February Book Club: A Beautiful Question by Frank Wilczek

This is the non-fiction book club selection for February, We will be meeting at the home of Gillian Trowbridge, 24 Cricket Place., February 9th and 23rd.  All are welcome to join in these thoughtful discussions.


Artists as well as scientists throughout human history have pondered this “beautiful question.” With Nobel laureate Frank Wilczek as your guide, embark on a voyage of related discoveries, from Plato and Pythagoras up to the present. Wilczek’s groundbreaking work in quantum physics was inspired by his intuition to look for a deeper order of beauty in nature. In fact, every major advance in his career came from this intuition: to assume that the universe embodies beautiful forms, forms whose hallmarks are symmetry—harmony, balance, proportion—and economy. There are other meanings of “beauty,” but this is the deep logic of the universe—and it is no accident that it is also at the heart of what we find aesthetically pleasing and inspiring.

Wilczek is hardly alone among great scientists in charting his course using beauty as his compass. As he reveals in A Beautiful Question, this has been the heart of scientific pursuit from Pythagoras, the ancient Greek who was the first to argue that “all things are number,” to Galileo, Newton, Maxwell, Einstein, and into the deep waters of twentieth century physics. Though the ancients weren’t right about everything, their ardent belief in the music of the spheres has proved true down to the quantum level. Indeed, Wilczek explores just how intertwined our ideas about beauty and art are with our scientific understanding of the cosmos.

Wilczek brings us right to the edge of knowledge today, where the core insights of even the craziest quantum ideas apply principles we all understand. The equations for atoms and light are almost literally the same equations that govern musical instruments and sound; the subatomic particles that are responsible for most of our mass are determined by simple geometric symmetries. The universe itself, suggests Wilczek, seems to want to embody beautiful and elegant forms. Perhaps this force is the pure elegance of numbers, perhaps the work of a higher being, or somewhere between. Either way, we don’t depart from the infinite and infinitesimal after all; we’re profoundly connected to them, and we connect them. When we find that our sense of beauty is realized in the physical world, we are discovering something about the world, but also something about ourselves.

Gorgeously illustrated, A Beautiful Question is a mind-shifting book that braids the age-old quest for beauty and the age-old quest for truth into a thrilling synthesis. It is a dazzling and important work from one of our best thinkers, whose humor and infectious sense of wonder animate every page. Yes: The world is a work of art, and its deepest truths are ones we already feel, as if they were somehow written in our souls.

January Bookclub: The Drunkard’s Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives by Leonard  Mlodinow

The meetings in January will be at the home of Ed Adams, January 12 and at the home of Brian Ling January 26, both at 2pm.  Everyojanuary-book-clubne is welcome to join us for these interesting discussions.

With the born storyteller’s command of narrative and imaginative approach, Leonard Mlodinow vividly demonstrates how our lives are profoundly informed by chance and randomness and how everything from wine ratings and corporate success to school grades and political polls are less reliable than we believe.

By showing us the true nature of chance and revealing the psychological illusions that cause us to misjudge the world around us, Mlodinow gives us the tools we need to make more informed decisions. From the classroom to the courtroom and from financial markets to supermarkets, Mlodinow’s intriguing and illuminating look at how randomness, chance, and probability affect our daily lives will intrigue, awe, and inspire.

DECEMBER BOOK SELECTION: SAPIENS – BY YUVAL HARARI

Note the December 22nd meeting will be held at the home of Gord & Helen Drew, 408-1742 Ravenwood Drive.

This is the book selection for the December meetings of the non-fiction bookclub being held at the home of Gillie Trowbridge, 24 Cricket Place, Peterborough on the 8th & 22nd at 2pm. All are welcome to attend and enjoy the discussion of this fascinating book!

100,000 years ago, at least six human species inhabited the earth. Today there is just one. Us. Homo sapiens. How did our species succeed in the battle for dominance? Why did our foraging ancestors come together to create cities and kingdoms? How did we come to believe in gods, nations and human rights; to trust money, books and laws; and to be enslaved by bureaucracy, timetables and consumerism? And what will our world be like in the millennia to come? In Sapiens, Dr Yuval Noah Harari spans the whole of human history, from the very first humans to walk the earth to the radical – and sometimes devastating – breakthroughs of the Cognitive, Agricultural and Scientific Revolutions. Drawing on insights from biology, anthropology, palaeontology and economics, he explores how the currents of history have shaped our human societies, the animals and plants around us, and even our personalities. Have we become happier as history has unfolded? Can we ever free our behaviour from the heritage of our ancestors? And what, if anything, can we do to influence the course of the centuries to come? Bold, wide-ranging and provocative, Sapiens challenges everything we thought we knew about being human: our thoughts, our actions, our power … and our future.                                                                           sapiens-2016

January 2016: Unlikely Utopia, by Michael Adams

The January meetings of the book club will be January 8th and 22nd at 2pm at the home of Ed Adams, 1042 Oriole Dr. Our book this month is Unlikely Utopia by Michael Adams. Around the world, sectarian tensions divide societies, sometimes erupting into violent...

November 2015: The Art of Stillness, by Pico Iyer

Our book this month is The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere, by Pico Iver. It considers the unexpected adventure of staying put, and reveals a counterintuitive truth: the more ways we have to connect, the more we seem desperate to unplug.