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Jim Al-Khalili's Top Book Recommendations

Want to know what books Jim Al-Khalili recommends on their reading list? We've researched interviews, social media posts, podcasts, and articles to build a comprehensive list of Jim Al-Khalili's favorite book recommendations of all time.

This is a story about you. It is the history of who you are and how you came to be. It is unique to you, as it is to each of the 100 billion modern humans who have ever drawn breath. But it is also our collective story, because in every one of our genomes we each carry the history of our species births, deaths, disease, war, famine, migration, and a lot of sex.

Since scientists first read the human genome in 2001, it has been subject to all sorts of claims, counterclaims, and myths. In fact, as Adam Rutherford explains, our genomes should be read not as instruction manuals, but as...
Recommended by Jim Al-Khalili, and 1 others.

Jim Al-KhaliliRutherford tells the story of our genetic makeup, how it has shaped human history and what history can now tell us about our genes. It’s a hugely illuminating and fresh take on who we are and how we came to be. (Source)

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L'ordine del tempo

Come le "Sette brevi lezioni di fisica", che ha raggiunto un pubblico immenso in ogni parte del mondo, questo libro tratta di qualcosa della fisica che parla a chiunque e lo coinvolge, semplicemente perché è un mistero di cui ciascuno ha esperienza in ogni istante: il tempo. E un mistero non solo per ogni profano, ma anche per i fisici, che hanno visto il tempo trasformarsi in modo radicale, da Newton a Einstein, alla meccanica quantistica, infine alle teorie sulla gravità a loop, di cui Rovelli stesso è uno dei principali teorici.
Nelle equazioni di Newton era sempre presente, ma oggi...
Recommended by Jim Al-Khalili, and 1 others.

Jim Al-KhaliliBecause they are translated from the original Italian, Rovelli’s books retain a beautiful poetry which, combined with his deep knowledge of fundamental physics, make for a wonderfully charming mix. (Source)

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A tour through the groundbreaking science behind the enigmatic, but crucial, brain developments of adolescence and how those translate into teenage behavior
The brain creates every feeling, emotion, and desire we experience, and stores every one of our memories. And yet, until very recently, scientists believed our brains were fully developed from childhood on. Now, thanks to imaging technology that enables us to look inside the living human brain at all ages, we know that this isn't so. Professor Sarah-Jayne Blakemore, one of the world's leading researchers into...
Recommended by Jim Al-Khalili, and 1 others.

Jim Al-KhaliliAny parent of teenagers will enjoy this book. What is it that happens to your child’s brain as they enter adolescence—their mood swings, their need for intense friendships, the excessive risk taking . . . Blakemore is a superb neuroscientist, and also, it turns out, a remarkably engaging and talented writer. (Source)

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For many decades, the proponents of `artificial intelligence' have maintained that computers will soon be able to do everything that a human can do. In his bestselling work of popular science, Sir Roger Penrose takes us on a fascinating tour through the basic principles of physics, cosmology, mathematics, and philosophy to show that human thinking can never be emulated by a machine.

Oxford Landmark Science books are 'must-read' classics of modern science writing which have crystallized big ideas, and shaped the way we think.
Recommended by Jim Al-Khalili, and 1 others.

Jim Al-KhaliliIf things are left to their own devices they decay and unwind and disorder increases. If you take a pack of cards in the right order and shuffle it they will get mixed up. (Source)

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Quantum Mechanics

" ... this great work ought to be mastered by every postgraduate research student in theoretical physics ... there is no other book like it." Proceedings of the Physical Society (England)
Simple enough for students yet sufficiently comprehensive to serve as a reference for working physicists, this classic text initially appeared as a two-volume French edition and is now available in this convenient, all-in-one-book English translation. Formalism and its interpretation receive a detailed treatment in the first volume, starting with the origins of quantum theory and...
Recommended by Jim Al-Khalili, and 1 others.

Jim Al-KhaliliIt’s counterintuitive and weird but we’ve learned to accept it. Quantum mechanics is hugely accurate – most of modern scientific development is based on it. (Source)

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Since the death of Albert Einstein in 1955 there have been many books and articles written about the man and a number of attempts to "explain" relativity. In this new major work Abraham Pais, himself an eminent physicist who worked alongside Einstein in the post-war years, traces the development of Einstein's entire oeuvre. This is the first book which deal comprehensively and in depth with Einstein's science, both the successes and the failures.

Running through the book is a completely non-scientific biography (identified in the table of contents by italic type) including many...
Recommended by Jim Al-Khalili, Jim Baggott, and 2 others.

Jim Al-KhaliliThis book was the first time I had a really good look behind the iconic Einstein, the Einstein as an old man sticking his tongue out, holding his trousers up with a piece of cord. (Source)

Jim BaggottIt’s a scientific biography, not necessarily about Einstein the person, although there’s a lot of personal stuff in it. (Source)

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The Born-Einstein Letters 1916-55

Albert Einstein and Max Born were great friends. Their letters span 40 years and two world wars. In them they argue about quantum theory, agree about Beethoven's heavenly violin and piano duets (that they played together when they met) and chat about their families. Equally important, the men commiserate over the tragic plight of European Jewry and discuss what part they should play in the tumultuous politics of the time. Fascinating historically, The Born-Einstein Letters is also highly topical: scientists continue to struggle with quantum physics, their role in wartime and the public's... more
Recommended by Jim Al-Khalili, Andrew Robinson, and 2 others.

Jim Al-KhaliliThe letters map out the whole of the theory of 20th-century physics but include all the conflict and personal life, the head-scratching. (Source)

Andrew RobinsonThroughout the letters, you get these human asides: It’s a very unique mixture of science and humanities. (Source)

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“Anyone who is not shocked by quantum theory has not understood it.”
Since Niels Bohr said this many years ago, quantum mechanics has only been getting more shocking. We now realize that it’s not really telling us that “weird” things happen out of sight, on the tiniest level, in the atomic world. Rather, we can now see that everything is quantum: our everyday world is simply what quantum becomes at the human scale. But if quantum mechanics is right, what seems obvious and right in our everyday world is built on foundations that don’t seems obvious or right—or even possible.
Recommended by Jim Al-Khalili, Kirk Borne, and 2 others.

Jim Al-KhaliliThere is certainly no shortage of books out there all vying for the title of best demystifier of this counterintuitive, yet powerful, theory of the subatomic world. Philip Ball’s book, which has received much praise since it was published last year, is one of the most lucid and enlightening books on the nature of reality of the quantum world that I have ever read. (Source)

Kirk BorneWhy the Many-Worlds Interpretation (the idea that the universe splits into multiple realities) Has Many Problems — it is essentially “incoherent” and “beyond weird”: #physics ——— See this interesting book: (Source)

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"Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!"

Adventures of a Curious Character

A series of anecdotes, such as are included in Surely You're Joking, Mr Feynman, shouldn't by rights add up to an autobiography, but that's just one of the many pieces of received wisdom that Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman (1918-88) cheerfully ignores in this engagingly eccentric book. Fiercely independent (read the chapter entitled "Judging Books by Their Covers"), intolerant of stupidity even when it comes packaged as high intellectualism (check out "Is Electricity Fire?"), unafraid to offend (see "You Just Ask Them?"), Feynman informs by entertaining. It's possible to... more

Sergey BrinBrin told the Academy of Achievement: "Aside from making really big contributions in his own field, he was pretty broad-minded. I remember he had an excerpt where he was explaining how he really wanted to be a Leonardo [da Vinci], an artist and a scientist. I found that pretty inspiring. I think that leads to having a fulfilling life." (Source)

Larry PageGoogle co-founder has listed this book as one of his favorites. (Source)

Peter AttiaThe book I’ve recommended most. (Source)

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A look inside the algorithms that are shaping our lives and the dilemmas they bring with them.

If you were accused of a crime, who would you rather decide your sentence—a mathematically consistent algorithm incapable of empathy or a compassionate human judge prone to bias and error? What if you want to buy a driverless car and must choose between one programmed to save as many lives as possible and another that prioritizes the lives of its own passengers? And would you agree to share your family’s full medical history if you were told that it would help researchers find a cure for...
Recommended by David Smith, Jim Al-Khalili, and 2 others.

David SmithDarroch: “The best book I’ve read recently is called Hello World... It’s about the impact of algorithms across different areas... For me this was the best piece of learning I’ve done in recent months.” (Source)

Jim Al-KhaliliThe fact is, the age of AI is coming fast, and we need to be ready for it. This book will help you decide how worried you should be. (Source)

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