Invisible: The Dangerous Allure of the Unseen

Backorder (temporarily out of stock)

Product Details

University of Chicago Press
Publish Date
6.55 X 0.84 X 9.12 inches | 1.25 pounds
BISAC Categories:

Earn by promoting books

Earn money by sharing your favorite books through our Affiliate program.

Become an affiliate

About the Author

A renowned science writer, Philip Ball lives in London. His many books include Curiosity: How Science Became Interested in Everything and Serving the Reich: The Struggle for the Soul of Physics under Hitler, both also published by the University of Chicago Press.


"A former editor at Nature and the author of nineteen previous books (he should write about that superpower), 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."--New Yorker
"The history of invisibility provides a rich seam of stories and analysis for Philip Ball, one of the most engaging contemporary science writers. . . . One of the best passages in this excellent book concerns the quest for the most effective camouflages to apply to warships, aircraft and army equipment. The claims of competing schemes from dazzle to drab, multicolor to monotone--and the surprisingly colorful characters promoting them to the world's armed forces--are every bit as entertaining as the spells and concoctions of those seeking true invisibility."--Financial Times
"Invisible: The Dangerous Allure of the Unseen by Ball is the kind of book I really enjoy. For one thing, the writing is crisp and often witty (a virtue not as common as it should be among nonfiction works). For another it is packed with abstruse information. Most crucially, Ball's extensive research, rather than being a parade of intellectual swank, works to encourage connections and make the reader think, another experience that is rarer than it might be."--Observer
"Prolific English science writer Philip Ball seems to produce a fascinating book every year, and 2015 is no exception. In Invisible: The Dangerous Allure of the Unseen, he confronts a timeless idea hidden in plain sight."--Publishers Weekly
"Exploring what no one can see, Ball uncovers what everyone wants. . . . Skeptics might dismiss the legends and legerdemain, but who can brush off the instances of invisibility Ball finds in modern science, where Maxwell's Demon taunts physicists, and dark energy baffles cosmologists? More frightening is the science that has already coaxed monsters out of unseen regions of microbiology--and now threatens to produce malevolent nanorobots through microengineering. Ball even investigates an emerging technology of metamaterials for enveloping soldiers with a cloak of invisibility. Yet his conclusion locates the ultimate meaning of invisibility not in new technology but rather in archetypal metaphor. A surprisingly illuminating foray into the unseen."--Booklist
"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."--Telegraph
"Invisible, by veteran British science writer Philip Ball, is more than just a history of an ancient, exotic (and perhaps hopeless) quest. The book is full of insights drawn from a broad survey of history, literature and philosophy; wherever the invisible is being contemplated, Ball is there to select the juiciest anecdotes. . . . For anyone interested in the interplay between science and spirit over the centuries, and especially in the Victorian world, Ball is a lucid, witty and highly entertaining guide."--Globe and Mail
"Invisible exemplifies Ball's compelling craft of narrative, providing a seamless assembly of historical, cultural, and scientific tales, thus synthesizing a compendium of knowledge about invisibility. Despite Plato's warnings, it seems nothing will prevent humans from pursuing the feat of the unseen."--Science
"Humans have always been fascinated with the unseen, as evidenced by efforts to find ways to render themselves or objects invisible and to devise ways to see into the unseen world surrounding them. A respected science writer, Ball (who has been an editor at Nature for many years) takes readers on an entertaining tour through the ages, starting with the ancients' belief in myths and continuing into the present via the Victorian fascination with spirits and the occult, the discovery of X-rays, the development of microscopes, and the mostly secret research into 'stealth' materials. . . . Highly recommended."