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More and Different: Notes from a Thoughtful Curmudgeon [Paperback]

Philip W Anderson
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)

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Book Description

September 1, 2011 9814350133 978-9814350136 1
Philip Anderson was educated at University High School in Urbana, Illinois, at Harvard (Bs 1943, PhD 1949), and further educated at Bell Laboratories, where his career (1949-1984) coincided with the greatest period of that remarkable institution. Starting in 1967, he shared his time with Cambridge University (until 1975) and then with Princeton, where he continued full time as Joseph Henry Professor until 1997. As an emeritus he remains active in research, and at press time he was involved in several scientific controversies about high profile subjects, in which his point of view, though unpopular at the moment, is likely to prevail eventually. His colleagues have made him one of the two physicists most often cited in the scientific literature, for several decades. His work is characterized by mathematical simplicity combined with conceptual depth, and by profound respect for experimental findings. He has explored areas outside his main discipline, the quantum theory of condensed matter (for which he won the 1977 Nobel Prize), on several occasions: his paper on what is now called the “Anderson-Higgs mechanism” was a main source for Peter Higgs' elucidation of the boson; a crucial insight led to work on the dynamics of neutron stars (pulsars); and his concept of the spin glass led far afield, to developments in practical computer algorithms and neural nets, and eventually to his involvement in the early years of the Santa Fe Institute and his co-leadership with Kenneth Arrow of two influential workshops on economics at that institution. His writing career started with a much-quoted article in Science titled “More is Different” in 1971; he was an occasional columnist for Physics Today in the 1980s and 1990s. He was more recently a reviewer of science and science-related books for the Times (London) Higher Education Supplement as well as an occasional contributor to Science, Nature, and other journals.

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More and Different: Notes from a Thoughtful Curmudgeon + Concepts in Solids: Lectures on the Theory of Solids (Lecture Notes in Physics) + Basic Notions Of Condensed Matter Physics (Advanced Books Classics)
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Philip W Anderson is the doyen of present-day condensed matter physics, and has written widely and provocatively on many subjects both within and without the discipline.This collection of his essays is guaranteed to instruct, amuse and in some cases annoy readers irrespective of their specialist backgrounds." --Anthony Leggett, Nobel Laureate

"This is that rare book which may stimulate the reader into seeing the future, present and past of science in a new light. Philip Anderson is not only the most influential and original scientist in the second half of the 20th century in condensed matter physics, but also happens to be one who thinks deeply and broadly, and writes beautifully and vividly. It is of inestimable value especially to those curious about the scientific enterprise and possibly interested in contributing to it. The book title is a twist on an Andersonian phrase which has become a modern mantra." --T V Ramakrishnan, Banaras Hindu University, India

"Phil Anderson has made many wonderful contributions to physics, often illustrating his favorite theme of how more is different. I am sure readers of diverse interests will enjoy this book and learn much from it." --Edward Witten, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton

"Anderson has put together an entertaining and instructive collection of highly readable reviews, columns, talks, and unpublished essays on science and the scientists he has known. He is rarely inappropriately provocative, and he is a pleasure to read". --Physics Today

"Phil Anderson has made many wonderful contributions to physics, often illustrating his favorite theme of how more is different. I am sure readers of diverse interests will enjoy this book and learn much from it." --Edward Witten, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton

Product Details

  • Paperback: 424 pages
  • Publisher: World Scientific Publishing Company; 1 edition (September 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9814350133
  • ISBN-13: 978-9814350136
  • Product Dimensions: 0.9 x 6.3 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #911,548 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A platter full of intellectual treats February 5, 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The Nobel Prize-winning physicist Philip Anderson is one of those rare species - a scientist who is not only world-class in his own field but who seems capable of saying something interesting about virtually every topic under the sun. His career at Bell Labs overlapped with the lab's most illustrious period and apart from his prizewinning work in solid-state physics, Anderson has made groundbreaking contributions to at least two other diverse fields - particle physics and the epistemology of science. In this book he holds forth on a wide variety of subjects ranging from postmodernism to superconductivity. The chapters consist of book reviews, commemorative essays, transcripts of talks, opinion pieces and a variety of other writings over the past five decades. In every chapter there are at least a few rather deep statements which deserve close scrutiny.

The book is roughly divided into three parts. The first part details Anderson's views on the history and philosophy of science including his own field - solid-state physics. The second part talks about Anderson's reminiscences and thoughts on his scientific peers, mostly in the form of book reviews that he has written for various magazines and newspapers. The third part deals with science policy and politics and the fourth is dedicated to "attempts" (in Anderson's own rather self-effacing words) at popularizing science.

Some of the chapters are full of scientific details and can be best appreciated by physicists but there's also a lot of fodder for the layman in here. A running thread through several essays is Anderson's criticism of ultra-reductionism in science which is reflected in the title of the book, "More and Different".
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
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Prof. Anderson chooses his title very well: "More and different". It alludes to an old but exceedingly influential paper of his where he points out that from a single copper atom to a hunk of metal (= "more"), is a long, long road with lots of fundamentally new (= "different") governing physics along the way, which decidedly is not contained in the physics of the individual atom. His book is equally appropriately subtitled: "Notes from a thoughtful curmudgeon". As for the "curmudgeon" part: in this hypocritical age of political correctness (political two-facedness, really) a refreshingly down to earth honest opinion might seem confrontational to some, but it's like a large glass of ice lemonade on an oppressively hot summer day to others (me included). Of course, being a heavy weight amongst Nobel Prize winners (the "thoughtful"! part) lends an authority to Prof. Anderson's views that most of us other physicists lack.
The first section of the book is about the authors' reminiscences of his years at the then iconic Bell Labs, and with it the development of modern theoretical solid state physics and the theory of superconductivity. I cannot imagine that a non-physicist gets much out of this, but for the rest of us, this is a very interesting read, even if superconductivity is not your specialty.
Much of the rest of the book essentially consists of a collection of essays and book reviews that those who read Physics Today regularly will likely remember. In the intervening years I had actually read many of the books he reviewed (by coincidence, not by design) and I find particularly his opinions on string theory so very satisfying, because my far lesser mind came to much the same conclusions.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best essay collection I have read in a while January 19, 2013
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This book encouraged me to read more by the author, and led me to other books in the area, such as the excellent biography of Fritz London.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars As good as Watson's "Double Helix." September 28, 2012
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The first few chapters present a very personal and explicit history of certain aspects of condensed matter physics by one of the major players. The feeling I got from it is not unlike the one I had in the late 60s when "The Double Helix" came out in installments in the Atlantic Monthly. The Double Helix: A Personal Account of the Discovery of the Structure of DNA. As a matter of fact, Anderson praises both Watson and his book.

To give a very short summary, as a by product of their work on superconductivity and other things, the condensed matter physicists introduced symmetry breaking. Then the particle physicists used it to form the Standard Model, at the same time teaching the condensed matter physicists some theoretical techniques, thereby repaying them. Anderson produced the so-called Anderson-Higgs mechanism, which led to the Higgs field and the Higgs boson.

The other chapters are also excellent. Some are book reviews of biographies of important players in the same drama.
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