the history of science. It’s nice to see a really first rate biographer try to tackle it all.
The New York Review of Books has a good review of the book by Freeman Dyson. He’s always full of interesting ideas. In the second half of the review, he digs into the possibility Holmes raises that we’ve recently entered a similar period driven by software billionaires instead of aristocrats. He sees a convergence of computing and biology occurring with cutting edge projects funded outside of the academic/industrial models that were established at the end of the age of wonder.
In addition, they have a podcast containing an interview with Freeman where he touches on other things he’s interested in at the moment like global warming.
Finally, here’s a list of some books I’ve enjoyed by/about Freeman Dyson.
- Disturbing the Universe – His autobiography.
- Infinite in All Directions – A collection of lectures on all sorts of topics.
- Project Orion – The story of a project he worked on to build a spacecraft powered by atomic bombs. Written by his son George.
- The Starship and the Canoe – Portrait of the relationship between Freeman and his son George. Written by Kenneth Brower.
- Ringworld – A classic science fiction novel based on one of Freeman’s crazier ideas. Written by Larry Niven.