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The Ten Most Beautiful Experiments Hardcover – April 8, 2008

4.4 out of 5 stars 77 ratings

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Award-winning science writer Johnson (A Fire in the Mind; Strange Beauty) calls readers away from the industrialized mega-scale of modern science (which requires multimillion-dollar equipment and teams of scientists) to appreciate 10 historic experiments whose elegant simplicity revealed key features of our bodies and our world. Some of the experiments Johnson describes have a sense of whimsy, like Galileo measuring the speed of balls rolling down a ramp to the regular beat of a song, or Isaac Newton cutting holes in window shades and scrambling around with a prism to break light into its component colors. Other experiments—such as William Harvey's use of vivisected animals to demonstrate the circulation of blood, and the truncated frogs Luigi Galvani used in his study of the nervous system—remind us of changing attitudes toward animal research. Joule's effort to show that heat and work are related ways of converting energy into motion, Michelson's work to measure the speed of light, Millikan's sensitive apparatus for measuring the charge of an electron: these experiments toppled contemporary dogma with their logic and clear design as much as with their results. With these 10 entertaining histories, Johnson reminds us of a time when all research was hands-on and the most earthshaking science came from... a single mind confronting the unknown. 73 b&w illus. (Apr. 9)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School—Johnson pulls together nearly a dozen sketches of scientific moments-and, almost more importantly, the interesting minds and personalities that brought them into being-dating from Galileo's experiments with motion through Millikan's exposure of the electron. Along with compelling, often witty descriptions of the daily lives of the likes of the Lavoisiers and of Michelson's quest for peace of mind as well as astronomical insight, the author describes encounters with contemporary scientific players, such as the Santa Fe-area fellow who runs a kind of creative-reuse shop for neighbors in search of enormous cells and cabling with which to perform their own experiments. Teen autodidacts will love this book, both for its science and its respect for the quirky geniuses who dreamed up ways of demonstrating standards and physical laws that we now take for granted. Illustrated with the experimenters' own sketches, as well as portraits of each of the canonized 10, the narrative is accessible and a far cry from the aridity of a textbook.—Francisca Goldsmith, Halifax Public Libraries, Nova Scotia
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Product details

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Knopf; 1st edition (April 8, 2008)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 208 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1400041015
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1400041015
  • Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 11.2 ounces
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 4.92 x 0.97 x 7.91 inches
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.4 out of 5 stars 77 ratings

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4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5
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