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The Sun, The Genome and the Internet

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The Sun, The Genome and the Internet

Tools of Scientific Revolutions

Oxford UP,

15 min read
10 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

Futurists and science fiction writers described air travel, space flight and the Internet years before any of these things became reality. So when a noted Princeton professor starts talking about forests of energy-producing trees, we think you should listen.

Editorial Rating



  • Innovative


Think of this book as an engaging evening with a rather authoritarian dreamer who happens to be a distinguished scientist. Based on a series of lectures delivered at the New York Public Library in the late 1990s, the book rambles through a variegated terrain of technology, history, ethics, philosophy and family pride. It is about thinking more than it is about ideas, about wondering more than it is about thinking. Jules Verne and H.G. Wells figure prominently in the bibliography, but so do serious historians of science. recommends this slender and elegantly written book for everyone with an interest in science and a sense of the marvelous.


Science: Pure Versus Applied

Godfrey Hardy, the famous mathematician and Cambridge professor, abhorred applied science and boasted that he had never done anything in his life that could be considered useful. In his book, A Mathematician’s Apology, he wrote: "A science is said to be useful if its development tends to accentuate the existing inequalities in the distribution of wealth, or more directly promotes the destruction of human life." Hardy’s statement is often true, and all applied scientists must take his warning seriously. Yet science can be useful without being harmful.

John Randall, an undistinguished young English physicist, rose to glory in 1939 by inventing the cavity magnetron that made microwave radar a practical reality - and gave a crucial advantage to British and American forces in the war against Hitler. After the war, Randall turned his attention to molecular biology, created a department in the field at King’s College London, and pioneered X-ray crystallography. Randall’s work with cavity magnetrons resonated through the fields of astronomy and nuclear physics, while his work with X-ray crystallography led directly to the discovery and explanation...

About the Author

Freeman J. Dyson is Professor Emeritus of Physics at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton University. He is the author of Disturbing the Universe, Infinite in All Directions, Weapons and Hope, and many other books. He is a recipient of the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Phi Beta Kappa Award in science, among many other honors. He lives in Princeton, N.J.

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