The book Chaos by science journalist James Gleick chronicles a twentieth century paradigm shift in science through the biographical fragments of its leading scientists, colorful characters obsessively hunting for patterns in the world around them. For 374-pages, the reader is immersed in their musings as they abstract everyday encounters into physical laws…for instance, a tendril of cigarette smoke would be reimagined as a flurry of particles crashing through an atmospheric obstacle course.
If I could resume my 18-year-old self, reading this book for the very first time, I could relive the sudden realization that the strangest universe I would ever read about is the one in which we live, where every detail of experience is the extreme expression of intricate chemistry. Until that moment, I don’t think it was entirely clear to me what scientists were trying to do, scouring the ocean floor or Tom-peeping across the galaxy with their very powerful eye-tubes. What are you looking for? What will you do once you’ve found it? And if you don’t?
“The secret of life is to have a task, something you devote your entire life to, something you bring everything to, every minute of the day for the rest of your life. And the most important thing is, it must be something you cannot possibly do.”