When We Cease to Understand the World
by Benjamin Labatut, translated by Adrian Nathan West
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“It has a very innovative form. It’s a series of linked pieces, each one part-essay, part-story, part-biographical account of great minds, geniuses, who—according to this account—seem always on the verge of collapsing into madness as they unlock the secrets of the universe. What I took away from this book, is a new understanding that mathematics and physics, like language, are symbolic systems. And none of those systems are really capable of containing the strangeness of the actual substance, the matter, of the universe. All that a scientist can do, and all that a creative writer can do, when grappling with what Labatut calls “the dark heart” of the physical world, is create a kind of poetry. It’s a dazzlingly clever book.” Read more...
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