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Inward Bound: Of Matter and Forces in the Physical World Reprint Edition

4.5 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0198519973
ISBN-10: 0198519974
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Editorial Reviews

Review

'It is rare indeed to find a professional physicist who combines such historical accomplishment, a lucid and refreshing style and a deep and relaxed understanding of his subject matter...Throughout, he provides shrewd and illuminating comments on experimental practice and theory construction and on current theories in the philosophy of scientific discovery.' Times Literary Supplement

'a learned and detailed commentary on what has been discovered about the constituents of matter, the laws to which they are subject, and the forces which act on them. It is a work of real scholarship.' New Scientist

'Pais's mastery of the whole field of elementary particle physics is manifest on every page. In addition, his insight into the personalities of the actors in the story is remarkable ... It is an inimitable work.' Nature

'The history of "modern" physics has been told many times, although seldom with such insight and affection.' Times Higher Education Supplement

'In this groundbreaking new volume, Pais undertakes a history of the physics of matter and of physical forces since the discovery of X-rays ... this magisterial survey richly conveys what has been discovered about the constituents of matter, the laws to which they are subject and the forces that act on them' europe and astronomy, 1992

About the Author


Abraham Pais is Detlev W. Bronk Professor of Physics at the Rockefeller University and winner of the 1979 J.R. Oppenheimer Memorial Prize. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, the Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the Council on Foreign Relations.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 666 pages
  • Publisher: Clarendon Press; Reprint edition (September 29, 1988)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0198519974
  • ISBN-13: 978-0198519973
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #940,244 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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By Michael Birman TOP 1000 REVIEWER on May 19, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It is 8 November 1895 in the late afternoon and you are a physicist working in France, feeling somewhat dysphoric because everything that is knowable in Physics has been discovered, and the world and its clockwork mechanism explained and codified in a series of brilliant differential equations. All that remains is to dot a few i's and then the great course of knowledge begun by Galileo and brought to perfection by Newton will be complete. You are performing some experiments with a mysterious substance that intrigues you: cathode rays. Your main apparatus is a one meter long vacuum tube, its pressure reduced to one-thousandth of a torr. In your hand you hold a small apparatus at some distance from the tube and which you wave in a slow, desultory fashion. You are not expecting anything, frankly you are feeling a little bored. But you are curious and perhaps the nature of these cathode rays will reveal themselves. Suddenly, you are quite startled to notice a fluorescence on the device you are waving, a detector or small screen covered with barium platinocyanide. The fluorescence is caused by the cathode rays. You are determined to discover the nature of this mysterious substance.

Your name is Wilhelm Conrad Roentgen and that fluorescence you have discovered is what the world would soon know as X-rays, a term you invent for your first paper. You quickly learn that these rays have the extraordinary effect of penetrating matter, allowing you to take astonishing photographs of the bones of the hand. Reports of these photos cause a sensation in the world press in January 1896. And when Le Matin publishes a story on X-rays on 13 January, another French scientist, by the name of Henri Becquerel, is stirred to begin his own experiments with rays. Eventually he decides to expose rocks to the sun.
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Format: Paperback
This book demands technical knowledge beyond most of the readers. To understand it all probably requires a graduate degree in physics. First part of the book is accessible to most people and coherent even if you skip the formulas; then the material gets harder as it moves into QED. And towards the end, it becomes confusing if you are not already knowledgeable in particle physics. It's a tough read, but it inspires you to learn more and comes back to read again. After reading about how the nuclear physics develops, some concepts start to make more sense.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The author, Abrahan Pais, was distinguised 20th century physicist who personally knew Niels Bohr, Albert Einsterin, Enrico Fermi and the other top physicists. Fortunately for us, in addition to being a top notch physicist, he was also a prolific and clear cut writer. His book Inward Bound narrates the development of special and general relativity, and that of quantum theory. It is a lovely book, that cannot be skimmed. it is worth all the time and effort it takes to read it. Better still, it should be read with Pai's books on Einstein and on Niels Bohr. I just gave Ifnward Bound to my grandson as an encouragement for his to consider at least some physics in his graduate education. Highly recommended.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The odd phenomenon's of "Brownian motion", and Hertz's "photoelectric effect",... the failure of the classical equipartition theorem to account for experimental results of specific heats and blackbody radiation, set the stage for the revolution that was to come.

Abraham Pais is one of the finest physics historians you're likely to find. The experimental and theoretical events leading up to the scientific revolution of the twentieth century are meticulously described here. What is particularly appealing about this history is the presentation of the struggle, the dead-ends, and reluctances in accepting the conceptual paradigm shift necessary from the classical view of reality.

Pais also has written exceptional biographies of Albert Einstein, Niels Bohr, and Paul Dirac.

"Subtle is the Lord - Life and Time of Albert Einstein"
"Niels Bohr's Times, in Physics, Philosophy, and Polity"
"Paul Dirac: The Man and his Work"
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This is a superb history of 20th century of physics written for physicists more than historians. It does an excellent job of discussing the history, but also takes time to really talk about the ideas and the intellectual struggles to understand the ideas. The first half of the book (physics before WWII) is really the gem, with the second half more of an afterthought.
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