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Georges Charpak, Roland Omnès

Becoming a Magician is Becoming Prophet

In a simple, accessible style the authors address questions that we all ask ourselves about science: Why hasn't science made human beings wiser? Hasn't it even had the opposite effect, rendering humans' criminal tendencies even more devastating? To answer these questions, the authors develop the idea that the advent and triumph of modern science have induced a profound change in humanity because science has given human beings the capacity to understand and master phenomena occurring on the microscopic level - a scale that is alien to them. Some of the fundamental elements of contemporary physics are presented here in game form. The authors argue that physics has left free human beings face to face with an equally free interplay of natural forces and that, without causality and finality, the world has become deprived of meaning. It is therefore hardly surprising that many have taken refuge in religion. But the authors propose an alternative to religion, arguing that we can fulfil our modernity by helping our children develop their love of experimentation so that they can discover the meaning of things for themselves - instead of embracing ideologies that can only be imposed through terror. Georges Charpak is a physicist and Nobel Prize Laureate in Physics. Roland Omnès is a physicist and Emeritus Professor at the University of Paris XI-Orsay.