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Physics in the 20th Century Hardcover – April 1, 1999
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We conventionally think of physics as the source of delights that are at best intellectual: austere, cold, abstract. Science writer Curt Suplee and his colleagues have produced a book that reveals the sensual side of physics.
Suplee's text gives an overview of 20th-century physics; he balances chapters on atomic structure, quantum theory, and cosmology with ones on chaos, materials, and light. His writing is clear and nontechnical, giving a well-balanced roller-skate tour of an immense growth in scientific knowledge: "The world as it is now understood differs more dramatically from the Victorian view than the science of Galileo, Copernicus, and Newton differed from that of Aristotle."
The true glory of the book, though, is visual. Physicists themselves often think in terms of images or devices rather than words or even equations, and Physics in the 20th Century truly conveys that. The illustrations are lush, abundant, and colorful. From the glowing mist of a planetary nebula and the mesmerizing webs of interference patterns to the spare beauty of a particle accelerator wave guide, they put the "physical" back into physics. This is an excellent choice as a gift for anyone interested in physics, from a bright 12-year-old to your local quantum mechanic. --Mary Ellen Curtin
From Publishers Weekly
From an unexpected sourceAart book publisher Harry AbramsAcomes a crisply written, superbly illustrated overview of the history of physics that holds great appeal for experts in physics as well as for those who don't know a quark from a quantum. The book, co-sponsored by the American Physical Society (APS) and the American Institute of Physics for the centennial of the APS, contains more than 200 photographs, half in full color, of equipment, experiments, galaxies and scientists. Suplee, a science writer and editor for the Washington Post, does an excellent job of elucidating complex theories such as relativity and chaos. Best of all, he captures the wonder surrounding the invention of the electron microscope, radar, the microwave, the laser, the transistor, the atom bomb and much, much more. Suplee concentrates more on physics's fundamental explorationsAsuch as the search for the structure of the atom, the development of quantum mechanics and the articulation of the wave/particle theory of lightAthan on the feats of engineering that turned its discoveries into the machines and products we rely on today. In doing so, he skillfully demonstrates how scientists make progress by building upon the work of their predecessors. The final section, "Cosmos," which includes stunning pictures from the Hubble Space Telescope, is particularly impressive, confirming without a doubt that, for physics at least, this has been "a century of incessant marvels." BOMC and QPB selections.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Top customer reviews
very good book, with very brief descriptions of different
aspects of 20th century physics presented along with the
magical photographs. Perhaps, the non-specialist can glimpse
the fascination and beauty of physics from the photos and can
get just an idea of why the professionals are so dedicated to
this most basic of all scientific disciplines.