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.