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Brilliant but not for beginners

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 25-12-19

If you have already read quite a lot about Quantum Mechanics in Pop Science and enjoy Sean Carroll in particular (and the 'many worlds interpretation') you will benefit from this book. I enjoyed it but some sections about how various calculations are made, were frankly rather too specialist for me. No matter. I will listen to them several times over. It gives me the feeling that despite being a complete non-scientist and non-specialists, I have crawled up the learning curve a little.

2 people found this helpful

Excellent narrative of the fall of Rome

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 25-12-19

I tend to disagree with the author's anti-catastrophist view of the end of the Roman Empire but this is a brilliant, indeed a spell-bind account, with lots of new angles on the story. A non-specialist should be able to enjoy it with no difficulty,

A quantum masterpiece

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 31-10-19

Reading pop science on quantum physics is a favourite hobby of mine though my background is firmly in the humanities. I had not heard of Adam Becker until he was interviewed on Sean Carroll's excellent podcast and though he is a popular science writer, it was clear that Carroll held him in high regard and wouldn't do this lightly when quantum mechanics is being discussed. So I bought this book and fine it is genuinely excellent. It is very well written and the exposition of the scientific ideas involved is outstandingly clear. The author himself unlike some science writers stays in the background himself, but gives excellent biographical detail on the leading figures, Nils Bohr, David Bohm, Werner Heisenberg, Albert Einstein. Becker's account of Nils Bohr and his consequences is marvellously full and lucid but is also deliberately slightly under-stated, all of which adds up to a devastating portrait which contrasts with the triumphalist way in which the course of scientific discovery is usually presented. Becker seems to be both a scientist and a good historian-biographer and this makes for a wonderfully full and clear exposition of the rise and fall of the Copenhagen Interpretation in quantum mechanics, with related science history (e.g. the race to build the first atomic bomb) fitted neatly in. Understanding the wave function and the debates over whether it drops or not hasn't been easy for me, but this book has helped me push my grasp of these topics much further. It is an immense pleasure to read. Strongly recommended. You'lll probably want to read this book several times, and will enjoy it as you do.

Very badly read

Overall
1 out of 5 stars
Performance
1 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 05-01-18

These stories are hard to judge when they are read so very badly with an awful intonation which tramples over the flow of the prose and gets to be very stilted and dreary. I am listening to it for a second time and I doubt I will be able to stomach the whole book.

1 person found this helpful

A brilliant narrative

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 27-08-17

What made the experience of listening to Barbarians Within the Gates of Rome the most enjoyable?

I think I know my fourth and fifth century history pretty well and have followed the literature and debates on the period in recent books as closely as I can. I have to confess that I had never heard of Thomas S Burns or this book, but after listening to this account I feel I know and understand the events which led up to the Sack of Rome (410) and the foundation of a Visigothic kingdom in south western Gaul in 418 very well. A crucial and confusing period has become familiar and comprehensible.

What did you like best about this story?

The narrative is clear, scholarly, and compelling. The account of Alaric's campaigns reminded me, with its cogency and tautness, of Norman Stone's classic account of a very different war, 'The Eastern Front' in World War One. Am I the only one who thinks it is truly masterly?

What about Charles Craig’s performance did you like?

It's clear but I was upset by his pronunciation of many Latin and Gothic names. 'Ammianus Marcellinus' ought not to come out as 'A-meen-us' for example. Why do readers never check these things?

Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

I was frankly horrified. This is truly one of the great turning points in world history and Burns seems to pass an enormous magnifying glass over it, showing how human folly and selfishness (the Emperor Honorius) caused a misfortune to evolve steadily into a cataclysmic disaster which -- my view perhaps not Burns's-- might possibly have been avoided

Any additional comments?

I'd strongly recommend all readers of Late Roman History to ignore the reviews that some rival academics with much narrower vision have given Burns and read -- and enjoy --- this book. For me this book is a landmark in my understanding of the end of the Roman Empire in the West, to be read as a supplement to Peter Heather's great work. (But please can we go back to the old, normal, format for writing reviews. This new format seems a bit like Noddy in Toyland.