Disturbing the Universe by Freeman Dyson

Disturbing the Universe

The autobiography of one of the world's greatest scientistsSpanning 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...

Details Disturbing the Universe

TitleDisturbing the Universe
Release DateApr 15th, 1981
PublisherBasic Books
GenreScience, Nonfiction, Physics, Biography, History, Autobiography, Philosophy

Reviews Disturbing the Universe

  • John
    I don't remember now why I came to read something by Freeman Dyson. But something compelled me to consider his writings, so the next time I was in the library at BYU I checked out two of his books, this one and Infinite in All Directions. So far I have not been disappointed.Disturbing the Universe is largely autobiographical, describing much of Dyson's beliefs and discoveries in the context of his life's journey. I was impressed by his fantastic ...
  • Jee Koh
    On hearing that I am working on a book of essays, WL lent me Freeman Dyson's Disturbing the Universe. He was a professor of physics at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. "Born in England," the biographical note continues, " he came over to Cornell University in 1947 as a Commonwealth Fellow and settled permanently in the U.S. in 1951." A summary of his career, the next paragraph also indicates the topics of his essays: "Professor Dyso...
  • Erik Graff
    I first encountered the author by references to "Dyson Spheres"--an idea which he credits to Olaf Stapledon's Star Maker--in various books and by his having provided a foreword to a science fiction novel I'd read. Then, more recently, going through about twenty years of back issues of the New York Review of Books, I found that many of the best science reviews were by him. This led me to pick up his pseudo-autobiography when encountering it at the...
  • Nick Black
    Amazon 2008-06-10. Having recently realized the multilayered magnificence of Dyson's The Scientist as Rebel, I'm determined to read the man's extent.Dear lord, Freeman Dyson is becoming a massive hero. The man simply doesn't write a lacking page, and knows....so much. In my reading, I've found my incidental similars in Robert Oppenheimer and John von Neumann; if I were to pattern myself after anyone, it would be Mr. Dyson. I don't know anything ...
  • John Jr.
    Some thoughts in lieu of a genuine, full-fledged review; I read the book too long ago to have a complete recollection.If, within the field of science, the terms "great thinker" or "genius" evoke for you no one other than Albert Einstein and perhaps Stephen Hawking, reading this book will reveal another to you. Unlike some great thinkers, Dyson is also not merely a capable writer but an admirable stylist, who is equally at ease in recounting perso...
  • Scott
    My wife received this book in the mail from a Hungarian Anthropologist working in Australia. She respects him for his knowledge and success. He sent it to her because he said it was an insightful read. We have had it sitting around for a few years and she has been too busy to read it. I have lugged it around from the US, England, Hungary and now Grenada. I tried to start it once but it was awkward to hold and with two pages being on one and being...
  • Ari
    Dyson is a brilliant scientist and a born contrarian. He also writes with depth and beauty. This book is one part memoir, one part reflection on science and society, one part speculation about nature. Despite being some decades old. the book feels fresh, and most of it is still exactly as relevant as when it was written.Here is one passage that I especially liked. It describes a part of my feeling about science that I had never seen described bef...
  • Joseph
    I'll admit I knew little of Freeman Dyson until hearing him interviewed on one of my favorite podcasts. Based on that interview, I made it a point to read this book. A physicist, astronomer, and mathematician, Dyson shows himself to be more of a deep thinker and man of letters than one might normally (and therefore narrow-mindedly, I might add) expect from a scientist with ties to Robert Oppenheimer, Edward Teller, and Los Alamos. With all that i...
  • Al Maki
    Freeman Dyson is always worth reading. Extremely intelligent (a nuclear physicist), articulate, critical of his own thinking and others, unpretentious and humane. He started his career during WWII and wrote an interesting book review published this week (60 years later on 2/20/14) in the NYRB. He also turned me on to E. Nesbit, another excellent mind. You should read this and anything else you can find by him.
  • Robert
    I enjoyed Freeman Dyson’s personal recollections in Disturbing the Universe (1979). He recounts one of those early encounters, this one between Szilard and Bethe:“The physicist Leo Szilard once announced to his friend Hans Bethe that he was thinking of keeping a diary: ‘I don’t intend to publish it; I am merely going to record the facts for the information of God.’ ‘Don’t you think God knows the facts?’ Bethe asked. ‘Yes,’ sai...
  • Claus Brinker
    This is a memoir written in 1979 by a physicist/nuclear engineer/futurist consisting of three parts. The first is about his childhood and youth and England. The second and longest part is about his professional life in America. And the third is a series of connected essays that deal with the philosophy of science and the potential discoveries that we have in store for us. Much of the book deals with the Cold War and nuclear proliferation. Dyson d...
  • Joe Stack
    I found this to be a captivating autobiography. Freeman's experience during WWII is one of the reasons he is writes, "I am convinced that to avoid nuclear war it is not sufficient to be afraid of it. It is necessary to be afraid, but it is equally necessary to understand. And the first step in understanding is to recognize that the problem of nuclear war is basically not technical but human and historical. If we are to avoid destruction we must f...
  • Sara Sams
    I enjoyed reading this memoir and liked the Dyson focused on the moments of his life in which the moral/philosophical questions he asked were zoomed-out. There were definitely some more intimate moments, but for the large part, we learn more about crisis scientists face when engaging with or fighting against war. I learned a lot about strategic bombing, for instance, and its overall failure as a military tactic. Never thought I'd be so interested...
  • Bill
    A few notable physicists also write well. Interesting and widely-ranging "autobiography"by a man who worked on nuclear bombs, disarmament, nuclear reactors and space exploration and once drove cross-country with Richard Feynman.
  • Paige Ellen Stone
    This is the second of the three books that Bruce Sterling says in his introduction to "Schizmatrix Plus" had a major influence on his writing of those short stories and the novel that followed. While it can be slow at times, Dyson's honesty and sense of wonder and awe at what he sees make up for that. I found it sad that this was written in '79, before the end of the "Genome Project". I would be fascinated as to what he would have to say in respo...
  • Angus Mcfarlane
    This was a great read. Dyson tells the story of his life as a physicist working at 'high levels' on quantum, nuclear and astronomy issues. However, he tells more of the social story, using literary illustrations, rather than the scientific detail (which is probably accessible elsewhere). Some of the chapters are perhaps more whimsical than practical, including a favorite topic of mine (exobiology and the search for other life). Many, however, are...
  • Martha Grace
    This is really a series of essays. It is dated--it was written in 1979, but fearlessly addresses many big questions.Growing ups in England, the opening essays are about England in WWII and stories of being involved in the bombing of Germany while living through the bombing of England. He speaks of peace an disarmament. He moves to America to study physics and worked with many of the great minds that developed the bomb after the bomb had been drop...
  • Peter Mcloughlin
    Freeman Dyson is a major scientist of the 20th century and founder of Quantum Electrodynamics along with Richard Feynman, Julian Schwinger. He also has the blue sky imagination to rival any science fiction writer. He is the inventor of the idea of the Dyson sphere a sphere to be built by an advanced civilization around a star to utilize all the power output of a sun. He thought big and besides worrying about nuclear apocalypse like many in the ph...
  • Alan Clark
    Much of the book is autobiographical and I would give those parts five stars without hesitation. Other parts are scientific speculation, which were also very interesting but not entirely convincing. The least enjoyable parts for me were the philosophising, which does not appeal to me so I did not enjoy those sections anything like as much and rather skipped over them.
  • Phillip
    T.S. Eiliot wrote, Do I Dare? time to turn back and descend the stair, with a bald spot in the middle of my hair, Do I Dare Disturb the universe?Mr. Dyson has some wonderful insights in this part biography and part collection of essays. I'm thankful Mr. Dyson shared his thoughts and, in the words of Eliot, dared to disturb the universe.
  • Earl
    Possibly the best popular science book available, despite being decades old. Dyson is an excellent writer with a keen understanding of his subject, though he does stray into passages in the philosophy of science that might be fallacious if read too literally.
  • J. Sparks
    A moving book by a theoretical physicist and mathematician reflecting on many things, most interestingly to me the morality of science. For example: his trying to explain to his young son how he worked for the British Bomber Command that was bombing the--at that time--home of his now German wife.
  • Zoe Crosher
    We'll see - in the middle of WWII. But I'm in love with his intro and his photo on the back cover of the book.
  • Ben
    First half is more autobiographical, the second half more essays. The history in the autobiographies is interesting, the essays are varied but not particularly compelling.
  • Barb
  • Paula
    It would be very disastrous a disturbance in the universe that planets collide with each other or something very strange happened
  • Graeme Roberts
    Every intelligent person should read this great book. Heavy going in a few parts, but infinitely worth it!
  • David
    Freeman Dyson, a well known physicist, has written several books of speculative, quirky essays, and this is one of them. Easy to read and filled with interesting ideas.