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From Galileo to Gell-Mann

Templeton Press, 2009
RRP: $48.95

Reviewed by Phil Smith

THIS BEAUTIFULLY published book is the result of blending wonderful skills and life experiences.

The Italian authors could easily be pigeon holed as an astrophysicist and electronics engineer.

Marco Bersanelli combines the former with presiding over the EURESIS scientific and cultural association.

Scientific journalist Mario Gargantini invested 20 years as a high school science teacher and is the author of various books and essays on science and religion.

They provide a human context to the formality of scientific discipline as great scientists throughout the ages meditate on the nature of science and discovery and what those things mean for humanity. There are many unfamiliar names as well as the likes of Einstein and Galileo. Perhaps there is an emphasis on European subjects.

This is not a beautifully bound set of clichés from the usually suspects haggling over the age of the earth.

Auschwitz survivor and author of The Periodic Table, Primo Levi gives a taste of this book at its best: “Distilling is beautiful. First of all because it is a slow, philosophic, and silent occupation which keeps you busy, but gives you time to think of other things, somewhat like riding a bike. From liquid to vapour (invisible), and from this once again to liquid; but in the double journey, up and down, purity is attained … the consciousness of repeating a ritual consecrated by the centuries, almost a religious act.”

From Galileo to Gell-Mann is best absorbed in small doses.