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The Second Kind of Impossible: The Extraordinary Quest for a New Form of Matter Kindle Edition
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“A rare and compulsively readable blend of science and thriller, The Second Kind of Impossible tells of the quest to find a new type of matter that would rewrite the rules of reality. Paul Steinhardt, one of the world's leading theoretical physicists, takes readers on a wondrous odyssey across multiple decades and continents as, against all odds, he helps to topple scientific orthodoxy.”
—Brian Greene, author of The Elegant Universe
“Scientists, smugglers, and spies—this book is an exciting and enlightening scientific detective story. The tale is about far more than a new form of matter; it is also a thrilling and wonderfully written look at how science works.”
—Walter Isaacson, author of Einstein
“An epic account of two scientific triumphs: a thirty-year theoretical search for understanding and a real-world expedition into the wilds of Kamchatka. It is as if The Origin of Species and The Voyage of the Beagle had been published together in one volume.”
—Freeman Dyson, author of Maker of Patterns
“A truly amazing adventure story, full of twists and turns, right up to the very end. It has my strongest recommendation.”
—Sir Roger Penrose, author of The Emperor’s New Mind
“An intriguing blend of science and international adventure. [Steinhardt] takes readers on a wild ride in search of a new kind of matter…full of intrigue and adventure, culminating with the epic Kamchatka journey....A general audience can and should enjoy this original, suspenseful true-life thriller of science investigation and discovery.”
“A gripping scientific quest…an admirable popular account of the quasicrystal, an oddball arrangement of atoms that seems to contradict scientific laws.…Steinhardt [is] a pioneer in the field and a fine writer.”
"[A] memoir and rollercoaster adventure, packed with discovery, disappointment, exhilaration and persistence...This book is a front-row seat to history as it is made."
"Part physics primer, part fantastic adventure...Steinhardt’s affection and admiration for the journey’s colorful cast of characters infuse every page. Although his excitement is palpable, he is also careful and methodical, often reminding himself that he could be wrong. The Second Kind of Impossible shows the benefit of a slow and steady approach to science, where determination and luck are just as important as insight."
"A thrilling mix of scientific memoir and true detective story."
"A rip-roaring adventure tale...a book that I could not put down because it was fast-paced and had genuine surprises in every chapter. Steinhardt deserves his place on the A-list."
About the Author
- ASIN : B075RPF24F
- Publisher : Simon & Schuster; Reprint edition (January 8, 2019)
- Publication date : January 8, 2019
- Language : English
- File size : 78460 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 389 pages
- Lending : Not Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #133,197 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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This is a thirty-year long quest by the author. His early theoretical work is proven in a laboratory with the author and collaborators. I admit to being jealous of the strength and determination (with just a tad of luck!) that the author and collaborators display.
Another thing to be jealous of: the author's text is eminently readable and enjoyable.
At the outset, I learned several new things about molecular structure, in particular the concept of rotational symmetry; fascinating. I learned a bit more along the way, then I got bogged down in an interminable camping trip in eastern Russia – seventy pages of mosquitoes and mud and clay and feasts featuring fresh salmon and caviar and rivers of vodka and panning in a stream for tiny grains of what might, or might not, be remnants of a meteorite crash. I got the point that these scientists did not limit their activities to laboratories, but I got the point long before they finally returned to civilization. I really think this section could have been adequately covered in, say, twenty pages, shortening this book by fifty pages without depriving the reader of any information of interest or importance. I could also have done without the nth repetition of Steindardt’s admiration of this or that colleague, mentor, or student, and yes I already knew that Dick Feynman was a legendary figure in the world of science (and bongo drums, which Steindardt doesn’t mention).
There are some good photos in this book, one section of color plates, the rest black-and-white. Many of the photos of greatly magnified specimens frankly made little sense to me, despite Steindardt’s descriptions. Some, especially the color photos, were beautiful, but also I found it difficult to understand their significance.
So, am I happy I read this book? Sure; I can think of many worse ways of spending yet another day in lockdown. But if it were shorter, and less repetitive, and . . . well, it is what it is, and I do recommend it to anybody with a long span of attention and a willingness to put up with some quirks as the price of admission. And if the significance of the discoveries covered in this book is anything near what Steinhardt claims, then I am happy to support his Nobel application.
Top reviews from other countries
The first third of the book describes the initial studies and later development of the topic by two independent groups, one of them headed by the author, neither of whom realised the existence of the other for many years. The author’s search for natural quasicrystals in mineral collections proves frustrating and the evidence fragmentary, so he decides to travel to the wilderness of Kamchatka (where the only known fragment of a natural quasicrystal had probably been found) to look for further samples. The major part of the book describes this adventure. Astonishingly, the needle in the haystack is indeed found.
The book is thus highly instructive and entertaining. Of course, as other reviewers have pointed out, there are some flaws. First, the author is clearly no chemist, and the chemical nature of some compounds is described inaccurately (for which I happily make allowance – I am no physicist!). Secondly, the adventure story is perhaps a bit too long. Thirdly, there may be some lack of balance in the acknowledgement of other groups’ contributions to the field – I prefer not to get involved in this argument! But nonetheless this book represents a highly recommended read in the “popular science” category.