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Clifford A. Pickover received his PhD from Yale in Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry, and has written more than 40 books and over 200 articles on such topics as computers and creativity, art, mathematics, black holes, human intelligence, time travel, alien life, religion, and the history of science. . Currently, he is an associate editor for several scientific journals and holds over 60 U.S. patents for inventions dealing with computer graphics and interfaces. His research has received considerable attention from such media outlets as CNN, the Discovery Channel, The New York Times, and WIRED, and his Web site, www.pickover.com, has received millions of visits.
Although Clifford Pickover is the author of over forty books, it has been two years since we have seen him produce a new one. It has been worth the wait. "The Physics Book" is a perfect companion to his work of 2009, "The Math Book." Both books present us with 250 milestones in their fields. However, their temporal scopes differ. While "The Math Book" covers a period from 150 million BC to 2007, seemingly a good chunk of time, "The Physics Book" outdoes it by orders of magnitude in both the past and the future. "The Physics Book" starts with the Big Bang, 13.7 billion years ago, and as if that is not enough, goes past 100 trillion years into the future to finish with Quantum Resurrection.
For each milestone, there is a page of explanation facing a full-page image, which illustrates the milestone. The images include photos, works or art, and even U.S. patents. My favorite images are the close-up photo of a hand holding a boomerang, what looks like a bowling ball next to a baseball plummeting from the Leaning Tower of Pisa, and a supernova explosion. One charm of the book is that the images are not always the expected ones. For example, Pickover's idiosyncratic world view shines through in his use of a muskrat standing in for Brownian Motion. According to the book jacket, the author's inventiveness has resulted in over seventy U.S. patents. This inventiveness is apparent in the choice of images.
Going cover-to cover, I see several themes emerge. The first is the physics of the very large: cosmology and astronomy. The second is that of the very small: particles, waves, and quantum mechanics. These two themes run from the very beginning to the very end.Read more ›
In this book, the prolific writer Clifford Pickover leads us through an astonishing variety of inventions and discoveries that reveal the sheer range of the science and application of physics, from the Big Bang to the transistor. Starting from the Big Bang itself 13.7 billion years ago, Pickover judiciously picks key years in the history of physics and describes inventions and discoveries made during each year along with the names of the relevant scientists.
For the most part Pickover's choices are both varied and important. What I really liked about this book was the sheer variety of topics Pickover treads on; from the mundane-sounding but important (gas laws) to the technologically revolutionary (transistor) to the practically amusing (baseball curveballs, the "drinking bird") to the philosophically earth-shattering (Heisenberg's uncertainty principle) to the exotic and wondrous (Dyson spheres, Randall-Sundrum branes, quantum immortality). The examples illustrate the tremendous power of physics to both explain and practically enrich the world around us, at every different scale and dimension that we can conceive.
The problem I have with the book is that it limits the discussion of every single topic to a single page. I understand that Pickover's goal was to give us a sampling of the wonders of physics rather than any comprehensive overview, but his one-page descriptions of topics as important as relativity, quantum mechanics and cosmology left me hungry and restless for more. It seems unfair and incomplete to devote a page each to both the lava lamp and the uncertainty principle when the latter is far more important for physics.Read more ›
"The Physics Book" is Clifford Pickover's latest version of the illuminated scientific manuscript. This stunning, visually impressive work is a beautiful companion piece to its award winning predecessor, "The Math Book: From Pythagoras to the 57th Dimension, 250 Milestones in the History of Mathematics (Sterling Milestones)." In this effort the principles of physics (250 in all) are distilled into single pages of text with accompanying illustrations on the pages to the right. As in "The Math Book" you have an opportunity to focus upon the matter at hand as it etches its essence into your memory without your becoming distracted by other brain teasers that comprise the field of physics (or mathematics) in its totality. And as soon as you feel myopia setting in, you can simply turn the page and it's as if a new episode of "Star Trek" has begun.
The waters run pretty deep as you peruse the pages, but difficult-to-fathom concepts are skillfully explained. "Pauli's Exclusion Principle" (page 340) is a perfect example. Most descriptions I've read of it are rather abstruse, unless you are a physicist. But Pickover provides a wonderful illustration that says it all, one that clearly demonstrates that two objects cannot occupy the same space at the same time. You'll find this artwork quite humorous if you love dogs.
Then, as you scan page after page, the fundamental importance of physics in our everyday lives becomes increasingly obvious. The mystery of the "Baseball Curveball" is explained (page 238).Read more ›
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Clifford A. Pickover received his Ph.D. from Yale University and is the author of over 30 books on such topics as computers and creativity, art, mathematics, black holes, religion, human behavior and intelligence, time travel, alien life, and science fiction.
Pickover is a prolific inventor with dozens of patents, is the associate editor for several journals, the author of colorful puzzle calendars, and puzzle contributor to magazines geared to children and adults.
WIRED magazine writes, "Bucky Fuller thought big, Arthur C. Clarke thinks big, but Cliff Pickover outdoes them both." According to The Los Angeles Times, "Pickover has published nearly a book a year in which he stretches the limits of computers, art and thought." The Christian Science Monitor writes, "Pickover inspires a new generation of da Vincis to build unknown flying machines and create new Mona Lisas." Pickover's computer graphics have been featured on the cover of many popular magazines and on TV shows.
His web site, Pickover.Com, has received millions of visits. His Blog RealityCarnival.Com is one of his most popular sites.