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About the book
  • Published: 31 July 2014
  • ISBN: 9781448190997
  • Imprint: Vintage Digital
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 336


The Dangerous Allure of the Unseen

The invisible is one of the most enduringly seductive ideas in human history. This is its biography.

If you could be invisible, what would you do? The chances are that it would have something to do with power, wealth or sex. Perhaps all three.

But there's no need to feel guilty. Impulses like these have always been at the heart of our fascination with invisibility: it points to realms beyond our senses, serves as a receptacle for fears and dreams, and hints at worlds where other rules apply. Invisibility is a mighty power and a terrible curse, a sexual promise, a spiritual condition.

This is a history of humanity's turbulent relationship with the invisible. It takes on the myths and morals of Plato, the occult obsessions of the Middle Ages, the trickeries and illusions of stage magic, the auras and ethers of Victorian physics, military strategies to camouflage armies and ships and the discovery of invisibly small worlds.

From the medieval to the cutting-edge, fairy tales to telecommunications, from beliefs about the supernatural to the discovery of dark energy, Philip Ball reveals the universe of the invisible.

  • Pub date: 31 July 2014
  • ISBN: 9781448190997
  • Imprint: Vintage Digital
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 336

About the Author

Philip Ball

Philip Ball writes regularly in the scientific and popular media and worked for many years as an editor for physical sciences at Nature. His books cover a wide range of scientific and cultural phenomena, and include Critical Mass: How One Thing Leads To Another (winner of the 2005 Aventis Prize for Science Books), The Music Instinct, Curiosity: How Science Became Interested in Everything, Serving The Reich: The Struggle for the Soul of Science Under Hitler and Invisible: The History of the Unseen from Plato to Particle Physics.

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Praise for Invisible

“As a harvest of fascinating facts delivered with sharp wit and insight, it is hard to fault”

Robert Douglas-Fairhurst, Daily Telegraph


John Carey, Sunday Times

“A fascinating compendium… Another author might struggle to manage such an esoteric collection [of stories of invisibility] but Mr Ball’s writing is incisive enough to keep the different elements hanging and working together”

The Economist

“Ball marshals his material with deftness and charm”

Literary Review

“[A] fantastic feast of ideas and information on the subject… In this enthralling book, Philip Ball’s elegant and intelligent mastery…is very evident indeed”

Evening Standard

“If Ball’s voice is lost in the information, that is his aim: the unseen narrator lets the bewitching facts speak for themselves”

New Statesman

“One of the most engaging contemporary science writers… Excellent”

Clive Cookson, Financial Times

“Original and thought-provoking… The writing is crisp and often witty [and] packed with abstruse information”

Salley Vickers, Observer

“[Ball] is indefatigable, polymathic and conscientious… Project by project, his books are getting better”

Simon Ings, New Scientist

“Quirky, wide-ranging… Down [Ball’s] intellectual side-roads we better understand why brilliant, otherwise rational people – Conan Doyle, Abraham Lincoln and many eminent scientists – could be seduced by the supernatural”

The Times

“Fantastic feast of ideas and information… Ball’s elegant and intelligent mastery of both [science and magic] is very evident indeed”

Claire Harman, Scotsman

“[An] unusual and clever book”

Money Science

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