The Upright Thinkers: The Human Journey from Living in Trees to Understanding the Cosmos

For once, I made good progress on this book and though I could have finished it Friday, I did finish it Saturday with one day to spare. I started it after finishing The Remedy: Robert Koch, Arthur Conan Doyle, and the Quest to Cure Tuberculosis. This book was twelve hours long I needed to hammer it all last week while I was dealing with constant Job Recruiter Cold Calls.

In any case, Leonard Mlodinow‘s book was more of a personal journey rather than a hard science book. Which is to say, it does have a history of scientific discovery and a brief story of human evolution, but none of the details were particulary new to me and so, for the most part, I read it for the assides with his father and how he related his personal journey of discovery to his conversations with his father.

After all, how many stories have I read describing Evolution? Of course, humanity advanced to where we are through our inquisitive nature. However, I was unfamiliar with Göbekli Tepe temple and that story that started us on the journey to urban life was interesting. I was bothered by Mlodinow’s assumption that Chinese and Mayan scripts being derived from cuneiform. I don’t know why he could assume that writing developed independently, which seems to be the case for these scripts.

From there we investigate the Greek golden age of discovery and early science. It’s always interesting how the ancients were sometimes kind of correct, often very wrong, and sometimes on the right path. Then, we have the fascinating story of the 150 years that overthrew that millennium old superstition from Galileo Galilei and Isaac Newton.

I was fascinated how Antoine Lavoisier was actually quite charitable yet lost his head to La Terreur. Then, to add insult to injury, when, in the turn of the Twentieth Century they erected a statue to him with the wrong head. Also fascinating was how despite his near perfect predictions Dmitri Mendeleev, with, among others, the exception of Praseodymium and Neodymium being lumped into Didymium as an element. The main reason for these errors was that Mendeleev sorted by Atomic Weight, not Atomic Number.

Of course, another story about Darwin didn’t add much to my knowledge and was something I could have done without. Antonie van Leeuwenhoek‘s story, on the other hand, including being a member of the Royal Society in absentia was really interesting. But then, I’ve also read about Max Planck and Albert Einstein and Niels Bohr and Max Born and Werner Heisenberg and Erwin Schrodinger extensively, so there was absolutely nothing new in the section on Quantum Physics. I do with there had been more about Richard Feynman, though.

However, the most touching part of the book is when Mlodinow discusses the last days of his dear father. The fact that he dedicated the book to him was very endearing, and all the stories in Poland were touching and very enjoyable. Even more for his father’s experience as a Jew under the Nazis.

The Upright Thinkers: The Human Journey from Living in Trees to Understanding the Cosmos

Overall, not a terrible book, if a bit unoriginal. Next up, The World in a Grain: The Story of Sand and How It Transformed Civilization. Until we meet again my fellow sapiosexuals! Shalom!