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At the Edge of Uncertainty: 11 Discoveries Taking Science by Surprise by Michael Brooks

Buy At the Edge of Uncertainty: 11 Discoveries Taking Science by Surprise by Michael Brooks at Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

Category: Popular Science
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Gloria Nneoma Onwuneme
Reviewed by Gloria Nneoma Onwuneme
Summary: In his latest book, Michael Brooks succeeds in guiding his readers right to the arcs constituting the science world’s edge of uncertainty. Makes for a thrilling read.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 256 Date: July 2014
Publisher: Profile Books
ISBN: 9781781251270

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Eleven Discoveries are introduced and explored in Michael Brooks’ At the Edge of Uncertainty, spanning all from the expansion of epigenetics, the possibility of creating a hypercomputer, and the unveiling of the true nature of the universe. Some of the hypotheses currently being investigated by our contemporary scientific community are baffling enough in themselves: Is our universe a hologram of an extra-dimensional universe? Are the mechanisms governing photosynthesis and human olfaction in fact one and the same? Just how well-established are animal personalities and cultures, if such exist? Is a human ‘will to live’ something which can be attributed to discernible biological responses and systems? Is time an illusion?

More baffling still are the huge number of substantial leads and solutions offered up by key players in the fields of quantum physics, evolutionary biology, philosophy and neurology. If they do not directly call on interdisciplinary actions, these discoveries are, at the very least, composed of solitary insights which echo each other across several disciplines. The neuroscientific phenomenon of change blindness (one which virtually leaves us ‘blind’ for 4 hours of every day) and the machines poised to reveal the holographic nature of ‘reality’ both suggest that we can’t be too certain of the fixedness of reality. Ideas held by philosophers, in conjunction with the tricks of the trade of computer science, show that maybe consciousness is simply this perfectly artificially reproducible... thing! Some discoveries are particularly fruitful, even giving rise to entirely new fields; the proposed branch of psychoneuroimmunology is a great example, which would mainly deal with how intricate and independent systems act in concert to create a ‘will to live’.

Brooks succeeds in taking his readers right to the very humbling ends of uncertainty. Cultures and personalities are probably not privy to humans; they may, in fact, be so strongly present in animals that they skew the medical research results which they generate – in extremely unexpected ways. Clinical research really needs to appreciate, and account for, just how much gender differences affect the presentation of diseases, the beneficial effect of drugs, and even the efficacy of trial subjects’ immune systems. Geneticists and other medical researchers may need to be more cautious in the quest for cultivating human organs in animals. Already, Brooks is able to offer some mildly disconcerting glimpses of the ‘chimera era’ which such developments herald.

The sense of wonder one undoubtedly will feel, however, makes the book a real pleasure to read. As one learns of the possibility that genes exploit quantum tricks, that we’re approaching a more complete picture of the origins of the universe, that we may be able to see the realisation of hypercomputers… it’s difficult not to appreciate the decades, people and ideas which have led us to this point. While it may seem that, so far, uncertainty has simply paved roads for more uncertainty, Brooks makes the journey that is “At the Edge of Uncertainty” a most enjoyable one.

Your quest for scientific knowledge shouldn't stop here! Have a look at Brooks' 2008 book 13 Things that Don't Make Sense: The Most Baffling Scientific Mysteries of Our Time for more.

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Buy At the Edge of Uncertainty: 11 Discoveries Taking Science by Surprise by Michael Brooks at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy At the Edge of Uncertainty: 11 Discoveries Taking Science by Surprise by Michael Brooks at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.


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