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The Physics Book: From the Big Bang to Quantum Resurrection, 250 Milestones in the History of Physics (Sterling Milestones)
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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 ›
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 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 ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This book is awesome. Perfect for today's reader with short bits that can be picked up and put down whenever without missing a beat!Published 1 month ago by Josh Stankard
I agree completely with Ray Erskins 5 star review. Clifford Pickover is brilliant, this is a book worth keeping close at hand as long as you can read. Read morePublished 1 month ago by doug korty
This is a good illustrated book about physics concepts. A quick reference to anyone that is curious and want to learn basic stuff without getting into math.Published 2 months ago by Target-Shopper
This series of books are very good introductions to the subjects, yet still of interest to those with a good degree of expertise. Read morePublished 6 months ago by Bill Baity