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The Absolute Now

John Leslie, 12 May 1994

The Undivided Universe: An Ontological Interpretation of Quantum Theory 
by David Bohm, translated by Basil Hiley.
Routledge, 397 pp., £25, October 1993, 0 415 06588 7
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Black Holes and Baby Universes, and Other Essays 
by Stephen Hawking.
Bantam, 182 pp., £16.99, October 1993, 0 593 03400 7
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... communicated influences? Bohm and Hiley point to recent experiments inspired by the late John Bell. Particles generated in pairs can move apart while maintaining a mysterious connectedness. Observing the state of one, an experimenter can be sure that its distant partner is in a correlated state, in much the same way as examining one half of a fish ...

Anyone for Eternity?

John Leslie, 23 March 1995

The Physics of Immortality: Modern Cosmology, God and the Resurrection of the Dead 
by Frank Tipler.
Macmillan, 528 pp., £20, January 1995, 0 333 61864 5
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... we observe is ‘fine tuned for life’, a claim that was investigated in the book which he and John Barrow co-authored, The Anthropic Cosmological Principle. It enters, too, into his expectation that our universe will be found to satisfy the many ‘Omega Point Theory predictions’ which he generates. These predictions concern conditions which he thinks ...

Big Bang to Big Crunch

John Leslie, 1 August 1996

The Nature of Space and Time 
by Stephen Hawking and Roger Penrose.
Princeton, 141 pp., £16.95, May 1996, 0 691 03791 4
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... The Nature of Space and Time contains six lectures-three by Stephen Hawking, three by Roger Penrose – and a closing Hawking-Penrose debate. As Penrose indicates, it might be viewed as continuing the famous Bohr-Einstein exchange of some seventy years ago. Against the background of new cosmological theories, Hawking defends Bohr’s thesis that quantum theory has no radical incompleteness ...

Doom Sooner or Later

John Leslie, 5 June 1997

Imagined Worlds 
by Freeman Dyson.
Harvard, 216 pp., £14.50, May 1997, 0 674 53908 7
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... Freeman Dyson warns us in Imagined Worlds that he is now ‘an old scientist pretending to be a sage’ and that ‘we learn from science and from history that the future is unpredictable.’ As well as diagnosing our present ills, however, Dyson offers strong hopes that our descendants will colonise not just their own galaxy in its entirety, but others too ...

Fine-Tuned for Life

John Leslie: Cosmology, 1 January 1998

Before the Beginning 
by Martin Rees.
Simon and Schuster, 288 pp., £7.99, January 1998, 0 684 81660 1
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The Life of the Cosmos 
by Lee Smolin.
Weidenfeld, 358 pp., £20, September 1997, 0 297 81727 2
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... information processing demands less and less energy as temperatures fall. Again, he says, John Barrow and Frank Tipler have argued for infinite information processing (and therefore infinite ‘subjective time’ for our appropriately odified descendants) in the final moments of a Big Crunch. Mental acrobatics could take ever tinier fractions of a ...

Thinking about Death

Michael Wood: Why does the world exist?, 21 March 2013

Why Does the World Exist? An Existential Detective Story 
by Jim Holt.
Profile, 307 pp., £12.99, June 2012, 978 1 84668 244 5
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... Adolf Grünbaum in Pittsburgh, to Richard Swinburne in Oxford, to David Deutsch in Headington, to John Leslie in Canada, to Derek Parfit, again in Oxford. He meets Roger Penrose in New York, has phone conversations with Steven Weinberg and John Updike. These conversations become a way of evoking possibilities as much ...

Apocalypse Not Just Now

Mark Greenberg: The doomsday argument, 1 July 1999

The End of the World: The Science and Ethics of Human Extinction 
by John Leslie.
Routledge, 336 pp., £10.99, March 1998, 0 415 18447 9
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... John Leslie comes to tell us that the end of the world is closer than we think. His book is no ordinary millennial manifesto, however. Leslie is a sophisticated philosopher of science, and the source of his message is not divine revelation, apocalyptic fantasy or anxiety about the year-2000 computer problem, but ‘the Doomsday Argument’ – an a priori argument that seeks support in probability theory ...

Against Michelangelo

Rosemary Hill: ‘The Pinecone’, 11 October 2012

The Pinecone 
by Jenny Uglow.
Faber, 332 pp., £20, September 2012, 978 0 571 26950 1
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... like the Loshes who took ideas seriously and were inclined towards radicalism. Sarah’s father John, born in 1757, was the eldest of four remarkable brothers. Their wealth came partly from land and later from the alkali works the family developed at the Walker colliery. The extended network of cousins and relatives by marriage (a number of whom were the ...

Golf Grips and Swastikas

William Feaver: Francis Bacon’s Litter, 26 February 2009

Francis Bacon: Incunabula 
edited by Martin Harrison and Rebecca Daniels.
Thames and Hudson, 224 pp., £39.95, September 2008, 978 0 500 09344 3
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... the images for an article on the neo-romantic insularity of such artists as Graham Sutherland, John Piper, Leslie Hurry and Keith Vaughan, committed at that time to fervid inkiness and illustrational hypertension. The article went down well. (Cyril Connolly was nice about it in the Sunday Times lift.) Bacon will have ...

Donald Duck gets a cuffing

J. Hoberman: Disney, Benjamin, Adorno, 24 July 2003

Hollywood Flatlands: Animation, Critical Theory and the Avant-Garde 
by Esther Leslie.
Verso, 344 pp., £20, August 2002, 1 85984 612 2
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... with dirty animals because American commerce Jews want profit?’ That same year in Berlin, Esther Leslie reports, Walter Benjamin was also thinking about Mickey mania. After talking to some friends, including Kurt Weill, Benjamin made a few notes in praise of this insolent, lowlife, magically animated creature. Mickey’s cartoons exhibited a commendable ...

Scribbling Rascal

Leslie Mitchell, 1 August 1996

John Wilkes 
by Peter D.G. Thomas.
Oxford, 280 pp., £25, March 1996, 0 19 820544 9
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... rumour could get about that Radicalism was really nothing more than a misplaced desire to tease. John Wilkes met all these criteria, and was therefore much loved. Peter Thomas has produced the first serious study of Wilkes for some years. This neglect is surprising, in that Wilkes was the quintessential English Radical. With few teeth, a pronounced lisp and ...

Among the Picts

John Sutherland, 18 August 1994

Stained Radiance: A Fictionist’s Prelude 
by J. Leslie Mitchell.
Polygon, 219 pp., £7.95, July 1993, 0 7486 6141 7
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The Speak of the Mearns 
by Lewis Grassic Gibbon.
Polygon, 268 pp., £8.95, June 1994, 0 7486 6167 0
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... Lewis Grassic Gibbon (the pen-name of James Leslie Mitchell) is put forward as his country’s great 20th-century novelist: the Scottish D.H. Lawrence. Gibbon’s reputation substantially rests on A Scots Quair (‘quire’ – or ‘gathering of sheets’), also called ‘The Mearns Trilogy’, Mearns being an ancient name for Kincardineshire, now itself an ancient name after the county reorganisation of 1975 ...

Farewell Hong Kong

Penelope Fitzgerald, 24 February 1994

The Mountain of Immoderate Desires 
by Leslie Wilson.
Weidenfeld, 374 pp., £15.99, February 1994, 0 297 81371 4
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... father and mother. He believes that he is the illegitimate son of Queen Victoria by her servant John Brown, who must have ‘lifted his kilt’ on some unrecorded occasion. Everywhere, on tea-caddies and biscuit-tins, he looks proudly at images of his mother’s face. Samuel believes it, but we don’t, any more than we believe Pip’s great expectations ...
Under Fire: An American Story 
by Oliver North and William Novak.
HarperCollins, 446 pp., £17.99, October 1991, 0 06 018334 9
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Terry Waite: Why was he kidnapped? 
by Gavin Hewitt.
Bloomsbury, 230 pp., £15.99, November 1991, 0 7475 0375 3
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... prosecution, never existed. The four men, three arms-dealers called Michael Aspin, Eric Matson and John Taylor and a Lloyds underwriter called William Harper, were tried at the Old Bailey in early 1988. Aspin, Harper and Matson were found guilty and sent to prison – Aspin is still inside. Taylor was acquitted. Aspin, who was cast as the ringleader, pleaded ...

One Thing

John Bayley, 22 November 1990

Jean Rhys 
by Carole Angier.
Deutsch, 780 pp., £15.99, November 1990, 0 233 98597 2
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A Lot to Ask: A Life of Barbara Pym 
by Hazel Holt.
Macmillan, 308 pp., £14.99, November 1990, 0 333 40614 1
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... is anything to go by, but it gave her no confidence. Finally she took up with a young Dutchman, John Lenglet, who came from a background as respectable as her own, though he was already married, to an actress, and was still not divorced when he and Jean celebrated their bigamous wedding in The Hague in 1919. Sasha in Good Morning, Midnight doesn’t like ...

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