MIB: Science Writer James Gleick

This week, we speak with James Gleick, author of numerous award-winning books. His most recent is the fascinating “Time Travel: A History.”

I first encountered Gleick’s work via his first published book, “Chaos: Making a New Science” (1987). It was a brilliant exploration of a complex and little known branch of physics.

That structure became the framework for subsequent work from Gleick. His magnum opus was “The Information: A History, A Theory, A Flood.” Author Cory Doctorow described it as “a jaw-dropping tour de force history of information theory… It is a book that vibrates with excitement, and it transmits that excited vibration with very little signal loss. It is a wonder.” It won all manner of awards (Royal Society Winton Prize for Science Books; PEN/E. O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award among others) and was also nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.

A biographer of ideas, Gleick finds his muse exploring unusual corners of science. His latest book looks at the concept of traveling through time. You will be surprised to learn how recent the idea is – H.G. Well’s “The Time Machine” (1895) was the very first mention of time travel. His own “Time Travel: A History” is good wonky fun.

Discussing how he approaches these odd subject matters, Gleick is rather humble – he claims he starts out knowing nothing of his subject, and keeps researching until he feels he has learned enough to communicate about the subject. “Each book, each time I feel like I am figuring it out, starting from scratch . . . I don’t need to dumb anything down, I need to raise my own understanding to the level of grasping the stuff I am writing about.”

All books Gleick mentioned are found here.

You can hear the full interview, including our podcast extras, at iTunesSoundcloud, and Bloomberg. All of our earlier podcasts can be found iTunesSoundcloud, and Bloomberg.

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Next week, we speak with Michael Lewis, author of Undoing Project, Moneyball, Flashboys, Big Short, etc.

 

 

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