Praise for A Tenth of a Second: A History

Top 10 Books About Time  The Guardian

How Thick is the Present?

‘We live in a tenth-of-a-second world’

“An extraordinary example of multidisciplinary inquiry … wonderfully composed and delightfully illustrated. A Tenth of a Secondis suitable for upper-level undergraduate classes in the history of science and would enhance a range of graduate reading lists, especially ones concerning modernity, the history of science, and the history of photography. Canales should be congratulated for rescuing a tenth of a second from basketball arenas and racetracks; she has shown that its scholarly significance is quite simply astonishing.”–McCrossen, Alexis. “Review” Technology and CultureVol 52, (2011), pp. 212-213.

““We live in a tenth-of-a-second world,” Thomas Edison’s electrical engineer Arthur Kennelly mused. That unit is roughly human reaction time and, as measurement technologies improved, this bodily lag from stimulus to response became a vexing matter of observational interference. Jimena Canales ably shows it was brought to a head by astronomers recording the transit of Venus in 1874: precisely timing anything through an eyepiece was bedevilled by human error. …a thoughtful look at the all-too-human perceptual complications facing objective observation.”–Collins, Paul. “Tick tock,” New Scientist (24 October 2009) Issue 2731, p. 49.

“An ambitious and complex story of techno-physiological modernity as told through the lens of one such modern man/machine- effect: reaction time. Or, in more dramatic terms, the story it tells revolves around that epistemologically worrisome exposure of the non-instantaneity of cognition, its ineluctable ‘temporality’… What is more, Canales is making good use of it, somewhat reminiscent of the biography-of-a-scientific-object literature, in order to bring together a range of indisputably crucial scenes and figures in matters of Modernity—some of them familiar, others less so. Covering a period roughly from 1800 into the 1920s, in its six highly readable chapters,

A Tenth of a Second thus moves elegantly across pertinent developments in the realms of physics, psychology and physiology, weaving, along the way, a number of narrative threads between them—not to mention the multitude of cross-references to the history of photography, cinema, and the philosophy of science; precision instruments (or metrology) naturally loom large in this story of ‘micro-temporality’, as do such all-time favorites as Hermann von Helmholtz, Étienne-Jules Marey, and Henri Bergson.

A Tenth of a Second is … unusually well crafted and intelligent”–Max Stadler, Aestimatio 9 (2012): 374–381.

“Canales’s central argument is that microtime underpinned a multitude of scientific and cultural phenomena, and a great strength of her book is the careful, nuanced exploration of these moments of emergence and the seemingly endless debates they generated. The history she reveals is complex and surprising.

This is a rich and fascinating study, which carries Canales into all kinds of interesting areas. A Tenth of a Second, like the earlier work of Jonathan Crary, has revealed hidden dimensions to the histories of science, perception, and psychology. With its sophisticated, cross-disciplinary focus, A Tenth of a Second deserves the widest possible readership.”–Otter, Chris. Victorian Studies Vol 54, (2012), pp. 314-316.

“This scintillating book recounts a nearly century-long obsession with the ‘sacred 0.1 seconds’, from around 1850 to the eve of the Second World War.

Canales examines debates over relativity from the vantage point of this history, opening some remarkable new vistas on well-trodden historical terrain.

Canales’ history of the tenth of a second makes a major contribution to this project. She shows how Baudelaire’s oft-cited notion of modernity – the ‘ephemeral, fleeting, the contingent’, which nevertheless recaptured ‘something eternal’- echoed the scientists’ quest to find a stable natural constant in a dynamic and evanescent world.

It should – at least for a moment – set a new historiographic standard for many to follow.”–Brain, Robert. “Review,” Centaurus Vol. 52, Issue 4, (2011), pp. 353-355.

“A Tenth of a Second is an example of the new urbanism: a multi-function building, like several recently erected on my campus, with retail shops and cafés on the ground floor, classrooms or computer labs justabove, and dormitory space on the upper levels. The multiple uses are meant to encourage vibrancy in the surrounding neighborhood, but also to maximize the use of space. Canales explores how a single concept functioned in several different scientific and cultural discourses in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Is this a history of astronomy, physics, physiology, or psychology? All of the above. The prose is efficient, yet full of colorful detail.”–Beyler, Richard H. “Three Ways to Spend Some Time in the Historiographical Metropolis,” Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences Vol 41, (2012), pp. 354-364.

“Recommend most readily this fascinating study of an intellectual entity that bound together a wide range of nineteenth and twentieth- century sciences.”Lawrence, Christopher. Annals of Science, Volume 70, Issue 1, 2013, pp. 122-123.

“The author’s style, while scholarly, is fluid, making successive arguments logical and reasonable and, of all things unexpected, entertaining.  … a crisp, well argued style makes the reading highly informative and enjoyable. I read the book at one sitting. It retained my interest throughout that time and I recommend it without reservation.”–Ian Lipke, M/C Reviews

“In this significant contribution to the cultural history of time, Jimena Canales follows the career of the tenth of a second in astronomy, physiology, psychology, art and technology, physics, and philosophy from the mid-nineteenth century to the early twentieth century. Her book is a wide-ranging and thoroughly researched study, based on an impressive range of published and archival sources.

… a splendid book. … A Tenth of a Second deserves a wide readership.”–Arabatzis, Theodore. ISIS: Journal of the History of Science in Society Vol 72, (2012), pp. 774-775.

Additional Reviews/Mentions:

Beer, Gillian. “Mathematics: Alice in time,” Nature Vol. 479, (2011), pp. 38-39.

Gherab Martín, Karim “En un abrir y cerrar de ojos,” Revista de LibrosNo 171, (2011)

Schickore, Jutta. The American Historical Review Vol 117, (2012), pp. 825-826.