The Unz Review: An Alternative Media Selection
A Collection of Interesting, Important, and Controversial Perspectives Largely Excluded from the American Mainstream Media
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The New Criterion

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Galileo: Watcher of the Skies, by David Wootton
Galileo, by J.L. Heilbron
I didn't make it to the First Annual Catholic Conference on Geocentrism, held in South Bend, Indiana on the November 6 weekend. I was interested, and badgered some editors to expense the trip, but no one thought it worth their funds. Nor have I read the 1,048-page, two-volume book Galileo Was Wrong: The Church Was... Read More
The Art Instinct, by Denis Dutton
Modernist composer Anton Webern predicted that mailmen on their rounds would one day whistle his atonal non-melodies. Three-quarters of a century later I see the following in a 2006 report from the National Academy of Sciences. The report labors under the title Beyond Bias and Barriers: Fulfilling the Potential of Women in Academic Science and... Read More
American Earth: Environmental Writing Since Thoreau, edited by Bill McKibben with a foreword by Al Gore
"In Nature," said Coleridge, "there is nothing melancholy." I don't know about that. I suppose there are lots of people who will greet American Earth: Environmental Writing Since Thoreau with joy, but both politics and temperament predisposed me against the book. I had agreed to review it in a moment of weakness, but when it... Read More
Stalking the Riemann Hypothesis, by Dan Rockmore
The author of a pop-math book must decide, before he sets finger on keyboard, how much he is going to demand of his readers in the way of willingness to engage with actual mathematics. As is often the case in writing, what is easier for the author is more difficult for the reader, and vice... Read More
Infinite Ascent: A Short History of Mathematics, by David Berlinski
The relevant library shelves in the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences hold no less than eighteen different general histories of mathematics in English. The author setting out to write yet another such book must therefore have an angle (so to speak), some original approach to the topic. What is David Berlinski's angle? "Short" doesn't cut... Read More
Newton: The Making of Genius, by Patricia Fara
I picked up this book thinking it was a biography of Newton. Thus disposed, I picked it up with some reluctance — and then, only after two or three weeks of procrastination. That Sir Isaac Newton was a tremendous genius, there is no doubt at all. There are excellent arguments for the proposition that, so... Read More
The Science of Conjecture: Evidence and Probability Before Pascal, by James Franklin
What do we know, and how surely do we know it? The general answer was given by Aristotle in the Nicomachean Ethics: certainty can be found only in mathematics, all other knowledge being to some degree doubtful. Much evil has been let loose upon the world by defiance of, or exaggeration of, this simple truth:... Read More
The Universal Computer: The Road from Leibnitz to Turing, by Martin Davis
The Computer and...
That is from Bertrand Russell's autobiography. What was stumping him was the attempt to find a definition of "number" in terms of pure logic. What does "three," for example, actually mean? The German logician Gottlob Frege had come up with an answer: "three" is merely the set of all threesomes, the set of all those... Read More
Did Adam and Eve Have Navels? Discourses on Reflexology, Numerology, Urine Therapy and Other Dubious...
I find it difficult to speak temperately about Martin Gardner because I owe him so much. As a child in England, my keenest intellectual pleasure was reading Gardner's monthly "Mathematical Games" column in Scientific American. Along with a handful of books like Kasner and Newman's Mathematics and the Imagination and George Gamow's One Two Three... Read More
The Nothing That Is, by Robert Kaplan
Suppose I ask you to step into the next room, count the people in there, and report the answer back to me. What is the smallest number you can report? Obviously the answer is zero, corresponding to the case when there are no people at all in the next room. Thus it is plain that... Read More