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Fear Of Physics: A Guide For The Perplexed [Hardcover]

Lawrence M. Krauss
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)

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Book Description

October 5, 1993 0465057454 978-0465057450 First Edition
“Assume the cow is a sphere.” So begins this lively, irreverent, and informative look at everything from the physics of boiling water to cutting-edge research at the observable limits of the universe. Rich with anecdotes and accessible examples, Fear of Physics nimbly ranges over the tools and thought behind the world of modern physics, taking the mystery out of what is essentially a very human intellectual endeavour.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Krauss ( Cosmic Strings ), who teaches physics at Yale University, delivers a three-part lecture for lay readers on today's dominant research questions in theoretical physics. In six broad-ranging chapters with such titles as "The Art of Numbers" and "The Search for Symmetry," he examines and explains "the tools that guide physicists in their work." The accomplishments and views of such giants of modern physics as Einstein, Feynman and Heisenberg are used to illustrate the inventiveness required of those in the field. While Krauss acknowledges that this is a limited selection of ideas--the "hidden realities" of physics, not its stuff--he nonetheless serves quantum mechanics well. Also well-served are the interests of the general reader as Krauss, persistently hewing to the basics, never falls into patronization or catchy metaphor. Supplemented by Larry Gonick and Art Huffman's The Cartoon Guide to Physics , this is a primer on the wonders of physics. Library of Science selection.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

In describing "the flavor of physics" and how physicists "do" and have "done" physics, this short, charming, quick-paced book conveys the joy of "making new connections" in the physical world. Aiming his book at the nonscientist, the author hopes to give readers their own insight into the wonder associated with the art of physics and the symmetry and hidden realities of the world. Krauss, a professor of theoretical physics at Yale University who teaches a course called Physics for Poets, insistently reminds readers that physics is a part of "our cultural experience," a part of who we are and even that we are. Highly recommended.
- Diane M. Fortner, Univ. of California Lib., Berkeley
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; First Edition edition (October 5, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465057454
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465057450
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.7 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,046,085 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

I was born in New York City and shortly afterward moved to Toronto, spending my childhood in Canada. I received undergraduate degrees in mathematics and physics from Carleton University, and my Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1982.

After a stint in the Harvard Society of Fellows, I became an assistant professor at Yale University in 1985 and Associate Professor in 1988. I moved in 1993 to become Ambrose Swasey Professor of Physics, professor of astronomy, and Chairman of the Physics Department at Case Western Reserve University In August 2008 I joined the faculty at Arizona State University as Foundation Professor in the School of Earth and Space Exploration and the Department of Physics in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and Director of the University's Origins Initiative. In 2009 we inaugurated this this initiative with the Origins Symposium [www.origins.asu.edu] in which 80 of the world's leading scientists participated, and 3000 people attended.

I write regularly for national media, including The New York Times, the Wall St. Journal, Scientific American (for which I wrote a regular column last year), and other magazines, as well as doing extensive work on radio and television. I am strongly committed to public understanding of science, and have helped lead the national effort to preserve sound science teaching, including the teaching of evolution. I also served on Barack Obama's 2008 Presidential campaign science policy committee. In 2008 I became co-chair of the Board of Sponsors of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, and in 2010 was elected to the Board of Directors of the Federation of American Scientists.

I became a scientist in part because I read books by other scientists, such as Albert Einstein, George Gamow, Sir James Jeans, etc, when I was a child, and my popular writing returns the favor. One of my greatest joys is when a young person comes up to me and tells me that one of my books motivated them to become a scientist.

I believe science is not only a vital part of our culture, but is fun, and I try and convey that in my books and lectures. I am honored that Scientific American referred to me as a rare scientific public intellectual, and that all three three major US Physics Societies: the American Physical Society, the American Association of Physics Teachers, and the American Institute of Physics, have seen fit to honor me with their highest awards for research and writing.

My research focuses on the beginning and end of the Universe. Among my contributions to the field of cosmology, I helped lead the search for dark matter, and first proposed the existence of dark energy in 1995.

When I have the chance, I love to mountain bike, fly fish, and scuba dive. I spend a tremendous amount of time on planes now, alas, and enjoy flying, but hate airports..

Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
65 of 75 people found the following review helpful
Krauss provides some great points about physics to the layman that you may not find in other layman-level physics books, but the rest of it is better suited to those who are already familiar with fundamental principles and the meaning of their equations.
Beginners and laymen will appreciate the exceptional explanation for the utility of scientific notation in physics in chapter two. He also points out how the three fundamental dimensional qualities (length, time and mass) can all be reduced to a single quantity via two linking constants (speed of light and Planck's constant) but don't expect to really understand this much
Chapter three (Creative Plagiarism) does a great job explaining the process of how new ideas are tested and accepted.
Beyond that, I strongly recommend layman and beginners switch to other books such as:
1. Basic Physics: A Self Teaching Guide by Karl Kuhn (includes easy formulas that really convey the basic idea)
2. There Are No Electrons by Ken Amdahl (to assist the basic book on electricity and magnetism)
3. Six Easy Pieces by the legendary Richard Feynman (the basics explained again to a physics educated audience, no formulas)
4. Why Things Are The Way They Are by B.S. Chanrasekhar (physics of condensed matter, a few equations and great pictures for laymen to get it).
Krauss is a smart and personable guy. Search for newspaper articles with his name and you'll get some great info on the possible fate of the universe and scientific viewpoints re: sci-fi (Physics of Star Trek, and Beyond Physics of Star Trek) that are much better appreciated after you've read these other basic books.
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars For Feynman Fans September 30, 2007
Dr. Krauss uses analogies like Feynman does to create lucid explanations for those who are interested in physics but don't have a degree in math or physics. It is aptly described as "A Guide for the Perplexed". Having an avid interest in physics I found it ideal. I have a degree in engineering science but am weak in the kind of math required for theoretical physics. If you want to know more about physics but can't seem to find a book that you can understand, you should read this book!
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Introduction. July 15, 2001
By Nawfal
This is a short work, it doesn't take more than three days to read. Its light-hearted, and it isn't merely another overview of things that are too simplistic to bother with. Krauss (a theoretical physicist) crams a lot of info into the book. He attempts to tie all of the information together as best he can, though. He sometimes goes on tangents, but he always explains the tangents and connects them to what he is discussing. The chapter early in the book on Mathematics is useful to someone who isn't interested in grappling with modern physics mathematical workings.
I have one complaint about the book, however. I think Krauss is very ignorant of philosophy. I was somewhat offended by one of his comments, though I am sure (in light of the rest of the book) he meant the comment in a light-hearted manner. Something to the effect that philosophy is useless.
Nevertheless, Krauss tosses a lot of names into the book and gives the reader some good quotes from those men. The bibliography is small, but the book is not a research paper for a physics journal, either. I would suggest this book and also Gordon Kane's "The Particle Garden" as solid introductions to modern physics. Both are manageable reads for the non-physicist.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fearless Entertainer and Educator April 8, 2012
By Spk
On a lazy weekend day in Vermont, I sauntered into the local bookstore (instead of browsing the Kindle Store on my iPad), and browsed the science section. I wanted something on Galaxies and stuff.

I chanced upon this slender book published in the early 90s by Lawrence Krauss titled, "The Fear of Physics'

A very accessible writer. In his first example he shows how when you say 'cow' to a physicist, the physicist thinks 'sphere.' Then after explaining why the Physicist sees the world this way, he maintains that stance all through the book, till the very last line.

Along the way he talks about three things - Process, Progress and Principles. i.e what is the process of discovery that Physicists use, what progress have Physicists made and what are the underlying principles of physics.

I had several aha moments throughout the book. The equivalence between electricity and magnetism explained in a way through illustrations that struck me as pretty lucid.

Why, to a physicist there is equivalence between the behavior of iron and water (a beautiful explanation of phase transitions)

And the clearest explanation of relativity I have read so far - not that I still get it - but I feel like I know just a little more. He goes through the famous example of two people on opposing trains. And for the first time I get what the perspective of each person is. Also for the first time I get space-time as a concept. For some reason I was stuck in a cartesian mindset of 3 dimensions of space and then time. But Krauss' explanation of space-time as one thing was really worth the price of the book.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars great book
I thought it was a very good book. It was written in a manner that I could follow with little difficulty.
Published 4 months ago by earl cox
5.0 out of 5 stars Oh, my stars!
I love this book. It's the first physics "lesson" I've ever had. Lawrence Krauss does a beautiful job instructing without talking down to the reader. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Christine Harper
5.0 out of 5 stars More great stuff from L Krauss
I now appreciate the joke about the physicist giving a solution to a chicken farmer on how to get greater return from his stock. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Gavin C
5.0 out of 5 stars Physics. Tools and Concepts
Carl Sagan and Richard Feyman both had that unique personal quality, a likability that was contagious and made you want to learn what they knew. Read more
Published 13 months ago by jtk
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read
Fear of Physics is a more intricate read than most popular science books, which could confuse certain readers whose scientific literacy is not that developped. Read more
Published 17 months ago by Shane Anthony Pitts
4.0 out of 5 stars Fear?....no....informative.....yes!
The writer here has the knack of holding the reader to a subject that to say the very least is somewhat complex....ha! Read more
Published 17 months ago by Ray
5.0 out of 5 stars No fear
excellent.presentation..but not an easy read for people with
above but not stratospheric IQ such as myself.Worth the effort though.
Published 18 months ago by Joseph Katz
5.0 out of 5 stars FEAR of PHYSICS
FEAR of PHYSICS is an excellent book for both scientist an laymen.
Lawrence Krauss, as ever, writes in an easy and humerous style which makes reading a pleasure. Read more
Published on January 30, 2010 by Jacques Loeb
2.0 out of 5 stars Not a very interesting book
I didn't like this book much, but it looks like some people do. It has some good points, but on the whole rather flat. I've read better ones.
Published on September 1, 2009 by Janet C. Malone
5.0 out of 5 stars Very engaging and entertaining
I totally loved the book. It's full of insightful points and connections that will put you in a state of awe. Read more
Published on July 28, 2009 by Schrodinger's cat
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