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Complex Systems Society Special Award

Philip was awarded the 2023 Special Award by the Complex Systems Society for “personalities who, through their activity in society in general, contributed in some way to the development of the field of complex systems.”

Science (All of It) in Three Questions

Science (All of It) in Only Three Questions, by Philip BallScience (All of It) in Three Questions

When I was home-educating my children, I was forced to think carefully about what science I wanted them to know and how to deliver it concisely. Out of those thoughts came this book, aimed at 8-14 year olds (but the idea should work for any age!), which I’m putting up here as a free pdf download.

If kids can meaningfully think about just these three questions, they’ll be scientifically literate!

Download the book (9.4 MB pdf) here.


Reviews: HOW LIFE WORKS: A User’s Guide to the New Biology

UK book cover for How Life Works, A User's Guide to the New BiologyHow Life Works: A User’s Guide to the New Biology by Philip Ball

“There is so much that is amazing. When Ball tackles issues, any textbook chalkiness gets blown away… For Ball, the possession of agency — and purpose, and even meaning — is precisely how you might characterise life. Life, then, is not the servant of the selfish gene. Life happens at other levels. In the cell. In the organism. In us.”
James McConnachie, Sunday Times

“Ball’s marvelous book is both wide-ranging and deep. It explores the fundamental mechanics of biology and leaves the reader full of awe and wonder. More than this, by reframing how we talk about the latest scientific discoveries, How Life Works has exciting implications for the future of the science of biology itself. I could not put it down.”
Siddhartha Mukherjee, author of the Pulitzer Prize–winning “The Emperor of All Maladies”



Reviews: BEAUTIFUL EXPERIMENTS: An Illustrated History of Experimental Science

Book cover image of Beautiful Experiments: An Illustrated History of Experimental ScienceBeautiful Experiments: An Illustrated History of Experimental Science by Philip Ball

“Although experimentation is arguably the backbone of modern science, historians of science have often tended to focus their studies on theoretical developments. . . . Ball aims to rectify that disparity in his new book Beautiful Experiments, which outlines sixty investigations carried out from antiquity to the present day. Ball groups the experiments into six chapters, each of which focuses on themes, including the behavior of organisms, the nature of light, and the nature of life. He complements those efforts with five meditative interludes that delve into philosophical or aesthetic topics relating to experimentation, such as how to define an experiment, why thought experiments are useful, and what scientists mean when they say an experiment is beautiful. The richly illustrated book is a treat for the eyes.”
Physics Today

Reviews: THE BEAUTY OF CHEMISTRY: Art, Wonder, and Science

Book cover = THE BEAUTY OF CHEMISTRY: Art, Wonder, and Science by Philip Ball. Available from AmazonPhilip Ball is a serendipitous writer, pursuing adventurous science. He loves to persuade and enchant his readers to celebrate the uncanny beauty of chemistry.” Dudley Herschbach, Nobel Laureate in Chemistry, Harvard University

“This book combines rich descriptions of chemical phenomena with stunning photography of them as they happen. As a child, I was drawn to chemistry by the wonders of precipitating powders, fizzy water, and other ever-present phenomena. The Beauty of Chemistry took me back to those times.” Alán Aspuru-Guzik, Professor of Chemistry and Computer Science, University of Toronto

“Ousiophiles unite! This book is a sensory feast that truly brings to life the ‘chemical sublime,’ presenting it joyfully, with scintillating images. Using remarkably concise language, Ball pleasingly telescopes in scale from the visible to the subatomic level, giving a rich dimensional exploration of the elements and their properties. This book sparkles, bubbles, and bursts with the activity of all that surrounds us. It is curiosity-igniting, deeply satisfying, and a must for anyone who delights in ‘stuff’.”Martha Willette Lewis, Visual Artist in Residence, The Yale Quantum Institute

“Philip Ball offers a lively illustrated conversation centered on the beauty of chemistry rather than its oft-examined utility. His observations meander gracefully through bubbles, flames, plant pigments, and much more, and will both captivate a wide audience and provide a refreshingly upbeat boost for the most jaded professional.” Hagan Bayley, Professor of Chemical Biology, University of Oxford


Published by MIT Press, May 2021;  Hardcover; over 350 colour illustrations ISBN 0-262-04441-2

Reviews: THE BOOK OF MINDS: How to Understand Ourselves and Other Beings, from Animals to AI to Aliens

The cover of The Book of Minds by Philip Ball“Ball argues that we must look beyond our own brains and delve into the minds of other creatures if we want to truly understand ourselves and comprehend the possibility of alien or machine intelligence.” New Scientist, “Don’t Miss”

“That even plants might have a degree of consciousness is one aspect of mind considered in Philip Ball’s wide-ranging new book… Peering into other putative minds—animal, plant, AI, alien—Ball breaks the narcissistic trap of our sapiocentrism, our default assumption that the world is ours first, and only later should we condescend to find a little space for the rest of creation… Ball deals equally coolly with the possibility of communicating with other minds in the cosmos—having recently learnt to message the universe after billions of years, why would we expect another life form suddenly to respond? Ball is the laureate of curiosity and a one-stop source of wisdom. This book will teach you a lot about minds; but it will also make you marvel at the capacious and sagacious one possessed by its author.” Prospect

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