James Gleick: "Time Travel: A History" | Talks at Google

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Published on Feb 16, 2017

In his previous books Chaos: Making of a new Science and The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood, bestselling author James Gleick became known for lucid and accessible explanations of complex issues. Now he turns his attention a perennial favorite of science fiction in his latest book, Time Travel: A History.

From its beginnings with H. G. Wells to its sprawling influence on literature, philosophy, and physics, time travel continues to fascinate us today. Mr. Gleick sat down with Googler Keith Schaefer in Los Angeles for a wide-ranging discussion of this most modern of ideas.

Time Travel: A History

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AA time-jumping, head-tripping odyssey.” —The Millions
“A bracing swim in the waters of science, technology and fiction.” —Washington Post
“A thrilling journey of ideas.” —Boston Globe

From the acclaimed author of The Information and Chaos, here is a mind-bending exploration of time travel: its subversive origins, its evolution in literature and science, and its influence on our understanding of time itself.

The story begins at the turn of the previous century, with the young H. G. Wells writing and rewriting the fantastic tale that became his first book and an international sensation: The Time Machine. It was an era when a host of forces was converging to transmute the human understanding of time, some philosophical and some technological: the electric telegraph, the steam railroad, the discovery of buried civilizations, and the perfection of clocks. James Gleick tracks the evolution of time travel as an idea that becomes part of contemporary culture—from Marcel Proust to Doctor Who, from Jorge Luis Borges to Woody Allen. He investigates the inevitable looping paradoxes and examines the porous boundary between pulp fiction and modern physics. Finally, he delves into a temporal shift that is unsettling our own moment: the instantaneous wired world, with its all-consuming present and vanishing future.

Time Travel: A History

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