Simplified science

In ‘Paradox’, theoretical physicist Jim Al-Khalili explains complex scientific ideas fascinatingly and with deceptive ease

Paradox: The Nine Greatest Enigmas in Physics, by Jim Al-Khalili, Bantam Press, RRP£16.99, 256 pages

Professor Jim Al-Khalili is a theoretical physicist who presents BBC Radio 4’s The Life Scientific. He has been lauded for his ability to communicate complex scientific ideas, so he’s well placed to explain some of physics’ great conundrums.

But first, Paradox begins with some rather prosaic puzzles. For instance, if you find yourself on a game show and are offered a choice of three boxes (two empty, the third containing a prize), make your selection and the host then opens one of the two remaining boxes to reveal that it’s empty before asking whether you want to change your mind – do. Illogical as it seems, you’ll actually increase your chances of winning.

From here, Al-Khalili leads into the harder science, but does so with such deceptive ease that before you know it you’re mulling over the expanding universe, staring down quantum theory and pondering Shrödinger’s Cat – and enjoying it.

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