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The New World of Mr Tompkins: George Gamow's Classic Mr Tompkins in Paperback Paperback – August 6, 2001


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; Rev Upd edition (August 6, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521639921
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521639927
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.4 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #601,760 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Scientific American

Some 60 years ago physicist Gamow conceived the notion of presenting scientific ideas to the layperson through the medium of a fictional character, C.G.H. Tompkins, "a bank clerk interested in modern science." (Tompkins's initials derive from three fundamental physical constants: c, the velocity of light; G, the gravitational constant; and h, the quantum constant.) Gamow produced two popular books featuring Tompkins and then combined them in Mr. Tompkins in Paperback. Now science writer Stannard presents a considerably revised version of that book. Tompkins is still a willing if rather dim learner in his associations with a physicist identified only as "the professor." Gamow and Stannard, through the professor and his daughter, Maud (who marries Tompkins in chapter 10), deal with such concepts as relativity, quantum theory and the structure of the atom. The reader will get both entertainment and plenty of information about modern physics and astrophysics.

EDITORS OF SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Review

"[Mr. Tompkins's] adventures and mishaps illuminate in startling fashion the oddities of relativity and quantum theory. Much loved by physics students a generation ago, Mr. Tompkins now embarks on some new escapades, courtesy of coauthor Stannard, who updated the original tales and added illustrations in Gamow's appealingly simple style." Science News

"This revision makes Mr Tompkins not only more accessible to the present generation of both scientists and nonscientists, but more in tune with current science and sensibilities." Science Books and Films

"The best just got better....It is absolutely the best place to get a feel for the most important scientific ideas of the 20th century. It is also a perfect way to get to visual grips with relativity theory and quantum mechanics." The Independent

"The real measure of Stannard is that the new material is covered comprehensibily and in a style that matches the original." The Times Higher Education Supplement

"The best just got better...It is absolutely the best place to get a feel for the most important scientific ideas of the 20th century. It is also a perfect way to get to visual grips with relativity theory and quantum mechanics." The Independent

"The reader will get both entertainment and plenty of information about modern physics." Scientific American

"...a lovely book which I am sure everyone interested in modern physics, from the age of eleven upwards, will enjoy enormously." Nature

"If newcomers who have not seen the original read the book, they will find a charming, whimsical introduction to modern physics...The New World...is a unique book." Physics Today

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Customer Reviews

This book was an excellent followup of the first.
Theresa Mendez
As I read through the book, I found it making most of these `hard to understand' theories very much simplified.
honickchar
I highly recommend this book especially to young people who wish to major in physical sciences.
Tatsuo Tabata

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

41 of 41 people found the following review helpful By Bernie on February 26, 2002
Format: Paperback
I wish I had read the original book instead of this one, or at least read it first. The original had a charm, in both words and illustrations, that this revised version lacks. You can view excerpts from both the original and the revised versions on this website to see what I mean. They begin to show up as soon as the first page.
This revised version changes or adds some things to reflect discoveries and technologies since the original book was written. But it also changes the caliber of the story-telling that gave the orignal charm and clarity. The reviser has written 4 new chapters, three of which become the final chapters of the new book. In thsoe chapters Stannard has almost ignored the style and objectives of Gamow's original. Gamow attempted to present complex physics ideas to the interested reader in ways that might be called "spoon feeding". There was an effort to inject analogies and examples that help the reader understand the concepts. In the newly written chapters it seems like Stannard decided he didn't have time for that, or perhaps didn't have the understanding or confidence to follow through on the original approach. The difference in approach is obvious, and not for the better.
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37 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Tatsuo Tabata on July 11, 2001
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The famous physicist and excellent popularizer of science George Gamow wrote the original version of this book "Mr Tompkins in Paperback" in 1965. Since then the understanding of the physical world from its smallest to largest entities has shown much progress. Thus the book, which was once one of the best classics in the genre of physics popularizations, needed a revision to continue its role of introducing the modern knowledge of fundamental physics to laypersons.
Russell Stannard, an able popularizer of science, courageously tackled this difficult problem of modernizing "Mr Tompkins." Four chapters out of 17 are entirely new. Old chapters describe the theory of relativity, quantum physics and atomic and nuclear physics through Mr Tompkins' adventurous dreams and a series of lectures given by "the professor" to the lay-audience. Tompkins is among the listeners of the lectures, gets acquainted with the professor's daughter Maud, and . . . Maud's look, hairstyle and dresses in illustrations and the episode of romance have also been modernized. The new chapters treat black holes, a high-energy accelerator ("atom smasher") and the results of physics gotten by it, quarks and the Standard Model, and the relation between the life of the Universe and particle physics.
Even the old chapters have been rewritten considerably. For example, Chapter 2 newly tells about an experimental evidence by neutral pion decay for the constancy of light speed, demonstration of relativistic time dilation at CERN by the change of life time of muons traveling at high speed, etc.
Read more ›
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Rob Shearer on June 21, 2000
Format: Hardcover
The results of many of the theories of modern physics are often very hard to grasp since they operate on such a different scale from most people's everyday lives. This book solves that problem by tinkering with the physical constants of the universe to bring them into the realm of human experience: the theory of relativity is described through a narrative set in a universe in which the speed of light is only 30 miles per hour, the topology of space is explained using a universe which is only a few hundred yards in length, and the complex interactions of subatomic particles are narrated from the points of view of the particles themselves. While the social and emotional struggles of quarks and leptons may not give the reader nearly as much mathematical rigor as other overviews of modern physics, they are certainly much more entertaining and provide an intuitive grasp even for readers who don't understand the underlying theories discussed.
This is a great book for anyone interested in modern physics, and a terrific introduction for junior high or high school students who might have the opportunity to study physics later in life.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Andrew Johnston on September 19, 2004
Format: Paperback
My introduction to the world of the mild-mannered bank clerk with an interest in modern Physics came through copies of the original 1940s books rescued from a school library "disposal" pile. Unlike the school librarian I treasured those books, which presented hard science in a humorous, accessible way, and learned a lot from them.

George Gamow brought his original material up to date for "Mr Tompkins in Paperback" shortly before his death in 1968. However, since then Physics has moved on still further, and a new update was appropriate. Russell Stannard took on the challenge, and has done a superb job.

The new version brings both the science and the charming human back story fully up to date, and also addresses some inconsistencies in the earlier text and illustrations caused by their derivation from a group of separate magazine articles.

The books tackles all the main areas of modern Physics, from relativity to particle physics. Each topic is presented by both a serious (but straightforward) lecture text, and also by analogies in a dream experienced by one off the main characters. The two reinforce one another, and should leave the reader with a good basic understanding of all the key concepts. Familiarity with basic arithmetic and elementary concepts of classical physics are the only prerequisites, but the text should also be enjoyable for those with greater background knowledge.

I am very glad to see this classic developed for a new generation, and thoroughly recommend it.
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