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Jim Vaughan

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  • Lost in Math

  • How Beauty Leads Physics Astray
  • By: Sabine Hossenfelder
  • Narrated by: Laura Jennings
  • Length: 8 hrs and 40 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars 9
  • Performance
    3.5 out of 5 stars 7
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars 7

Whether pondering black holes or predicting discoveries at CERN, physicists believe the best theories are beautiful, natural, and elegant, and this standard separates popular theories from disposable ones. This is why, Sabine Hossenfelder argues, we have not seen a major breakthrough in the foundations of physics for more than four decades. The belief in beauty has become so dogmatic that it now conflicts with scientific objectivity: Observation has been unable to confirm mindboggling theories, like supersymmetry or grand unification, invented by physicists based on aesthetic criteria.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Interesting perspective for a hopeful physicist

  • By Michael on 11-12-18

Exciting, Challenging and Controversial.

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

Reviewed: 02-01-19

Challenging (but important) book this, both in terms of the sophisticated Physics discussed, but also the controversial thesis at its heart!

Sabine Hossenfelder is a working physicist, prepared to blow the whistle on the chronic lack of progress for the past 50 years: the failure of the LHC to find any evidence of Supersymmetry, the lack of progress in String Theory, the failure to identify Dark Matter, resolve the contradictions between Quantum Mechanics and Relativity or develop a fundamental explanation beyond the Standard Model. Meanwhile, physicists continue to churn out untestable hypotheses and hypothetical new particles with curious names. Why? The attraction to beautiful theories, and elegant maths is seductive, but may be misleading us... Beauty may not necessarily be “Truth”, but may, like music, be culturally inculcated ie. in the eye of the beholder. Hossenfelder raises the alarm that we may be drifting towards ‘post empirical science’ where rather than being led by empirical discovery, a theory’s “beauty” defined as simplicity, naturalness and elegance become the dominant criteria used to decide where to invest in research. We may be looking in the wrong places.

Throughout the book, ideas and explanations are interwoven with sometimes confrontational interviews with the likes of Stephen Weinberg (who abruptly walks out on her), Frank Wilczek, George F.R. Ellis, Nima Arkani-Hamed and Joe Polchinski among others. She asks intriguing questions such as how, in a Multiverse of all possibilities, we can know which phenomena demand explanation, and what are just brute fact. Do we need a meta theory to determine the probabilities? Naturalness confounds simplicity.

This is an important book. If you are interested in Physics, and have a fair understanding of M-Theory, SUSY, QM, Relativity and the Standard Model, you should find it interesting, even if you disagree. It is narrated clearly and enjoyably. “Lost in Math” feels like the realisation of Horgan’s “The End of Science” at a time when Science, and especially Physics has never been more popular, or more widely perceived as successful.

  • An End to Upside Down Thinking

  • Dispelling the Myth That the Brain Produces Consciousness, and the Implications for Everyday Life
  • By: Mark Gober
  • Narrated by: Mark Gober
  • Length: 11 hrs and 11 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars 11
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 8
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars 8

Consciousness creates all material reality. Biological processes do not create consciousness. This conceptual breakthrough turns traditional scientific thinking upside down. In An End to Upside Down Thinking, Mark Gober traces his journey. He explores compelling scientific evidence from a diverse set of disciplines, ranging from psychic phenomena to near-death experiences to quantum physics and beyond.   

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Yes..... but,

  • By LJLC on 06-01-19

Powerful, Challenging and Inspiring

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

Reviewed: 02-11-18

I predict you will either love or hate this book. If Materialism and Idealism are alternative frames through which to define reality, this book is a powerful and brilliantly argued case against the predominant orthodoxy of materialism, and in favour of the primary nature of consciousness as the foundation of all reality. Much of the book is a reexamination of PSI research, using quotes from scientists, researchers, statisticians and reviewers involved in academic and government research into parapsychology, and should cause one to look again at these phenomena, but for me, the best chapters were kept to last.

In these final chapters Mark Gober looks at the implications of the “consciousness first” paradigm, and the universal nature of the “I” with which all sentient beings identify. As many of our greatest minds, (eg. Schrödinger and Mach) believed, the implications are that we are One Being, living multiple diverse existences, and it is the illusion of separation and alienation of ourselves from ourselves that plagues us.

Even if you dont agree with the central premise (Im still agnostic), this book is well worth reading, if only as a challenge, and well argued alternative to the central materialist dogma of our time.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Derren Brown

  • Audible Sessions: FREE Exclusive Interview
  • By: Robin Morgan
  • Narrated by: Derren Brown
  • Length: 12 mins
  • Original Recording
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 213
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 175
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 170

The hypnotist, magician and illusionist Derren Brown tours the UK every year with a sell-out stage show, hosts must-see television specials and is the author of several books on magic and mind power. He joins Robin Morgan in the Audible Studios to discuss his latest book, Happy: Why More or Less Everything Is Absolutely Fine.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • looking forward to the book Happy but.......

  • By Stephen Waud on 01-01-17

Magic!

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

Reviewed: 22-10-17

Great series of interviews, and this one with Derren Brown is no exception. The thinking persons "David Blaine", he talks candidly about finding meaning in life, in particular in Stoicism - and his opposition to Self Help books like "The Secret", which promote 'think rich, get rich' type pseudo-psychology. I share his interest in Greek ideas on 'Eudaemonia', (the good life) and the varied philosophies of the Stoics, Epicureans, Cynics, Platonists, Aristotelians and all. This combined with his pragmatic knowledge of human psychology promises to make his new book "Happy" a good listen. I find his voice easy to listen to. Interesting interview! I shall get the book.

  • The Elephant in the Room

  • A Journey into the Trump Campaign and the "Alt-Right"
  • By: Jon Ronson
  • Narrated by: Jon Ronson
  • Length: 1 hr and 47 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 473
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 416
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 417

'But Hillary is a known Luciferian,' he tried. 'She's not a known Luciferian,' I said. 'Well, yes and no,' he said. In The Elephant in the Room, Jon Ronson, the New York Times best-selling author of The Psychopath Test, Them and So You've Been Publicly Shamed, travels to Cleveland at the height of summer to witness the Republican National Convention.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Bit short for a whole credit

  • By Mooma on 31-10-16

A Brief History of Trump - Short but Classic Ronson

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

Reviewed: 04-09-17

I love Jon Ronson's quirky, seeming innocent reporting of really disturbing phenomena, and TEITR is no exception. Penned before the US election, it ends on an upbeat note, imagining the impossibility of a Trump victory, and the confidence that the innate multiculturalism of young Americans would prevail and reject the mad racist rhetoric of the Trump campaign.

As always, Ronson explores the weird and bizarre like the "fake news" conspiracy theories spread by the people behind Trump, in particular the radio show campaigner Alex Jones and sinister Trump advisor Roger Stone. The virulence of the lies they spread, and the fact that the latter previously acted as lobbyist for several blood thirsty dictators, along with Trumps campaign manager makes for disturbing listening.

This is a very short book, and I took advantage of Audibles 40% sale to get it for a few quid, however I would have felt cheated at the full price, though it is an enjoyable listen. It confirmed my every prejudice, about the dangerous fictions of the far right, which is always satisfying, and is made even better because Jon Ronson reads it himself in his own inimical style. I recommend it but buy it at sale prices.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • The Spiritual Brain: Science and Religious Experience

  • By: Andrew Newberg, The Great Courses
  • Narrated by: Andrew Newberg
  • Length: 12 hrs and 17 mins
  • Original Recording
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 31
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 25
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 24

Does God exist? Do we have a soul? Is it possible to make contact with a spiritual realm? How should we respond to the divine? Will life continue beyond death?Most people, whether deeply religious or outright doubters of any spiritual power, have probably pondered these questions for themselves. In fact, the religious impulse is so powerfully pervasive that neuroscience has posed a provocative question: Are our brains wired to worship?

  • 1 out of 5 stars
  • Neuro-theology apparently.

  • By David on 18-01-18

Neurotheology from an Eminent Leader in the Field

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

Reviewed: 04-09-17

Prof. Newberg is one of the great names in the research of brain states and religion. His seminal work with D'Aquila on brain changes during meditation is fascinating and original and he starts the course describing his work and findings.

The course of 24 lectures goes on to examine the various functions, such as the holistic function, spacial and temporal orientation, identity functions, morality functions etc. and the brain areas responsible, which contribute to our human religious and mystical experiences, beliefs and concepts.

Whether religion can be reduced explanatorily to these brain states, or whether they point to the perception of a transcendent reality is an enjoyable philosophical thread that runs through the whole course, without ever being resolved.

The course was recorded some time ago, and advances have been made since. I would have liked more specifics eg. names for the brain areas concerned with the various functions, many of which tended to be around the parietal and temporal lobes. Specifics on the mode of action of drugs which mimic mystical states like DMT or LSD, and more illustrative cases from brain injury and neurological patients, as well as reference to the various psychological biases we have as humans, and which play a role in religious belief, would have made this a truly fantastic lecture course.

However, if you are interested in religion, whether as an atheist, agnostic or believer, and wish to understand better the neuronal correlates of the experiences, practices and beliefs of religion, taught by one of the most eminent researchers in the field, I thoroughly recommend this course.

  • Hunting Hitler's Nukes

  • The Secret Race to Stop the Nazi Bomb
  • By: Damien Lewis
  • Narrated by: Greg Wagland
  • Length: 13 hrs and 27 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 283
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 256
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 254

In the Spring of 1940, as Britain reeled from defeats on all fronts and America seemed frozen in isolation, one fear united the British and American leaders like no other: the Nazis had stolen a march on the Allies towards building the atomic bomb. So began the hunt for Hitler's nuclear weapons - nothing else came close in terms of priorities. It was to be the most secret war of those wars fought amongst the shadows. The highest stakes. The greatest odds.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Gripping story of an epic endeavour

  • By JohnA on 30-01-17

Great story, well told.

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

Reviewed: 03-09-17

Fantastically gripping story of the heroic, and almost impossible sabotage of the Norwegian Deuterium Oxide plant, on which the Nazis nuclear programme to build the first atomic bomb depended.

I hadn't realised just how close German scientists like Werner Heisenberg came, the Nazis having captured the main source of Uranium in Europe when they invaded Czechoslovakia. Heavy water was the other ingredient they needed, as a moderator. Only by a commando style raid, outwitting the tough German defences by using a route considered impossible, and after months hiding out in the frozen wastes of Norway could the sabotage succeed.

If you like true stories of heroic endurance, and daring you will enjoy this book. The narrator is excellent, with just the right kind of voice, and convincing pronunciation of some very tricky Norwegian names!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Radical

  • My Journey from Islamist Extremism to a Democratic Awakening
  • By: Maajid Nawaz
  • Narrated by: Maajid Nawaz
  • Length: 10 hrs and 30 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 341
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 317
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 317

Born and raised in Essex, Maajid Nawaz was recruited into politicised Islam as a teenager. Abandoning his love of hip-hop music, graffiti and girls, he was recruited into Hizb ut-Tahrir (the Liberation Party), where he played a leading and international role in the shaping and dissemination of an aggressive anti-West narrative. While studying for his Arabic and law degree, he travelled around the UK and to Denmark and Pakistan, setting up new cells.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Fantastic Insight

  • By Rak on 07-01-17

DANGER! Islamism Explained

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

Reviewed: 23-08-17

This is a rip-roaring story, made more so by the fact that it is true. If, like me you are puzzled why educated, intelligent, middle class Britons risk everything to join an Islamist organisation that stands opposed to every liberal value we hold dear, this book helps explain it - or at least it did for me. Maajid Nawaz makes clear the powerful mutualism between the racism of the far right and Islamist radicalisation.

He also clarifies the difference between Islam as a religion and Islamism as a militant political movement, dedicated to the revolutionary spread of political Islam, in particular, the overthrow of those secular dictatorships supported by the West. As an Islamist student, Nawaz was arrested in Egypt, and gives a harrowing account of his time as a political prisoner (torture is routine), and his release after Amnesty International takes up his case. This is the turning point, and the last few chapters are about the bitter opposition he faced from former friends in renouncing Islamism (though not Islam), and his courageous decision to found the Quilliam Foundation.

Great book, superbly read by the author, exciting, insightful and intelligent. If you want to really understand the roots of radicalisation and Islamism, I know of no better account.

6 of 7 people found this review helpful

  • The Periodic Table

  • By: Primo Levi
  • Narrated by: Neville Jason
  • Length: 9 hrs and 32 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 65
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 57
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 56

The Periodic Table by Primo Levi is an impassioned response to the Holocaust: Consisting of 21 short stories, each possessing the name of a chemical element, the collection tells of the author's experiences as a Jewish-Italian chemist before, during, and after Auschwitz in luminous, clear, and unfailingly beautiful prose. It has been named the best science book ever by the Royal Institution of Great Britain and is considered to be Levi's crowning achievement.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Delightful! Elements of a Life Well Lived.

  • By Jim Vaughan on 11-12-16

Delightful! Elements of a Life Well Lived.

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

Reviewed: 11-12-16

For me this was an absolutely delightful book! In fact in 2006 the Royal Institution nominated this book "The Best Science Book Ever". Though I think their accolade is a little OTT, this whimsical, imaginative, autobiographical book is a little gem. I bought it after the BBC played extracts as their "Book of the Week". Don't be put off if you are not a huge fan of science! It is not a science book, but simply Levi's passion for chemistry expressed in the clever device of naming each chapter with one of the chemical elements which are sometimes central, sometimes incidental to the plot of the subsequent anecdote, imagining and/or autobiographical tale.

I initially struggled to get into the style of the book. The first chapter, "The Noble Gasses", relates the quirks & idiosyncrasies of Levi's forebears, and the casual anti-semitism by ignorant 'goyim' they routinely encountered. The range of uncles, aunts, cousins etc. is exhaustive, and the language is at times elaborate, but as the chapter progresses the charm and character of his affectionate observations on human nature shines through. The rest of the book is more earthy.

One of the most moving tales for me was "Vanadium", where he encounters once again the German SS head of the lab at Auschwitz where he was a prisoner, his skill as a chemist exploited as slave labour. This contrasts with an imaginative story like "Carbon", where he traces the multifarious existences of an individual atom of carbon as it passes from limestone to air, to leaf to grape to person to ground etc.

It is beautifully narrated by Neville Jason, who in my imagination became Levi himself as an older man looking back. There was never any pronunciation difficulty with the German, Italian or French phrases, nor with the technical or chemical names.

Overall, a very pleasing audiobook.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • The God Delusion

  • By: Richard Dawkins
  • Narrated by: Richard Dawkins, Lalla Ward
  • Length: 13 hrs and 52 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,235
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,570
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,546

Winner of the British Book Awards, Author of the Year, 2007.
Shortlisted for the British Book Awards, Book of the Year, 2007.
Shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize, 2007.
Winner of the Audiobook Download of the Year, 2007.

As the author of many classic works on science and philosophy, Richard Dawkins has always asserted the irrationality of belief in God and the grievous harm it has inflicted on society. He now focuses his fierce intellect exclusively on this subject, denouncing its faulty logic and the suffering it causes.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Food for thought

  • By Louise on 11-02-07

A Curates Egg -Trapped in a Filter Bubble!

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

Reviewed: 10-11-16

I love Dawkins writings on evolution, and The God Delusion has been a force for good in liberating many unhappy victims of religion and in fighting discrimination against atheism as a valid viewpoint, especially in the US. Perhaps most of all, TGD has stimulated huge debate, and hopefully a critical reexamination of religion and many unquestioned traditional beliefs and practices can only be beneficial.

However, just as Creationists misunderstand Evolutionary theory, to me the book is based on a profound misunderstanding of Religion. At times his polemic is reminiscent of those outraged tabloid headlines that deride all modern art as eg. a "Pile of Bricks" or rock music as "noise". The 'just so' evolutionary explanations of misfiring evolutionary strategies or replicating "viral memes" efface any inherent value, and at no point in the book is he curious as to the actual subjective reasons why anyone might commit themselves to any form of spirituality.

Compare Schleiermacher's definition of religion as "...affection, a revelation of the Infinite in the finite" with Dawkins definition as a "viral memeplex" and I hope the subjective importance of the project of religion becomes clear.

One example of this blinkered view is the central "Ultimate 747" argument in the chapter "Why God almost certainly does not exist". God's existence, Dawkins asserts, is a scientific question. If the universe is so unlikely as to require a Creator, then that Creator must be even more complex and therefore even more unlikely! Thus, who created the Creator becomes an infinite regress of ever increasing complexity and therefore improbability.

A simple refutation might be that given eternity, a Creator of almost infinite improbability is possible. Such is not unlike Nick Bostroms "simulation universe" argument.

For the believer however, Gods existence is NOT a scientific question about the existence of a supernatural being eg. an invisible pink spaghetti monster, but a shift in perspective to a different set of foundational assumptions. While Atheism (and Science) assumes the primordial nature of matter/space/time, Theism asserts the primordial nature of mind/thought (John 1:1-5) transcending space/time. A famous metaphor is "Plato's Cave", where prisoners in the dark stare at shadows. Only by turning around do they see (and approach) the light creating the shadow-play. Such pure awareness is not complex. Complexity arises only with many interacting parts/particles. Such may or may not be how things are, but the "ultimate 747" is a bad argument, because it conflates the methodological materialism of science with a presumption of materialism as the established ontology for both religion and science. It assumes God as one of the shadows on the cave wall, not the light creating them.

At times I think the book deliberately misleads, such as with the chapter on ethics in the Bible. Of course, as the book argues, no modern person takes their ethical values from the examples of Yahweh's various atrocities, the actions of Moses or Abraham, or even from the rules in Leviticus. However, to generalise that to the whole Bible is a fallacy. People may still be challenged by "love your enemies" or "that which you do to the least of my brothers, so you do to me" or the parable of the Good Samaritan. For many it is the contemplation of these, sometimes interpreted within a religious community, that can drive positive change and ethical action. How do you decide what to ignore? Newtons writings on Alchemy are ignored in contrast to his Principia. Why not use similar discernment with the Bible?

Social reformers like William Wilberforce, Martin Luther King, Desmond Tutu or Mahatma Gandhi were clearly inspired by their faith, and while atheists are no less ethical, religion provides a powerful motivation to take action as dedicated service or ethical reform, as the many religiously inspired charities bear witness.

One final bugbear for me was the frequent conflation of faith as "blind faith". Look it up in the OED, and faith is "belief in the absence of PROOF", not the absence of evidence. Thus the theists "leap of faith" into uncertainty, need not be blind, but from the best evidence available. Only fundamentalists seem to share the atheists concept of faith as "blind".

In summary then, "The God Delusion" is a great polemic, but misleading if listened to uncritically. Dawkins is astute in highlighting the backwardness of many religious beliefs (such as the literal truth of the Bible) and he does an excellent job pointing out their irrational absurdities, superstitions and oppressive cruelties. As with all his audiobooks it is also very engagingly read both by the author, and in contrapuntal style by his wife, Lalla Ward.

However, his contempt for religion distorts his judgement, and the book suffers from a blinding confirmation bias, and a failure to think beyond a strictly scientific paradigm. Many of his arguments on close examination turn out to be misleading or based on false assumptions, and explanations based on his own pet theories (e.g. memetics), are not widely accepted as mainstream science. Most importantly, the book fails to even acknowledge, let alone explain as motivation, any inherent subjective spiritual experience, insight or motivation gained through religion.

It's a powerful book, and potentially a persuasive one, but keep your head with you -don't take the validity of any argument simply on "blind faith".

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich

  • A History of Nazi Germany
  • By: William L. Shirer
  • Narrated by: Grover Gardner
  • Length: 57 hrs and 11 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,661
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,168
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,156

Since its publication in 1960, William L. Shirer’s monumental study of Hitler’s German empire has been widely acclaimed as the definitive record of the 20th century’s blackest hours. The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich offers an unparalleled and thrillingly told examination of how Adolf Hitler nearly succeeded in conquering the world. With millions of copies in print around the globe, it has attained the status of a vital and enduring classic.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • A unique account

  • By R. Fowler on 07-12-10

Detailed, Scholarly, Insightful and Compelling.

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

Reviewed: 29-10-16

Highly detailed and insightful - Shirer was there in Munich and Berlin for many of the key events of the 1930s, and at the start of War. When he wasn't present himself, he cites a huge archive of captured documents and other references, which makes for a highly evidenced history of the rise and demise of Hitler and National Socialism.

What I like too is, though he often refers to Hitler as an "evil genius", he is fully human: erratic, ruthless, creative, angry, compelling, a manipulative liar, and espousing a flawed philosophy made up of half baked German Romantic ideas of Race & Destiny. The chapter on the origins of his Nazi ideas, picked up as a vagrant in Vienna: a mix of Nietzsche and Wagner but also inspired by relative unknowns like Houston Chamberlain & Joseph Arthur Comte de Gobineau is especially interesting, and goes some way to explain why the Nazi mythology of racial superiority, Teutonic virtues and the "will to power" of the "Ubermensche" had such archetypal influence with the humiliated German people of the time.

The book also explains Hitler's thinking behind some of the more disastrous decisions he made, and how his vindictive rages, blaming of others, and refusal to back down or retreat was in the end his undoing, but how it could so easily have gone the other way.

The strong narration by Grove Gardner is pitched just right, in "American documentary" style. It adds credibility to the history being related. Overall, though over 50 hours long, I found this audiobook compelling.