336 pages, 8 halftones. 41 line illus. 2 tables
The Grand Contraption tells the story of humanity's attempts through 4,000 years of written history to make sense of the world in its cosmic totality, to understand its physical nature, and to know its real and imagined inhabitants. No other book has provided as coherent, compelling, and learned a narrative on this subject of subjects. David Park takes us on an incredible journey that illuminates the multitude of elaborate "contraptions" by which humans in the Western world have imagined the earth they inhabit--and what lies beyond. Intertwining history, religion, philosophy, literature, and the physical sciences, this eminently readable book is, ultimately, about the "grand contraption" we've constructed through the ages in an effort to understand and identify with the universe.
Through flood myths and daimones (guardian angels), and the interplay of the elements--earth, air, fire and water--Park lovingly charts the history of how we imagines Earth and out place in its surroundings. -- Paul Nettleton The Guardian Bring Homer and Einstein, Aristotle and Columbus into one timeless room (with translators), and their conversation would likely turn to the themes of this astonishingly capacious history of cosmology... An exhilarating intellectual adventure. Booklist In this comprehensive and fascinating book, Park reviews how theologians, philosophers, and mathematicians have attempted to explain subjects ranging from the creation of life to the nature of matter and the structure of the universe... Park gives a comprehensive and readable overview of the 'grand contraption' that is the universe. Science News The Grand Contraption is a masterful presentation of the long timelines in the history of cosmology. It is a remarkable book on the development of the worldview from chaos to cosmos, and from the most ancient cultures to modern time. -- Helge Kragh Physics Today There is no practical way, of course, to pack all human understanding into a single volume, and Park doesn't try. Instead, he traces our evolving lines of reasoning, at least those emerging in the Western world, from early myth through the emergence of modern philosophy to the establishment of scientific method... From person to person, period to period, Park threads together how myths were jettisoned for fact, how fact turned out to be more fabulous than myth. -- Scott LaFee San Diego Union-Tribune [A] well-written history of human thought. -- Herbert E. Kasube MathDL This book celebrates the formation of ideas based on myth, religion, aesthetics, logic and mathematics as they have evolved over the past four thousand years... David Park is a fabulous guide through the history of these ideas and the minds of the great participants. -- B. I. Henry Australian Physics By abandoning any attempt to construct a neat plot, Park has avoided the temptation to trace out a progressive line leading inexorably toward modern science, and the book's meandering structure itself recalls the nondirectional pattern of scientific change... Park's decision to be guided by personal choice and serendipity has led him to construct a meta-commentary on scienceA's history. -- Patricia Fara Isis
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