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The Nature of Science: An A-Z Guide to the Laws and Principles Governing Our Universe Hardcover – April 14, 2003

ISBN-13: 978-0618319381 ISBN-10: 0618319387 Edition: 1ST

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; 1ST edition (April 14, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0618319387
  • ISBN-13: 978-0618319381
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 7.1 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #886,297 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

A physics professor (George Mason Univ.) and science popularizer (The Edge of the Unknown: 101 Things You Don't Know About Science and No One Else Does Either), Trefil has compiled a concise A-to-Z encyclopedia of the laws of nature, broadly defined, and how they have developed in relation to one another. His introduction itself is a gem, explaining how science progresses through observation, experimentation, and hypothesis testing. Each two- to four-page article explains a scientific concept (variously called a principle, theory, effect, or law) or a defining experiment in physics, astronomy, chemistry, geology, biology, or mathematics. Entries start with a one-sentence statement of the concept, followed by an explanatory essay that sets forth its importance and provides context. Many of the entries include biographical sketches of scientists as sidebars, and they all give a time line of cross references that essentially serves as a mini-course on the concept's development. Additionally, a chronology listing all of the entries is included as an appendix, allowing the reader to trace discoveries across disciplines through time, and a section called "Rear View Mirror" considers the discarded theories and missteps of science. Approximately half of the 200-plus entries are classified as physics, which could be attributed either to the author's background or to the centrality of this science and its suitability to being defined by equations. Trefil's personal interjections convey a sense of his enthusiasm and of the dynamic nature of science into the present day. Unfortunately, whether from sloppy editing or the author's need to simplify for lay readers, there are noticeable, niggling errors throughout (for example, there are 20, not 21, amino acids). However, this work can still be usefully employed in high school, public, and undergraduate libraries.[This was previously published in the U.K. as Cassell's Laws of Nature: A-Z of Laws and Principles Governing the Workings of Our Universe.-Ed.]-Wade M. Lee, Univ. of Toledo Lib., OH (Library Journal ) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

James Trefil, the Clarence J. Robinson Professor of Physics at George Mason University, is the author or coauthor of more than thirty books, including The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy.

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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What a fascinating book!
Diverse
In any case buy this book for your children and give them an incentive to read and learn it all.
Kenneth Ellman
Every topic is short enough to be very concise about it's subject.
YoMomma

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

41 of 43 people found the following review helpful By Bruce Crocker on April 11, 2003
Format: Hardcover
The Nature Of Science is an attempt by James Trefil to put together essays on all the important laws of nature. The essays I've read to date are well-written, accurate, and on point. And as with any work of this magnitude, mistakes were made and left unedited. The mistakes range from minor typos to a few major mistakes [the chart of leptons on page 372 lists the 3 types of neutrinos as having POSITIVE charges]. The Nature Of Science is a case of excellent intent, but less than perfect execution. My hope is that the publisher is serious about this book becoming the indispensable reference that it could be and quickly edits the problems out of future printings. I wanted to give this book a 5 and out of frustration was leaning towards a 3, so I split the difference and gave it 4-stars.
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 10, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I typically dismiss survey books as being too superficial but I ended up buying this one. While Trefil's book does not cover anything in great depth he does cover a very wide range of interesting topics (in alphabetical order). For example, he offers a concise 2-page description of Exponential Growth, complete with a few simple equations, graphs, and some nice examples from biology. A few pages later he gives an accessible description of Godel's Incompleteness Theorem. The book's topics include everything from physics' Standard Model, to Molecular Clocks, to Le Chatelier's Principle, to Predator-Prey Relationships, and he doesn't omit more mainstream topics like DNA, Relativity, Quantum Mechanics, Newton's Laws, or the Periodic Table.
I am reasonably well read in science but I found lots of topics I knew little or nothing about. The author kept coverage of each topic short enough (1-3 pages) that I was willing to jump in and read about topics I would typically neglect. And the author didn't dumb down any of the coverage so I was able to walk away from each topic with new and useful information.
I am having a blast going through these topics, and I would strongly recommend this book to any science buff who wants to quickly broaden their knowledge of science.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Diverse on December 14, 2003
Format: Hardcover
What a fascinating book! I was looking for a book that contains all the laws of science, and i found this. It's very thorough, with many entries and good overviews. It's a wonderful reference book, to look up new entries, and to understand these brilliant ideas more thoroughly. The first chapter is a superb introduction to the general history of science, and the author's insight into the need to write this book.
If you're looking for a great History of Science, from the perspective of the results of the men, and a great understanding of the way scientists understand the world today, this is the right book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By astrobites on March 29, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is an excellent resource for a quick background of the history and the why and/or how of the principles of science. I use it to present some background to students in science courses. It greatly reduces my research time.
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