Archive for September, 2010

Review of The Edge of Reason by Anil Ananthaswamy

If there is one book-trip that I would like to go on, this is it! Anil Ananthaswamy takes us on a fascinating trip around the world as he explores those far frontiers where scientists are working to widen our understanding of the universe and the way it functions. The book takes us to some of the most forbidden places on the planet – from the freezing deserts of Lake Baikal in Siberia in the Northern Hemisphere and the Antarctic ice-plates in Southern Hemisphere to the arid landscape of the Karoo in South Africa, from mountaintops in Chile & the Himalayas that host observation platforms & the latest telescopes to deep underground in Minnesota & under the shadows of the Alps in Switzerland and finally to that most remote of all frontiers – the vacuum of space. The experiments being performed in all these locations is explained keeping the layman in mind, with just the right levels of technical and scientific information. Anil has a rare ability to blend the description of the landscape with the nature of the experiments being performed and bring in the human element into what is essentially a cutting-edge science experiment. Its still not easy to understand all that is going on and some of the paragraphs do have to be read twice to get a grasp, but then that is what makes this book so fascinating. Through Anil’s excellent narrative, we get a chance to travel to these exotic locations, see the landscape through the eyes of the scientists there, get a feel for the determination, the perseverance and the doggedness that drives them as they seek to expand the frontiers of our knowledge.

Anil takes the reader on a truly exhilarating journey in this book. The locations are truly extreme that they sometimes go beyond common adjectives, but its important to understand that these extremeties are only serving as intermediate stops & platforms for our finest scientists. They are the real heros of this book.

The scientific explanations behind each of the experiments is no doubt heavy stuff, but Anil is perhaps the best placed to lay it out as clear as it can get. With solid credentials as a science editor at New Scientist, Anil uses clear language and repeats his explanations in each chapter so that the reader comes away with a sense of awe at not just the location but also the nature of the experiments that are being performed.

Hats off to this book! This is clearly for the layman, though students of science will probably enjoy it more than anyone else.



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