Skip to main content

Simplexity – Alain Berthoz **

I am at a loss after attempting to read this book. The experience was not unlike reading a pseudo-science book, where there are lots of sciency-sounding terms flung about with dramatic disregard for the science behind them. But this isn’t a pseudo-science book. There’s plenty of real science in there from a professor of physiology. I don’t know whether it’s the fact it’s a translation from the French or what – but this book was almost unreadable.
To take a simple point – what is the book about? What does this irritating compound word ‘simplexity’ mean? Although the word is used throughout, I never found a satisfactory definition. Alain Berthoz gives us plenty of examples of biological processes he considers to be ‘simplex’ but the examples of themselves don’t define the term. I’m lucky. I have a press release. So I know, according to that, that simplexity means
‘the set of solutions that living organisms find that enable them to deal with information and situations, while taking into account past experiences and anticipating future ones. Such solutions are new ways of addressing problems so that actions may be taken more quickly, more elegantly, and more efficiently.’
That’s okay, then. But I really haven’t a clue what this book was saying. It was impossible to get much from it. The subtitle is ‘simplifying principles for a complex world’ which makes it sound really practical and useful. Sorry. Baffled. I need some complicity.
(Please note this is a different book to the remarkably similarly titled Simplexity: the simple rules of a complex world by Jeffrey Kluger.)

Hardback 

Kindle 
Review by Brian Clegg

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Beyond Weird - Philip Ball *****

It would be easy to think 'Surely we don't need another book on quantum physics.' There are loads of them. Anyone should be happy with The Quantum Age on applications and the basics, Cracking Quantum Physics for an illustrated introduction or In Search of Schrödinger's Cat for classic history of science coverage. Don't be fooled, though - because in Beyond Weird, Philip Ball has done something rare in my experience until Quantum Sense and Nonsense came along. It makes an attempt not to describe quantum physics, but to explain why it is the way it is.

Historically this has rarely happened. It's true that physicists have come up with various interpretations of quantum physics, but these are designed as technical mechanisms to bridge the gap between theory and the world as we see it, rather than explanations that would make sense to the ordinary reader.

Ball does not ignore the interpretations, though he clearly isn't happy with any of them. He seems to come clo…

Jim Baggott - Four Way Interview

Jim Baggott is a freelance science writer. He trained as a scientist, completing a doctorate in physical chemistry at Oxford in the early 80s, before embarking on post-doctoral research studies at Oxford and at Stanford University in California. He gave up a tenured lectureship at the University of Reading after five years in order to gain experience in the commercial world. He worked for Shell International Petroleum for 11 years before leaving to establish his own business consultancy and training practice. He writes about science, science history and philosophy in what spare time he can find. His books include Atomic: The First War of Physics and the Secret History of the Atom Bomb (2009), Higgs: The Invention and Discovery of the ‘God Particle’ (2012), Mass: The Quest to Understand Matter from Greek Atoms to Quantum Fields (2017), and, most recently, Quantum Space: Loop Quantum Gravity and the Search for the Structure of Space, Time, and the Universe (2018). For more info see: www…

Quantum Space: Jim Baggott *****

There's no doubt that Jim Baggott is one of the best popular science writers currently active. He specialises in taking really difficult topics and giving a more in-depth look at them than most of his peers. The majority of the time he achieves with a fluid writing style that remains easily readable, though inevitably there are some aspects that are difficult for the readers to get their heads around - and this is certainly true of his latest title Quantum Space, which takes on loop quantum gravity.

As Baggott points out, you could easily think that string theory was the only game in town when it comes to the ultimate challenge in physics, finding a way to unify the currently incompatible general theory of relativity and quantum theory. Between them, these two behemoths of twentieth century physics underlie the vast bulk of physics very well - but they simply can't be put together. String theory (and its big brother M-theory, which as Baggott points out, is not actually a the…