- Hardcover: 528 pages
- Publisher: Prometheus Books (September 3, 2013)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1616147458
- ISBN-13: 978-1616147457
- Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.4 x 9.3 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 20 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #744,733 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Magnificent Principia: Exploring Isaac Newton's Masterpiece 0th Edition
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From Publishers Weekly
Pask (Mathematics for the Frightened) offers an insightful and expansive look into Isaac Newton's complex and illuminating 1687 publication on classical mechanics, Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica, aka the Principia. The emeritus math professor (at the University of New South Wales in Canberra, Australia) begins with a review of Newton's life and the 17th-century science scene. Copernicus's heliocentric theory and Galileo's observations had recently overturned ancient Greek and Islamic cosmological models that posited Earth as the center of the universe, and Kepler's laws of planetary motion demonstrated that the planets moved in ellipses, not perfect circles. Newton drew on the work of his predecessors and contemporaries, as well as his own experimentation and brilliant intuitions, and after years of secretive work, the intense, enigmatic, and mercurial thinker reluctantly published the Principia at the urging of astronomer and fellow Royal Society member Edmond Halley, who also funded its printing. Newton wrote very much in the style of the ancient Greeks to explain how gravity affects motion on Earth and in the heavens while simultaneously defining the differential calculus that would become an invaluable tool for the centuries of scientists, engineers, and mathematicians that would follow. Breaking the Principia down into easily digestible portions and suffusing his narrative with modern insights, Pask reveals the genius that built modern physics. (Aug.)
“An insightful and expansive look into Isaac Newton’s complex and illuminating 1687 publication on classical mechanics... Breaking the Principia down into easily digestible portions and suffusing his narrative with modern insights, Pask reveals the genius that built modern physics.”
“I believe the two most important works in our journey to understand how the natural world works are Darwin’s Origins and Newton’s Principia. But while Darwin can be read by the nonspecialist, a contemporary reader will usually struggle with Newton’s unfamiliar mathematical notation. Pask’s splendid book is greatly to be welcomed, making the power and elegance of the Principia accessible to the general reader. It is particularly good at clarifying the Scientific Revolution’s combination of thoughtful experiments and analytic thinking, showing mathematics as nothing more—but also nothing less—than a way of thinking clearly.”
—Professor Robert M. May, Baron of Oxford, OM, AC, Fellow of the Royal Society
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Magnificent Principia is split into 7 Parts. The author gives a few brief notes on Newton the man, his personal and family history before jumping into the contents of the book. The author focuses on the third edition which is far more comprehensive than the first edition and is done with more reflection and editing. The author describes Newton's Laws and discusses the way science was published at the time and the writing forms of contemporaries like Galileo and Huygens. The author highlights the need for mathematics to frame the theory and how the narrative theory of Descartes at the time was seen as totally lacking by Newton. The author then moves on to discuss the fundamental leap that Newton made by moving from kinematics to dynamics. He discusses the inverse square law and the geometric arguments Newton used to show the truth of Kepler's laws. The author also highlights the solutions of single body force problems and the geometric vector based approaches Newton used. He also shows modern solution techniques and how embedded in the geometric arguments are integration arguments. I would say the descriptions of Newton's proofs are not as clear as they could be, if you read Bressoud's "Second year calculus" UTM book, the Newton proofs are more succinct and more clear; as well modern proofs are pretty average as well and are clearer in physics textbooks. The author then moves on to Newton discussing constrained motion and linear forces like the pendulum and harmonic oscillator. The author discusses Newton's solution for the mechanism required to keep perfect time, which is not particularly clear I don't think. The author also discusses how Newton moves from point particles to spherically symmetric material bodies. The author then discusses the second book where Newton tackles things like friction dissipative forces. These are pretty remarkable calculations and analysis made by Newton and are rarely focused on by the physics student given more comprehensive analysis were done after more math was developed. The author conveys to the reader how remarkable Newton's ability to analyze and solve pretty much any problem he was faced with was. The author then moves on to book 3 where Newton outlines his law of gravitation. As with the second book the author shows the remarkable ability of Newton to use his three laws to deduce a wide variety of real world phenomenon including the tides and the bulging of the Earth around the equator. The author discusses how the various planet and moon orbits can be explained by the law and documents the calculations. It is pretty mind blowing that so much amazing insight was in the mind of one man.
Magnificent Principia brings one of the most remarkable books in science (in my opinion, the most) to the interested reader. The original is not something I am capable of reading so this book was very helpful for me. My criticisms all are around the math side as I found his description of Newton's proofs unclear and convoluted. I could put it down to the ideas of Newton being hard to translate, but having read another book on the proofs of Newton I know the author could have been more clear and succinct. I also am unimpressed with the modern mathematical treatment of the subject and find it much clearer in a host of other books. The book does shine when discussing the results of Newton in books II and III. As well, the value of now knowing the organization and flow of the original is enormous. Definitely worth a read but if one is interested in the math and physics primarily, look elsewhere.
The purely technical content of the book is spiced with sufficient additional information about the man, his contemporaries and successors to provide a human interest factor as relief to its logical rigours without veering from its main purpose.
The comprehensive and explanatory references to the additional information available to those wishing to soak themselves even more thoroughly in appreciation of Newton's genius is another notable feature of the book.
It is not a book for the mathematically illiterate, but it is not intended to be and that is certainly not a shortcoming.
As befits such a massive subject, it's a pretty hard slog through, but the long tramp is well worth it.
Most recent customer reviews
This is a very nice introductory overview of the Principia. It lays out what Newton's trying to do in the various sections of the book, and after reading it...Read more