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It's 1946 at the Institute for Advanced Study (IAS) in Princeton, NJ, and gathered on one faculty, staff and board are: Albert Einstein; Kurt Godel; John von Neumann; J. Robert Oppenheimer; T. S. Eliot; Freeman Dyson; Wolfgang Pauli; David Bohm; Eugene Wigner; Hans Bethe; and Lewis L. Strauss. In other words, some of the oddest personalities and greatest minds of all time, never mind the age, in logic, physics, mathematics, computer science, and even literature all cloistered in the hothouse atmosphere of academia. The IAS was a unique institution, devoted to the pursuit of only abstract, not applied, thought--the Platonic Heaven of the title.

Mr. Casti takes advantage of this true-life cast of characters (though he does play fast and loose with the timelines in order to put them all in Princeton at the same time) in order to explore both the political and personality clashes of the day and, as the subtitle suggests, the profound implications of Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle and Godel's Incompleteness Theorem for the notion that we can "know" the Universe around us. The politics basically pits men like von Neumann, Strauss and Edward Teller (off stage), who believe that America must develop and employ nuclear weapons to stop the Soviet Union, against those like Einstein and Oppenheimer who either had moral quibbles or Communist backgrounds or both. The personality brouhahas center around


Grade: (A-)


See also:

John Casti Links:

    -BOOK SITE: One True Platonic Heaven (John Henry Press)
    -BIO: John L. Casti (
    -John Casti at Complexica
    -REVIEW: of The One True Platonic Heaven: a Scientific Fiction of the Limits of Knowledge by John L. Casti ( Jeremy Case, MAA Online)
    -REVIEW: of The One True Platonic Heaven(Kenneth Silber, Tech Central Station)
    -REVIEW: of Gödel by John L. Casti and Werner DePauli (Complete Review)
    -REVIEW: of The Cambridge Quintet by John L.Casti (Complete Review)
    -REVIEW: of The Cambridge Quintet (Paul Trachtman, Smithsonian)
    -REVIEW: of The Cambridge Quintet (George Scialabba, LA Weekly)
    -REVIEW: of The Cambridge Quintet
    -REVIEW: of The Cambridge Quintet (Chris Mitchell, Spike)

Book-related and General Links:
-Institute for Advanced Study -TIME 100: Kurt Gödel: He turned the lens of mathematics on itself and hit upon his famous "incompleteness theorem" — driving a stake through the heart of formalism (DOUGLAS HOFSTADTER, TIME)