Thursday, August 15, 2002

Is This Book Void?

Gosh, I seem to be running through a number of disappointing books. Each has an interesting premise, the presentation (or marketing if you will) of the book is tantalizing, and when I dig in and read, I'm either disappointed or annoyed. Case in point:

Patterns In The Void: Why Nothing Is Important by Sten Odenwald. I was hoping for a discussion of all the things which a 'vacuum' actually contains, from dimensionality to virtual particles. And it looks like he will cover all that as the book progresses. But the first chapter bodes ill for the rest of the book, as he spends inordinate amounts of time soliloquizing over how we fear the dark, how the Incas had constellations which were outlined by the dark spaces in the Milky Way, and how we might transform our fear of the void by understanding how powerful and lively it is.

The science books I've enjoyed have generally been written by authors who recognized that philosophy can, if you`re not careful, dilute the point of science. Pondering, pontificating, telling us why we are all afraid of the dark, just distracts from the interesting stuff. Only a very skillful writer can mix philosophy and science. I'm not ready to put the book down yet, but reading that first chapter definitely gave me a sinking feeling.

As an aside, I commented to Jean this morning that the author had a gloomy outlook because he is Scandinavian, in keeping with my running joke about being Finnish and entitled to dour moods...

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