Reviews: INVISIBLE: The Dangerous Allure of the Unseen

Book cover - Invisible: The Dangerous Allure of the Unseen

“Ball leads us on a very fun, largely chronological journey through invisibility, beginning with myth and early magicians, ending with quantum physics, and stopping along the way at Newton, Leibniz, microscopy, photography, spiritualism, B movies, and science fiction. He is lucid and interesting on every topic he touches, from the ghost in “Hamlet” to those unseen extra dimensions posited by string theory.” Kathryn Schultz, New Yorker (here)

“crisp and often witty, packed with abstruse information. Ball’s extensive research, rather than being a parade of intellectual swank, works to encourage connections and make the reader think… Assisted by rich reference to literature, history and philosophy… I liked many things about this book but perhaps what I liked best was his summing up: “As the history of invisibility shows, myth is no blueprint for the engineer. It is more important than that.” Salley Vickers, Observer (here)

“A fascinating compendium of the ways in which both the idea and the reality of invisibility have resonated in human minds over the centuries… Ball’s writing is incisive enough to keep the different elements hanging and working together like a finely tuned Alexander Calder mobile.” Economist (here)

“Intriguing… level headed… packed with ideas.” John Carey, Sunday Times (here) [subscription]

“[A] fantastic feast of ideas and information… Ball crosses and recrosses the border between science and myth effortlessly and is as much at home discussing stage illusions and adaptive colouration in animals as he is Ralph Ellison’s outsider fable Invisible Man and H G Wells’s sci-fi classic of almost the same name. He can explain the boggling complexities behind carving holes in space-time and the developments in microscopic software towards “smart air” sprays, laden with circuitry too small to see, that can make any object interactive and programmable… In this enthralling book, Philip Ball’s elegant and intelligent mastery is very evident indeed.” Claire Harman, Evening Standard (here)

“teems with a dizzying array of examples: dark matter, microscopic life, Abbott and Costello, ghosts, radiation, The Blair Witch Project and much more… as a harvest of fascinating facts delivered with sharp wit and insight, it is hard to fault. And like all good works of cultural history, it reveals how extraordinary the ordinary is when viewed from a different angle.” Robert Douglas-Fairhurst, Daily Telegraph (here)

“The science of invisibility remains trapped somewhere in the half-world between technology, myth and illusionism. It is the perfect subject for Philip Ball, then… fizzes at times like a high-voltage power cable.”
James McConnachie, Spectator

“The history of invisibility provides a rich seam of stories and analysis for Philip Ball, one of the most engaging contemporary science writers.” Clive Cookson, Financial Times (here)

Published by Bodley Head/Chicago University Press, (Autumn 2014)
hardcover 978-0-226-23889-0
Now available in paperback (Vintage, 2015).

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Book cover - Invisible: The Dangerous Allure of the Unseen  Invisible paperback

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