James Gleick's next book is about time travel

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I would think that pre-orders are the only method of obtaining the volume.


Wasn’t his last book about time travel?


James Gleick, the science writer who established himself with classics like Chaos: Making a New Science but whose later books, like the important and brilliant The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood, has announced his next book: Time Travel, due on Sept 27.

But what? Don’t keep us in suspense, Cory!


I will have preordered it 3 years ago.


Went to his website and…it doesn’t try to load a smorgasbord of superfluous crap. That’s my kind of anachronism.

What a tease!


Good catch. Like most of us, I couldn’t even parse that sentence and just moved on.

I like Gleick very much, I have a few of his books, but I wonder how this can be anything other than a history of fiction? I don’t think there are any actual time-travelers for him to interview - or did they come back and meet up with him?

Well, you can time travel, just only into the future.

There’s a fair bit of physics and philosophy on time travel, what’s permissible and why it’s almost certainly impossible even in the many-worlds interpretation of QM. There are a few things that get overlooked or poorly exposited in the existing pop sci literature, like why the Novikov self-consistency conjecture for CTC’s might violate the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, why the grandfather paradox is actually much much worse than it seems on the surface, why tachyon condensation is more a bug than a feature of inflationary cosmology’s model of spontaneous symmetry breaking, a few others. But most of that is covered in Kip Thorne’s books and those of a few other authors. It’s hard to imagine what Gleick can really add. Plus, Gleick’s books tend to be sizeable and densely packed, so my guess is that, as you say, he’ll spend a lot of his time on the history of the fiction.


I did this for decades - still no flying cars : (


Try going faster?

Personally, I think small short-range personal VTOL jumpers could probably have been developed if large engineering firms had poured money into the problem. But they’d be at least as expensive as mid-high-end luxury cars, and most who could afford it are probably better off just leasing a helicopter and sending their minions to run their errands. Too small a market for something so orthogonal to current tech, and not enough demand to sustain a new industry.

I think if we ever see flying “cars”, they’ll be well in a future when energy production/storage, automated manufacturing, somewhat self-repairing components and other high-tech marvels make it cost effective to mass produce and maintain them. And if we’re allowed to fly them manually, I’m sure it will be within the envelope allowed by an autopilot that will take over the second we deviate from the flight plan. All in all, I’d rather have agile high-speed electric motorcycles all tied into a mutual collision avoidance network and featuring a deployable weather bubble with built-in holographic HUDs.

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similar to the type Dubai uses (bought? ordered?)?

Dubai firefighters to get 20 Jetpacks to fight tower blazes


At least there will always be a firefighter at the scene of the accident.


But just look at that brilliant cover!

I’ve never read Gleick, but I’ll have to give that The Information book a read, as well as this upcoming one. Sounds incredibly interesting.

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Please do! The Information is fantastic in scope and delivery. There’s only a wee bit of math, but even if you shy away from that you’ll come away richer. (Cory’s review here on BB is a gem.)

I like to tell friends that The Information is sorta like a bonus track to Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions – we get to see how Shannon’s work sparked new directions and (new life) in several other (until then, unrelated) fields.

Plus, a nice look at an intellectual Trump – Norbert Weiner* – and my favorite-so-far definition of entropy**: “Entropy is the energy in a system that is unavailable for work.”

(*P’bly not fair to characterize Weiner that way…but I’m not a fan.
**Also, that’s p’bly not exactly how Gleick phrased it, but I can’t check right now 'cuz both my copies are loaned out ; -)


Yet another book I should read. History of Science isn’t my field, but I’d like to be better versed in it, as I feel it would probably enrich my lectures, especially when it comes to a US-in-the-World, comparision with Europe narrative.

Thanks! I’ll add them all to the list!

Well, I wish this would have happened a few weeks ago. In my (dated) experience, February in Ann Arbor (aka, “that month when the Big Yellow Ball goes far away on vacation”) is the perfect time to curl up with illuminating, brain-popping, paradigm-shifting works.

(See what I did there? The Kuhn book coined the whole “paradigm shift” thing, ha-ha. Not to worry, you don’t really need to have any sort of handle on history of science for Kuhn’s work to make sense/be accessible: the thing it describes is the thing it does, and vice-versa. That is, by identifying the foreplay/climax/afterglow nature of scientific change, Kuhn creates the same form of paradigm shift in science historiography. My poor words, but it’s a beautiful thing.)


I’ve heard good things about Kuhn’s work. It’s not the history part I’m fuzzy on, though, obviously. The books I’ve read in that field (some stuff on computer science mostly) have been entirely accessibly and not too jargony, as historians tend to be less into that kind of thing than other humanity fields. And his work is certainly sited as paradigm shifting within the field (and as coining that term, too).

Cold weather and books go well together, for sure!

Cool beans. FWIW, find a new edition of Kuhn; he added another chapter, IIRC. Also, great bib in that book!

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The Information is a must-read. I also highly recommend his biographies of Isaac Newton and Richard Feynman.

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