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Freeman Dyson

Born in the United Kingdom, Freeman John Dyson (1923-) is an American mathematician and physicist. He has made important contributions in the fields of nuclear engineering, quantum mechanics, and solid-state physics, but is also known for his predictions about the future (not always correct, but in his own words, "it is better to be wrong than to be vague"), and his ideas about space exploration, space colonization (including a favorite idea of science fiction authors, the "Dyson sphere"), and the search for extra terrestrial life.

Dyson was team leader of Project Orion and a leading advocate. When the project ended, he wrote an empassioned plea for the project to continue in the journal Science: "this is the first time in modern history that a major expansion of human technology has been suppressed for political reasons."

Here are some books by Freeman Dyson:

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Disturbing The Universe (Sloan Foundation Science Series)
By Freeman Dyson

Basic Books
Paperback (304 pages)

Disturbing The Universe (Sloan Foundation Science Series)
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Spanning the years from World War II, when he was a civilian statistician in the operations research section of the Royal Air Force Bomber Command, through his studies with Hans Bethe at Cornell University, his early friendship with Richard Feynman, and his postgraduate work with J. Robert Oppenheimer, Freeman Dyson has composed an autobiography unlike any other. Dyson evocatively conveys the thrill of a deep engagement with the world-be it as scientist, citizen, student, or parent. Detailing a unique career not limited to his groundbreaking work in physics, Dyson discusses his interest in minimizing loss of life in war, in disarmament, and even in thought experiments on the expansion of our frontiers into the galaxies.
The Scientist as Rebel (New York Review Books (Paperback))
By Freeman Dyson

Dyson, Freeman
Released: 2008-09-09
Paperback (400 pages)

The Scientist as Rebel (New York Review Books (Paperback))
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From Galileo to today’s amateur astronomers, scientists have been rebels, writes Freeman Dyson. Like artists and poets, they are free spirits who resist the restrictions their cultures impose on them. In their pursuit of nature’s truths, they are guided as much by imagination as by reason, and their greatest theories have the uniqueness and beauty of great works of art.

Dyson argues that the best way to understand science is by understanding those who practice it. He tells stories of scientists at work, ranging from Isaac Newton’s absorption in physics, alchemy, theology, and politics, to Ernest Rutherford’s discovery of the structure of the atom, to Albert Einstein’s stubborn hostility to the idea of black holes. His descriptions of brilliant physicists like Edward Teller and Richard Feynman are enlivened by his own reminiscences of them. He looks with a skeptical eye at fashionable scientific fads and fantasies, and speculates on the future of climate prediction, genetic engineering, the colonization of space, and the possibility that paranormal phenomena may exist yet not be scientifically verifiable.

Dyson also looks beyond particular scientific questions to reflect on broader philosophical issues, such as the limits of reductionism, the morality of strategic bombing and nuclear weapons, the preservation of the environment, and the relationship between science and religion. These essays, by a distinguished physicist who is also a prolific writer, offer informed insights into the history of science and fresh perspectives on contentious current debates about science, ethics, and faith.

Dreams of Earth and Sky
By Freeman Dyson

New York Review Books
Released: 2015-04-21
Hardcover (312 pages)

Dreams of Earth and Sky
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In this sequel to The Scientist as Rebel (2006), Freeman Dyson—whom The Times of London calls “one of the world’s most original minds”—celebrates openness to unconventional ideas and “the spirit of joyful dreaming” in which he believes that science should be pursued. Throughout these essays, which range from the creation of the Royal Society in the seventeenth century to the scientific inquiries of the Romantic generation to recent books by Daniel Kahneman and Malcolm Gladwell, he seeks to “break down the barriers that separate science from other sources of human wisdom.” 

Dyson discusses twentieth-century giants of physics such as Richard Feynman, J. Robert Oppenheimer, Paul Dirac, and Steven Weinberg, many of whom he knew personally, as well as Winston Churchill’s pursuit of nuclear weapons for Britain and Wernher von Braun’s pursuit of rockets for space travel. And he takes a provocative, often politically incorrect approach to some of today’s most controversial scientific issues: global warming, the current calculations of which he thinks are probably wrong; the future of biotechnology, which he expects to dominate our lives in the next half-century as the tools to design new living creatures become available to everyone; and the flood of information in the digital age. Dyson offers fresh perspectives on the history, the philosophy, and the practice of scientific inquiry—and even on the blunders, the wild guesses and wrong theories that are also part of our struggle to understand the wonders of the natural world.

Infinite in All Directions: Gifford Lectures Given at Aberdeen, Scotland April--November 1985
By Freeman J. Dyson

Harper Perennial
Released: 2004-08-03
Paperback (352 pages)

Infinite in All Directions: Gifford Lectures Given at Aberdeen, Scotland April--November 1985
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Infinite in All Directions is a popularized science at its best. In Dyson's view, science and religion are two windows through which we can look out at the world around us.

The book is a revised version of a series of the Gifford Lectures under the title "In Praise of Diversity" given at Aberdeen, Scotland. They allowed Dyson the license to express everything in the universe, which he divided into two parts in polished prose: focusing on the diversity of the natural world as the first, and the diversity of human reactions as the second half.

Chapter 1 is a brief explanation of Dyson's attitudes toward religion and science. Chapter 2 is a one–hour tour of the universe that emphasizes the diversity of viewpoints from which the universe can be encountered as well as the diversity of objects which it contains. Chapter 3 is concerned with the history of science and describes two contrasting styles in science: one welcoming diversity and the other deploring it. He uses the cities of Manchester and Athens as symbols of these two ways of approaching science. Chapter 4, concerned with the origin of life, describes the ideas of six illustrious scientists who have struggled to understand the nature of life from various points of view. Chapter 5 continues the discussion of the nature and evolution of life. The question of why life characteristically tends toward extremes of diversity remains central in all attempts to understand life's place in the universe. Chapter 6 is an exercise in eschatology, trying to define possible futures for life and for the universe, from here to infinity. In this chapter, Dyson crosses the border between science and science fiction and he frames his speculations in a slightly theological context.

A Many-Colored Glass: Reflections on the Place of Life in the Universe (Page-Barbour Lectures)
By Freeman J. Dyson

University of Virginia Press
Paperback (176 pages)

A Many-Colored Glass: Reflections on the Place of Life in the Universe (Page-Barbour Lectures)
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Freeman Dyson’s latest book does not attempt to bring together all of the celebrated physicist’s thoughts on science and technology into a unified theory. The emphasis is, instead, on the myriad ways in which the universe presents itself to us--and how, as observers and participants in its processes, we respond to it. "Life, like a dome of many-colored glass," wrote Percy Bysshe Shelley, "stains the white radiance of eternity." The author seeks here to explore the variety that gives life its beauty.

Taken from Dyson’s recent public lectures--delivered to audiences with no specialized knowledge in hard sciences--the book begins with a consideration of the practical and political questions surrounding biotechnology. As he seeks how best to explain the place of life in the universe, Dyson then moves from the ethical to the purely scientific. The book concludes with an attempt to understand the implications of biology for philosophy and religion.

The pieces in this collection touch on numerous disciplines, from astronomy and ecology to neurology and theology, speaking to the lay reader as well as to the scientist. As always, Dyson’s view of human nature and behavior is balanced, and his predictions of a world to come serve primarily as a means for thinking about the world as it is today.

Origins of Life
By Freeman Dyson

Brand: Cambridge University Press
Paperback (112 pages)

Origins of Life
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How did life on Earth originate? Did replication or metabolism come first in the history of life? In the second edition of the acclaimed Origins of Life, distinguished scientist and science writer Freeman Dyson examines these questions and discusses the two main theories that try to explain how naturally occurring chemicals could organize themselves into living creatures. The majority view is that life began with replicating molecules, the precursors of modern genes. The minority belief is that random populations of molecules evolved metabolic activities before exact replication existed and that natural selection drove the evolution of cells toward greater complexity for a long time without the benefit of genes. Dyson analyzes both of these theories with reference to recent important discoveries by geologists and chemists, aiming to stimulate new experiments that could help decide which theory is correct. This second edition covers the impact revolutionary discoveries such as the existence of ribozymes, enzymes made of RNA; the likelihood that many of the most ancient creatures are thermophilic, living in hot environments; and evidence of life in the most ancient of all terrestrial rocks in Greenland have had on our ideas about how life began. It is a clearly written, fascinating book that will appeal to anyone interested in the origins of life.
Advanced Quantum Mechanics (Second Edition)
By Freeman Dyson

World Scientific Publishing Company
Paperback (316 pages)

Advanced Quantum Mechanics (Second Edition)
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Renowned physicist and mathematician Freeman Dyson is famous for his work in quantum mechanics, nuclear weapons policy and bold visions for the future of humanity. In the 1940s, he was responsible for demonstrating the equivalence of the two formulations of quantum electrodynamics - Richard Feynman's diagrammatic path integral formulation and the variational methods developed by Julian Schwinger and Sin-Itiro Tomonoga -showing the mathematical consistency of QED.

This invaluable volume comprises the legendary lectures on quantum electrodynamics first given by Dyson at Cornell University in 1951. The late theorist Edwin Thompson Jaynes once remarked, "For a generation of physicists they were the happy medium: clearer and better motivated than Feynman, and getting to the point faster than Schwinger".

This edition has been printed on the 60th anniversary of the Cornell lectures, and includes a foreword by science historian David Kaiser, as well as notes from Dyson's lectures at the Les Houches Summer School of Theoretical Physics in 1954. The Les Houches lectures, described as a supplement to the original Cornell notes, provide a more detailed look at field theory, a careful and rigorous derivation of Fermi's Golden Rule, and a masterful treatment of renormalization and Ward's Identity.

Future generations of physicists are bound to read these lectures with pleasure, benefiting from the lucid style that is so characteristic of Dyson's exposition.

Imagined Worlds (The Jerusalem-Harvard Lectures)
By Freeman Dyson

Harvard University Press
Paperback (224 pages)

Imagined Worlds (The Jerusalem-Harvard Lectures)
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Imagine a world where whole epochs will pass, cultures rise and fall, between a telephone call and the reply. Think of the human race multiplying 500-million fold, or evolving new, distinct species. Consider the technology of space colonization, computer-assisted reproduction, the "Martian potato." One hundred years after H. G. Wells visited the future in The Time Machine, Freeman Dyson marshals his uncommon gifts as a scientist and storyteller to take us once more to that ever-closer, ever-receding time to come.

Since Disturbing the Universe, the book that first brought him international renown, Freeman Dyson has been helping us see ourselves and our world from a scientist's point of view. In Imagined Worlds he brings this perspective to a speculative future to show us where science and technology, real and imagined, may be taking us. The stories he tells--about "Napoleonic" versus "Tolstoyan" styles of doing science; the coming era of radioneurology and radiotelepathy; the works of writers from Aldous Huxley to Michael Crichton to William Blake; Samuel Gompers and the American labor movement--come from science, science fiction, and history. Sharing in the joy and gloom of these sources, Dyson seeks out the lessons we must learn from all three if we are to understand our future and guide it in hopeful directions.

Whether looking at the Gaia theory or the future of nuclear weapons, science fiction or the dangers of "science worship," sea-going kayaks or the Pluto Express, Dyson is concerned with ethics, with how we might mitigate the evil consequences of technology and enhance the good. At the heart of it all is the belief once expressed by the biologist J. B. S. Haldane, that progress in science will bring enormous confusion and misery to humankind unless it is accompanied by progress in ethics.



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