Lost in Math (2018) Sabine Hossenfelder subtitled: How Beauty Leads
A contrarian argues that modern physicists' obsession with beauty has
given us wonderful math but bad science.
Whether pondering black holes or predicting discoveries at CERN, physicists
believe the best theories are beautiful, natural, and elegant, and this standard
separates popular theories from disposable ones. This is why, Sabine
Hossenfelder argues, we have not seen a major breakthrough in the foundations of
physics for more than four decades. The belief in beauty has become so dogmatic
that it now conflicts with scientific objectivity: observation has been unable
to confirm mindboggling theories, like supersymmetry or grand unification,
invented by physicists based on aesthetic criteria. Worse, these "too good to
not be true" theories are actually untestable and they have left the field in a
cul-de-sac. To escape, physicists must rethink their methods. Only by embracing
reality as it is can science discover the truth.
Light of the Stars (2018) Adam Frank subtitled: Alien Worlds and the Fate
of the Earth
read for citizens and science nerds alike
Light of the Stars tells the story of humanity’s coming of age as we awaken
to the possibilities of life on other worlds and their sudden relevance to our
fate on Earth. Astrophysicist Adam Frank traces the question of alien life and
intelligence from the ancient Greeks to the leading thinkers of our own time,
and shows how we as a civilization can only hope to survive climate change if we
recognize what science has recently discovered: that we are just one of ten
billion trillion planets in the Universe, and it’s highly likely that many of
those planets hosted technologically advanced alien civilizations. What’s more,
each of those civilizations must have faced the same challenge of
civilization-driven climate change. Written with great clarity and conviction,
Light of the Stars builds on the inspiring work of pioneering scientists such as
Frank Drake and Carl Sagan, whose work at the dawn of the space age began
building the new science of astrobiology; Jack James, the Texas-born engineer
who drove NASA’s first planetary missions to success; Vladimir Vernadsky, the
Russian geochemist who first envisioned the Earth’s biosphere; and James
Lovelock and Lynn Margulis, who invented Gaia theory. Frank recounts the
perilous journey NASA undertook across millions of miles of deep space to get
its probes to Venus and Mars, yielding our first view of the cosmic laws of
planets and climate that changed our understanding of our place in the universe.
Before y2k, many of us enjoyed reading new science as explained by
astronomer Carl Sagan
who died in 1996. This book was written by astronomer
Adam Frank and, while
reading it, I couldn't help thinking that Adam Frank was carrying on Carl
Sagan's work by informing the public of scientific knowledge as understood
by the majority of working scientists (and without the political or
religious biases so commonly seen in mass media today)
If memory serves, I first learned about the
Drake Equation in
Carl Sagan's book titled
This equation came out of the cold war era so many people, including
Frank Drake, Carl
Morrison and others assumed
that the equation's 7th and final term labeled "L" would be related to
nuclear war. This book by Adam Frank replaces "nuclear war" with "climate
change". He argues that even if some extraterrestrial
civilizations never developed nuclear weapons, all would eventually grow to
a size where the collective actions of their populations would change their
climates. Very thought provoking!
E=mc2 (2000) David Bodanis
for people interested in mathematics and science
What a treat. This
book's title might make you think that this book is only about Einstein, or his
special theory of relativity,
but you would be wrong.
Chapter-2 is titled "E is for energy"
discusses the work of
(electricity and magnetism) which leads to a general understanding of energy (including
Chapter-3 is titled "= is for equals"
Chapter-4 is titled "m is for mass"
discusses the work on
whose experiments lead to a consistent understanding of mass (including
Chapter-10 is titled "Germany's Turn" (should be retitled "another
example of political failure")
everyone reading this will already know the story of
writing a letter to FDR in August of 1939. But this book is the first
place I've seen material showing that FDR passed the information onto
Lyman J Briggs
who saw no urgency at all (and delayed doing anything real for almost two
Meanwhile, Germany began fission experiments in 1940 which was leaked
to Einstein. This prompted him to write a second letter to FDR which appears
to have been ignored since a reply was never sent (could this be due to
the fact that the FBI was already warning that Einstein might be a subversive?)
Nothing changed in the USA until
flew to the United States in late August 1941, ostensibly to discuss the
radar-development program, but also to find out why the United States was
ignoring the findings of the
Chapter-11 is titled "Norway"
Chapter-12 is titled "America's Turn"
Four chapters follow
The Quantum Astrologer's Handbook (2017) by Michael Brooks subtitled: a history of the Renaissance mathematics
that birthed imaginary numbers, probability, and the new physics of the universe
for people interested in mathematics and science
This is a landmark in science writing. It resurrects from the vaults of neglect
the polymath Jerome Cardano, a Milanese of the sixteenth century. Who is he? A gambler
and blasphemer, inventor and chancer, plagued by demons and anxieties, astrologer
to kings, emperors and popes. This stubborn and unworldly man was the son of a lawyer
and a brothel keeper, but also a gifted physician and the unacknowledged discoverer
of the mathematical foundations of quantum physics. That is the argument of this
charming and intoxicatingly clever book, which is truly original in its style, and
in the manner of the modernists embodies in its very form its theories about the
world. The Quantum Astrologer’s Handbook is a science book with the panache of a
novel, for readers of Carlo Rovelli or Umberto Eco. It is a work of and about genius.
caveat: nothing to do with astrology
Rigor Mortis (2017) Richard Harris subtitled:
How Sloppy Science Creates Worthless Cures, Crushes Hope, and Wastes Billons
recommended for science students and budding researchers
Do not let the subtitle deceive you, this is not a book advocating increases
or decreases in government funding. Rather, it advocates experimental researchers
doing a better job with the money they already have. This was the first time I heard
the phrase "Eroom's Law" which is derived from Moore's Law with the first word spelt
backwards. According to interviews by the author, if changes are not forthcoming
then humanity can expect no new pharmaceutical treatments after the year 2040.
The Greatest Story Ever Told -- So Far (2017) Lawrence M. Krauss
As Bard of the Universe, physicist Lawrence Krauss may be uniquely qualified
to give us the Greatest Story Ever Told — a masterful blend of history, modern physics,
and cosmic perspective that empowers the reader to not only embrace our understanding
of the universe, but also revel in what remains to be discovered.
Tyson, American Museum of Natural History
Excerpt from chapter-1 (From the Armoire to the Cave):
When scientific claims are presented as unquestionable, they undermine science.
Similarly, when religious actions or claims about sanctity can be made with
impunity in our society, we undermine the basis of modern secular democracy. We
owe it to our selves and our children not to give a free pass to governments —
totalitarian, theocratic, or democratic — that endorse, encourage, enforce, or
otherwise legitimize the suppression of open questioning in order to protect
ideas that are considered 'sacred'. Five hundred years of science have liberated
humanity from the shackles of enforced ignorance.
The Left Hand of the Electron (1974) Isaac Asimov
I just bought this paperback book for $1.00
from a used book store. What a treat. It is a collection of 17 science articles
Brilliant Blunders - From Darwin to Einstein (2013) Mario Livio
Last night I attended a lecture given by the author at the Perimeter Institute
for Theoretical Physics. The audience was captivated.
This book humorously shows that scientific progress does not move in a straight
line. Each one of the five scientists covered (Charles Darwin, William Thompson
(a.k.a. Lord Kelvin), Linus Pauling, Fred Hoyle, and Albert Einstein) published
errors after their initial huge contribution to science.
quote from page 128: In the Cold War atmosphere that
followed World War II, and in particular after the passage of the Internal Security
Act of 1950, the US State Department's Passport Division was given almost unlimited
authority to deny passports to anyone deemed to be too "leftist".
Pauling applied to renew his passport in January 1952, as he was preparing to
attend a Royal Society meeting in London the following May ... his passport
could not be issued since the department was of the opinion that his travel "would
not be in the best interests of the United States"
Descartes' Dream - The World According to Mathematics (1986) Philip Davis &
Chapter 1 - Paragraph 1 (excerpt)
THE MODERN WORLD, our world of triumphant rationality, began on
November 10, 1619, with a revelation and a nightmare. On that day,
in the small Bavarian village of Ulm, René Descartes, a Frenchman, twenty-
three years old, crawled into a wall stove and, when he was well warmed, had
a vision. It was not a vision of God, or the Mother of God, or of celestial
chariots, or of the New Jerusalem. It was a vision of the unification of all
science. The vision was preceded by a state of intense concentration and
agitation. Descartes' overheated mind caught fire and provided answers to tremendous
problems that had been taxing him for weeks. He was possessed by a Genius, and
the answers were revealed in a dazzling, unendurable
light. Later, in a state of exhaustion, he went to bed and dreamed three
dreams that had been predicted by his Genius.
Chapter 2 - Paragraph 1 (excerpt)
LET US TAKE, a quick measurement of the march that mathematics has taken
in the four centuries since Descartes' dream. To do this we must have some notion
of its extent in Descartes' own day. In business, the arithmetic of buying and
selling had long been in place, as had that of loans and interest. Marine insurance
policies have roots antiquity and were well and were well established by the
15th Century. Casualty and life insurance were coming in strongly
in Descartes' lifetime. Lotteries and gambling were were an old story, though
their deeper theory was just evolving. In astronomy, the calendar as we know
it today was in place, with the exception of several slight corrections. Purely
arithmetical methods for calculating the positions of the moon and the planets
had been known since antiquity. The work of Ptolemy of Alexandria in the 2nd
Century A.D. brought calculated astronomy to a high peak. The geometric schematization
of Copernicus and the subsequent studies of Kepler, Tycho Brahe and Galileo
would soon lead to the revolutionary work of Isaac Newton wherein, with the
development of the calculus, mechanics and planetary motion would be reduced
to systems of differential equations.
I just purchased this book from www.bookfinder.com
after a strong recommendation by a new internet friend
this is not a biography of René Descartes. There is no mention of
him after page 12
this book runs for 30 chapters where each one is a standalone essay
read this book if you want to know "where humanity has come from (mathematically
speaking)" and "where we are going"
remember that this 30-year-old book predates the world-wide-web, the rise
of Microsoft and Windows, as well as the stumble (but not fall) of IBM
quote from page 129 (paraphrased): "It is interesting to contemplate
where the computing field will be if the hardware reaches a plateau of development
as it did, for example, the steam engine"
quote from page 157 (paraphrased): "If is is true that
space flight is impossible without computers, it is equally
true that the machines could not have been set number-crunching without the
efforts of Ptolemy, Brahe, Kepler, Galileo and Newton"
starting with page 168, there is much talk about the dominant computer languages:
FORTRAN, COBOL, PL/1, Ada, APL, Pascal and Assembler.
I suppose this may be due to the fact the the internet was primarily
supported by UNIX then subsequently Linux (where C/C++ are dominant)
Einstein's Dice and Schrodinger's Cat (2015) Paul Halpern subtitled: How Two Great Minds Battled Quantum Randomness
to Create a Unified Theory of Physics
When the fuzzy indeterminacy of quantum mechanics overthrew the orderly world
of Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein and Erwin Schrödinger were at the forefront
of the revolution. Neither man was ever satisfied with the standard interpretation
of quantum mechanics, however, and both rebelled against what they considered the
most preposterous aspect of quantum mechanics: its randomness. Einstein famously
quipped that God does not play dice with the universe, and Schrödinger constructed
his famous fable of a cat that was neither alive nor dead not to explain quantum
mechanics but to highlight the apparent absurdity of a theory gone wrong. But these
two giants did more than just criticize: they fought back, seeking a Theory of Everything
that would make the universe seem sensible again.
Skeptic Magazine (volume 2 number 3)
This very thought provoking issue is dedicated to
Alfred Russel Wallace.
It contains lots of information about:
scientific life in Victorian England (Royal Society, Linnean Society,
Geological Society, etc.)
how Wallace interacted with people like Charles Darwin, Thomas Huxley, and
Charles Lyle to only name three of many
the spiritualism & mysticism craze in both England (Arthur Conan Doyle
was a supporter) and America
the misguided souls who support the flat-earth view (reminds me of today's
Excerpt from page 3: Described by his contemporaries as the most famous man in
the world after Napoleon,
was one of the most captivating and inspiring men of his time. Born in 1769 into
a wealthy Prussian aristocratic family, he discarded a life of privilege to discover
for himself how the world worked. As a young man he set out on a five year exploration
to Latin America, risking his life many times and returning with a new sense of
the world. It was a journey that shaped his life and thinking, and that made him
legendary across the globe. He lived in cities such as Paris and Berlin, but was
equally at home on the most remote branches of the Orinoco River or in the Kazakh
Steppe at Russia's Mongolian border. During much of his long life, he was the nexus
of the scientific world, writing some 50,000 letters and receiving at least double
that number. Knowledge, Humboldt believed, had to be shared, exchanged and made
available to everybody.
Excerpt from page 4: Charles
Darwin wrote that 'nothing ever stimulated my zeal so much as reading Humboldt's
Personal Narrative' saying that he would not have boarded the Beagle, nor conceived
of the Origin of
Species, without Humboldt.
Comment: we know from his diaries that Darwin continued
to read Humboldt during his own five year journey aboard the Beagle
Most Wanted Particle (2015) Jon Butterworth
read for citizens and science nerds alike
Official Blurb from the Publisher: Jon Butterworth is
one of the leading physicists at the Large Hadron Collider and
is Head of Physics and Astronomy at University College London. He writes the popular
Life & Physics blog for the Guardian and has written articles for a range of
publications including the Guardian and New Scientist. For the last 13 years, he
has divided his time between London and Geneva, Switzerland
I purchased this book last month in the foyer of the Perimeter Institute of Physics
(in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada) after the author's lecture. On first glance it appeared
to be just another general book on science with emphasis on particle physics, but
for me turned out to be much more. I have (I think) a reasonable "layman's
understanding" of colliers and quantum mechanics but this book added to my
knowledge by delivering numerous anecdotes (here I am using that word to mean "depicting
small narrative incidents") which would only be possible from an author with
first-hand experience of particle physics in general and the LHC in particular.
As the author says himself, "this is not a textbook" but he has not been
shy in placing a tiny amount of maths in the subscripts at the bottom of each page
for the science nerds who want a little more information. Many people might wish
to read this book just to learn why scientific research is so important. Jon Butterworth
is, after all, an educator as well as experimentalist.
The author's presentation reminded me of other "great explainers in science"
like Carl Sagan. He also showed slides of CERN's FCC (future circular collider)
which is a working name for EuroCirCol H2020 project. Explore here:
https://fcc.web.cern.ch and here:
(diagram showing FCC being 80-100km long which is 3-3.5 times longer than the LHC).
most countries today value the
NATO Treaty where members agree
to spend 2 percent of GDP on defense. Euro-zone countries are required to contribute
1 percent of GDP to European Scientific Research and I suspect
this might be a better investment
this general science book is valuable in more ways then you would first
think. For example, this is the first time I've see glossaries sprinkled throughout
rather than having a single glossary at the end. They are titled:
Glossary: Quark, Gluons and Jets (p.22)
Glossary: Bosons and Fermions (p.31)
Glossary: Fields, Quantum and Otherwise (p.57)
Glossary: Cross Sections and Luminosity (p.72)
Glossary: Gauge Theories (p.96)
Glossary: Sigmas, Probabilities and Confidence (p.139)
Glossary: Feynman Diagrams (p.145)
a teaser from page 116: "In other words, a proton contains
gluons, but it also contains many more than three quarks, and lots of anti-quarks
too. But if you cancel every antiquark off against every quark, you are still
left with a net total of three quarks"
If you watch the video above, be sure to watch the question asked in the
Q+A at time marker 1:01:35 which states "explain how a neutron
can contain a top-quark that has more mass than a neutron as a whole?"
Undeniable: Evolution and the Science of Creation (2014) Bill Nye
This book is much more than a defense of Evolution. It's a well-written and entertaining
showcase of what makes nature so fascinating. I recommend it for creationists, for
those who understand evolution, and for those who simply enjoy a good read.
Other reviewers said:
"With his charming, breezy, narrative style, Bill empowers the reader
to see the natural world as it is, not as some would wish it to be. He does
it right. And, as I expected, he does it best."—Neil deGrasse Tyson,
Ph.D, host of COSMOS
"This gracefully written book provides a tour through not just the
big ideas of evolution, but why evolution is such a captivating idea scientifically,
philosophically, and emotionally. Written from the heart—but science always
comes from the heart with Bill Nye."—Eugenie C. Scott, Ph.D., author
of Evolution vs. Creationism: An Introduction
"Bill Nye has penned one of the clearest and most moving explanations
of that process since Darwin's On the Origin of Species. With
clarity and passion, Nye brings evolutionary theory to life."—Michael
Shermer, Ph.D., author of Why Darwin Matters and The Moral Arc
"Bill Nye has written a wonderfully clear, readable, and enjoyable
explanation of what evolution is and is not. In his casual, humorous style,
he…describes the gigantic mountain of evidence that demonstrates that
evolution not only happened in the past, but is happening in real time."—Donald
Prothero, Ph.D., author of Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why It Matters
"Following right in his mentor Carl Sagan's footsteps, this call to
action and awareness of the lingering ‘debate’ over the reality
of Evolution will further cement Bill Nye's place as our time's premier spokesman
for science and reason."—Dr. Jim Bell, president of The Planetary
Society and author of The Interstellar Age
Faraday, Maxwell, and the Electromagnetic Field (2014) Nancy Forbes and Basil
lover's "must have" (no time to elaborate - Buy This Book)
Magnificent Principia (2013) Colin Pask
book (this book is more about the book "Principia" and less about the
Einstein and the Quantum (2013) Douglas Stone subtitled: The Quest of the Valiant Swabian
lover's "must have"
Einstein and the Quantum reveals for the first time the full significance of
Albert Einstein's contributions to quantum theory. Einstein famously rejected quantum
mechanics, observing that God does not play dice. But, in fact, he thought more
about the nature of atoms, molecules, and the emission and absorption of light--the
core of what we now know as quantum theory--than he did about relativity.
A compelling blend of physics, biography, and the history of science, Einstein
and the Quantum shares the untold story of how Einstein--not Max Planck or Niels
Bohr--was the driving force behind early quantum theory. It paints a vivid portrait
of the iconic physicist as he grappled with the apparently contradictory nature
of the atomic world, in which its invisible constituents defy the categories of
classical physics, behaving simultaneously as both particle and wave. And it demonstrates
how Einstein's later work on the emission and absorption of light, and on atomic
gases, led directly to Erwin Schrödinger's breakthrough to the modern form
of quantum mechanics. The book sheds light on why Einstein ultimately renounced
his own brilliant work on quantum theory, due to his deep belief in science as something
objective and eternal.
A book unlike any other, Einstein and the Quantum offers a completely new perspective
on the scientific achievements of the greatest intellect of the twentieth century,
showing how Einstein's contributions to the development of quantum theory are more
significant, perhaps, than even his legendary work on relativity.
Reality Check: How Science Deniers Threaten Our Future
(2013) Donald R. Prothero
recommended for citizens. Should be required reading by all first-year secondary
The battles over evolution, climate change, childhood
vaccinations, and the causes of AIDS, alternative medicine, oil shortages, population
growth, and the place of science in our country—all are reaching a fevered
pitch. Many people and institutions have exerted enormous efforts to misrepresent
or flatly deny demonstrable scientific reality to protect their nonscientific ideology,
their power, or their bottom line. To shed light on this darkness, Donald R. Prothero
explains the scientific process and why society has come to rely on science not
only to provide a better life but also to reach verifiable truths no other method
can obtain. He describes how major scientific ideas that are accepted by the entire
scientific community (evolution, anthropogenic global warming, vaccination, the
HIV cause of AIDS, and others) have been attacked with totally unscientific arguments
and methods. Prothero argues that science deniers pose a serious threat to society,
as their attempts to subvert the truth have resulted in widespread scientific ignorance,
increased risk of global catastrophes, and deaths due to the spread of diseases
that could have been prevented.
quote from page 13: The next time you hear a modern
Luddite -- from a creationist who rejects all modern astronomy, biology, and
geology, to the faith healer or homeopath or other quack who rejects modern
medicine -- just ask yourself one thing: Would you want to go back to
the world of the late eighteenth century with its high death rates and short
life expectancy, suffer exposure to many deadly diseases, and live in a world
with limited education and poverty? This is the choice they are offering you
-- even as those same creationists and other Luddites benefit from modern medicine,
and even exploit modern technologies like the internet to push their antiscientific
causes. As Michael Shermer put it, science and critical thinking are "the
most precious things we have".
paraphrased from page 34: just a few individuals
(Fred Seitz, Fred Singer, William Nierenberg, Robert Jastrow, Edward Teller,
and a handful more) were at the front of attempts to deny reality (denying the
science of: the dangers of smoking tobacco, secondhand smoke, nuclear winter,
ozone hole, DDT, acid rain, anthropogenic global warming). Most of these men
gained their reputations as nuclear physicists, and some actually built the
first atomic bomb. After the Cold War ended there was no more Commie bogeyman
to fear, they retained the Cold War mentality that anything threatening capitalism
and free enterprise is bad -- even if the scientific case
for it is overwhelming. Never mind that a background in nuclear physics
gives one absolutely no qualifications whatsoever to evaluate studies in medicine
or climate science. These few men have done more to harm the country and stunt
the the dissemination of scientific research than any Soviet threat ever could
quote from page 208: Yet this scientific rejection
of astrology has had relatively little impact on the general public, thanks
to the general scientific illiteracy of the American people.
page 109 includes a list of the top 34 countries
by GDP but orders the list by scientific comprehension of their citizens:
The United States of America
Science, Our Candle in the Darkness
Betrayers of the Truth: Selling Out Science
Making the Environment the Enemy: Acid Rain, the Ozone Hole, and the
Demonization of Rachel Carson
Hot Enough for You? The Heated Debate over a Warming Planet
Gimme That Old Time Religion: Creationism, Intelligent Design, and the
Denial of Humanity's Place in Nature
Jenny's Body Count: Playing [vaccine] Russian Roulette with Our Children
Victims of Modern Witch Doctors: AIDS Denialism
If it Quacks like a Quack: Snake-Oil Con Artists in an Era of Medical
What's Your Sign? The Ancient Pseudoscience of Astrology
Down the Slope of Hubbert's Curve: The End of Cheap Oil and Natural
Far from the Madding Crowd: Human Overpopulation and Its Consequences
The Rejection of Reality: How the Denial of Science Threatens Us All
The Universe Within (2013) Neil Shubin subtitled: Discovering The Common History Of Rocks,
Planets, And People
From one of our finest and most popular science writers, and the best-selling
author of Your Inner Fish, comes the answer to a scientific mystery
as big as the world itself: How are the events that formed our solar system billions
of years ago embedded inside each of us?
In Your Inner Fish, Neil Shubin delved into the amazing connections
between human bodies—our hands, heads, and jaws—and the structures in
fish and worms that lived hundreds of millions of years ago. In The Universe Within,
with his trademark clarity and exuberance, Shubin takes an even more expansive approach
to the question of why we look the way we do. Starting once again with fossils,
he turns his gaze skyward, showing us how the entirety of the universe’s fourteen-billion-year
history can be seen in our bodies. As he moves from our very molecular composition
(a result of stellar events at the origin of our solar system) through the workings
of our eyes, Shubin makes clear how the evolution of the cosmos has profoundly marked
our own bodies.
Nuclear Forces: The Making of the Physicist Hans
Bethe (2012) Silvan S. Schweber
[Bethe was] the supreme problem solver of the twentieth century. (Freeman Dyson)
Nuclear Forces is a carefully researched, historically and biographically
insightful account of the development of a profession and of one of its leading
representatives during a century in which physics and physicists played key roles
in scientific, cultural, political, and military developments. (David C. Cassidy,
Author Of A Short History Of Physics In The American Century )
account of Hans Bethe's life through his Nobel Prize-winning 1938 work on energy
generation in stars reveals the origins of a charismatic scientist, grounded in
the importance of his parents and his Jewish roots...[Schweber] recreates the social
world that shaped the character of the last of the memorable young scientists who
established the field of quantum mechanics. (Publishers Weekly 20120507)
A detailed and thoroughly researched study of Bethe's development as a scientist
and as a human being...Schweber has trawled [Bethe's] correspondence [with Rudolf
Peierls], together with Bethe's voluminous archive, with the finest of gauzes, and
the result is a richly detailed picture of his life. Schweber tells it with compassion
and admiration, although Nuclear Forces is no hagiography…This is a deeply
rewarding book…[It's] an insightful account of how Hans Bethe became, in the
constellation of 20th-century physicists, one of its most luminous stars. (Graham
Farmelo Times Higher Education 20120614)
Nuclear Forces is a highly
readable account of a remarkable period in physics, tracing the future Nobel laureate
through his formative years and up to the eve of World War II. (Manjit Kumar
Wall Street Journal 20120713)
Nuclear Forces, by the distinguished physicist
Silvan Schweber, tells the story of the first three decades of Bethe's life and
career, up to the time of his Nobel Prize–winning work on nuclear reactions
in stars. But the book offers much more besides, with a history of the development
of physics—atomic, solid-state and nuclear—in the first third of the
twentieth century, and of the institutions in which Bethe worked. Schweber's analysis
of the physics is the book's great strength. (Frank Cose Nature 20120628)
Schweber, a physicist and historian of physics, provides an
engaging account of the life of Hans Bethe...The book essentially ends just before
the beginning of WW II. It gives the intellectual, cultural, and scientific background
needed to understand Bethe's scientific work and his advocacy for control of nuclear
weapons after the war. (M. Dickinson Choice 20121201)
The first half of this book focuses upon the Bethe Family along with their
friends and colleagues in Europe. The second half of this book focuses upon
the contributions of many people, including Hans Bethe, to developments in quantum
mechanics resulting in stellar nucleosynthesis. In some ways, this book is similar
to Turing's Cathedral: The Origins Of The Digital
Universe in that it describes a veritable golden age in scientific research.
Hans Bethe's father
was Albrecht Bethe (professor and director of the Institute of Physiology at
the University of
Kiel beginning in 1912 then later became head of the new Institute of Physiology
of Frankfurt am Main in 1915). This means that much has been written about
this family as well as the people coming into contract with them. This book,
then, also provides a good glimpse of how anti-Semitism -and- conservative politics
slowly destroyed European culture eventually driving out many of Europe's brightest
people before the insanity of war inflected the final blow.
Page 232 references a 1918 speech titled "Science as a Vocation"
given by Max Weber to
students of Munich University given shortly before the end of WW1.
Quote: Weber also wanted to convey to his audience his belief that the
antiscience and antischolarship temper that was prevalent in a very large segment
of the defeated German population was symptomatic of "the cultural and
political crisis facing modern Western civilization"
I find odd (and chilling) is that I hear similar anti-science sentiments almost
every day coming from both the United States and Canada. These views do not
appear to be greater than 50% (although the number appears to be increasing)
but it does seem to me that people are already making choices where "political
opinion" trumps "scientific evidence". I wonder if the west's
recent infatuation with conservatism (starting with Thatcher and Regan) is an
echo from an uglier time.
Pages 226-229 provide a glimpse of how the Nazi Civil Service Law of 1933
(which forbade any non-Aryan from holding any state or federal position) affected
the scientific community. Page 278 mentions the lesser known "Nazi
intolerance of women in academia" making it difficult, if not impossible,
for women in Germany (or Nazi influenced Europe) to have a career in science.
Whatever Max Weber thought about "progress", this wasn't it. I think
this quote from David Hilbert sums up the proper progressive view: When Emmy
Noether’s appointment to the University of Göttingen was being blocked
by stubborn faculty members, one of them complained to Hilbert that the students
would resent learning “at the feet of a woman.” Hilbert replied
that it should not matter. "We are a university, not a
The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars (2012) Michael
recommended for all citizens
The ongoing assault on climate science in the United States has never been more
aggressive, more blatant, or more widely publicized than in the case of the Hockey
Stick graph -- a clear and compelling visual presentation of scientific data, put
together by Michael E. Mann and his colleagues, demonstrating that global temperatures
have risen in conjunction with the increase in industrialization and the use of
fossil fuels. Here was an easy-to-understand graph that, in a glance, posed a threat
to major corporate energy interests and those who do their political bidding. The
stakes were simply too high to ignore the Hockey Stick -- and so began a relentless
attack on a body of science and on the investigators whose work formed its scientific
The Hockey Stick achieved prominence in a 2001 UN report on climate change and
quickly became a central icon in the "climate wars." The real issue has
never been the graph's data but rather its implied threat to those who oppose governmental
regulation and other restraints to protect the environment and planet. Mann, lead
author of the original paper in which the Hockey Stick first appeared, shares the
story of the science and politics behind this controversy. He reveals key figures
in the oil and energy industries and the media front groups who do their bidding
in sometimes slick, sometimes bare-knuckled ways. Mann concludes with the real story
of the 2009 "Climategate" scandal, in which climate scientists' emails
were hacked. This is essential reading for all who care about our planet's health
an dour own well-being.
377 pages, 106 of them are cross references (I checked many of them - NSR)
quote from page 254: I can continue to live with
the cynical assaults against my integrity and character by the corporate-funded
denial machine. What I could not live with is knowing that I stood by silently
as my fellow human beings, confused and misled by industry-funded propaganda,
were unwittingly lead down a tragic path that would mortgage future generations.
How could we explain to our grandchildren that we saw the threat coming, but
did not do all we could to ensure that humankind took the necessary precautions.
The Magic of Reality: How We Know What's Really
True (2011) Richard Dawkins
Magic takes many forms:
Supernatural magic is what our ancestors used in order to explain the
world before they developed the scientific method
Stage magic involves everything from card tricks to rabbits in hats
to communicating with the dead
Poetic magic involves the awe and wonder you experience when observing
stars in the night sky
Packed with clever thought experiments, dazzling illustrations and jaw-dropping
facts, The Magic of Reality explains a stunningly wide range of natural phenomena.
What is stuff made of? How old is the universe? Why do the continents look like
disconnected pieces of a puzzle? What causes tsunamis? Why are there so many
kinds of plants and animals? Who was the first man, or woman? This is a page-turning,
graphic detective story that not only mines all the sciences for its clues but
primes the reader to think like a scientist as well.
Richard Dawkins, the world’s most famous evolutionary biologist and
one of science education’s most passionate advocates, has spent his career
elucidating the wonders of science for adult readers. But now, in a dramatic
departure, he has teamed up with acclaimed artist Dave McKean and used his unrivaled
explanatory powers to share the magic of science with readers of all ages. This
is a treasure trove for anyone who has ever wondered how the world works. Dawkins
and McKean have created an illustrated guide to the secrets of our world—and
the universe beyond—that will entertain and inform for years to come.
My parents were conservative Lutherans who refused to accept evolution primarily
due to the fact that they possessed no scientific education whatsoever, and their
church told them not to (you do not need to give up your belief in God to accept
the evidence of Darwin's Theory). While reading this unexpected gem, I kept thinking "I
wish my parents were still alive so they could read this lucid explanation of evolution
(in chapter one)". Although not a book targeted toward young adults, I would
have no problem gifting this book to pre-teenagers about to enter secondary school.
What an unexpected surprise.
Our Angry Earth: A Ticking Ecological Bomb (1991)
Isaac Asimov and Frederik Pohl
A wake-up-call from 1991 which was ignored by almost everyone.
The Inquisition of Climate Science
(2011) James Lawrence Powel
Climate deniers are under the impression they are some sort of modern day
Galileo but they've got it backwards: Their views represent the
traditional view of
Modern science is under the greatest and most successful attack in recent
history. An industry of denial, abetted by news media and "infotainment"
broadcasters more interested in selling controversy than presenting facts, has
duped half the American public into rejecting the facts of climate science --
an overwhelming body of rigorously vetted scientific evidence showing that human-caused,
carbon-based emissions are linked to warming the Earth. The industry of climate
science denial is succeeding: public acceptance has declined even as the scientific
evidence for global warming has increased. It is vital that the public understand
how anti-science ideologues, pseudo-scientists, and non-scientists have bamboozled
them. We cannot afford to get global warming wrong -- yet we are, thanks to
deniers and their methods.
The Inquisition of Climate Science is the first book to comprehensively
take on the climate science denial movement and the deniers themselves, exposing
their lack of credentials, their extensive industry funding, and their failure
to provide any alternative theory to explain the observed evidence of warming.
In this book, readers meet the most prominent deniers while dissecting their
credentials, arguments, and lack of objectivity. James Lawrence Powell shows
that the deniers use a wide variety of deceptive rhetorical techniques, many
stretching back to ancient Greece. Carefully researched, fully referenced, and
compellingly written, his book clearly reveals that the evidence of global warming
is real and that an industry of denial has deceived the American public, putting
them and their grandchildren at risk.
quote from page 46: By now, the conservative administration of U.S.
President Ronald Reagan had begun to worry that action to reduce
carbon-dioxide emissions could hurt the American economy. [snip] Growing
alarm over carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels might lead to
a Montreal-like protocol to reduce carbon emissions, allegedly crippling the
economy -- and on Regan's pro-business watch. To have scientists meeting where
they liked, saying whatever they pleased, issuing disquieting statements, could
force the government to respond. The solution was to create a new, international
scientific body and endure that government representatives vetted it reports.
The U.S. signed off on a proposal from the United Nations
to create an overarching climate advisory committee called the Intergovernmental
Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), mandated to "provide the decision
makers and others interested in climate change with an objective source of information".
Governments would appoint their own scientists to the panel. Diplomats and government
bureaucrats form scores of nations would oversee the scientists' work and edit
their reports. The structure guaranteed that the IPCC reports would neither
appear too rapidly nor overdramatize the extent of global warming.
From the get-go, by design, the IPCC was a conservative organization
predestined for understatement.
quote from page 136: Oceans, land plants and animals emit about 780 gigatons
of carbon annually, and absorb nearly all of it. Human activities emit 29 gigatons
of carbon per year but absorb almost none of it (so it ends up in the atmosphere).
quote from page 175: In the 1920s, to increase crop production, Soviet leaders
forced farmers to give up their land to large collective farms. The farmers
grew restive, production fell, and in the "breadbasket of Europe,"
millions starved. Then came the Rasputin of Soviet science, Trofim Denisovitch
Lysenko, who claimed he could make wheat flower earlier, putting more farmers
to work and increasing grain production. That was biologically possible but
Lysenko went further to claim that the offspring of "vernalized" wheat
would also flower earlier, as though a parent who lifts weights will have more
muscular children. Genetics showed instead that characteristics are passed on
by genes, which are unaffected by traits the parent has acquired. Lysenko denounced
geneticists as bourgeois, fascist, pseudoscientists: "fly-lovers and people
haters". Lysenko's image as the peasant genius outwitting the world's biologists
dovetailed perfectly with Soviet mythology. In 1938 the authorities placed him
in charge of the Academy of Agricultural Sciences, and in 1948 they fired all
the geneticists and outlawed dissent from
Lysenkoism. Purges sent
his opponents to prison, some to the executioner. Lysenko accused
his scientific opponents of trying to "wreck" the Soviet economy.
many of today's climate deniers think "they" are smarter than
professional scientists; think scientists are part of some sort of world-wide
liberal conspiracy; think addressing the issues of climate change will "wreck"
the economy. A much smaller number of deniers have actually suggested killing
some scientists. Do any of these points sound familiar
prior to the 1990s, Soviet peoples wasted much bandwidth labeling everything
as either "bourgeois this" or "proletariat
that" and I thought it made them sound ridiculous. Since the 1990s, Americans
seem to be unable to discuss anything without including labels liberal
or conservative. I wonder why this ideological shift has gone
Knocking on Heaven's Door (2011) Lisa Randall subtitled: How Physics and Scientific Thinking Illuminate
the Universe and the Modern World
From one of Time magazine's 100 most influential people in the world, a rousing
defense of the role of science in our lives The latest developments in physics have
the potential to radically revise our understanding of the world: its makeup, its
evolution, and the fundamental forces that drive its operation. Knocking on Heaven's
Door is an exhilarating and accessible overview of these developments and an impassioned
argument for the significance of science.
Quantum: Einstein, Bohr, and the Great Debate about the
Nature of Reality (2011) Manjit Kumar
lover's "must have"
Quantum theory is weird. As Niels Bohr said, if you aren't shocked by quantum
theory, you don't really understand it. For most people, quantum theory is synonymous
with mysterious, impenetrable science. And in fact for many years it was equally
baffling for scientists themselves. In this tour de force of science history, Manjit
Kumar gives a dramatic and superbly written account of this fundamental scientific
revolution, focusing on the central conflict between Einstein and Bohr over the
nature of reality and the soul of science. This revelatory book takes a close look
at the golden age of physics, the brilliant young minds at its core, and how an
idea ignited the greatest intellectual debate of the twentieth century.
Covers all the usual suspects from Albert (Einstein) to (Anton) Zeilinger
even giving a brief description of Hugh Everett III
Quantum Man: Richard Feynman's Life in Science (2011)
Lawrence M. Krauss
Physicist Richard Feynman has a reputation as a bongo-playing, hard-partying,
flamboyant Nobel Prize laureate for his work on quantum electrodynamics theory,
but this tends to obscure the fact that he was a brilliant thinker who continued
making contributions to science until his death in 1988. He foresaw new directions
in science that have begun to produce practical applications only in the last decade:
nanotechnology, atomic-scale biology like the manipulation of DNA, lasers to move
individual atoms, and quantum engineering. In the 1960s, Feynman entered the field
of quantum gravity and created important tools and techniques for scientists studying
black holes and gravity waves. Author Krauss (The Physics of Star Trek), an MIT-trained
physicist, doesn't necessarily break new ground in this biography, but Krauss excels
in his ability, like Feynman himself, to make complicated physics comprehensible.
He incorporates Feynman's lectures and quotes several of the late physicist's colleagues
to aid him in this process. This book is highly recommended for readers who want
to get to know one of the preeminent scientists of the 20th century.
The Relativity of Wrong: Essays on Science (1988)
Lots of neat stuff, but here is some material from chapter 17
Today it appears that religious, political, and economic extremists are
actually cultivating ignorance.
For this reason, I hope that this 7-minute video will help end the madness.
This video is based upon Isaac Asimov's rebuttal to a letter he received
from a student critical of science and progress. A copy of the original letter
can be found
Three science oldies (1968-1973) Isaac Asimov
A few months back I was routing through an box of old paperbacks when I rediscovered "Science,
Numbers and I". It was too fragile to handle but brought back lots
of good memories so I used www.bookfinder.com
to locate used hardcover copies of:
Science, Numbers and I (1968)
Realm of Numbers (1969)
Please Explain (1973).
What a pleasure to reread. I didn't encounter any errors but found the description
of "Neutron Decay" in "Science, Numbers and I" a
little anachronistic since there was no mention of a down quark
turning into an up quark. However, that level of detail was
probably beyond the scope of a popular science book at that time. The third book
titled "Please Explain" does contain three short essays
Dance of the Photons: From Einstein to Quantum
Teleportation (2010) Anton Zeilinger
Einstein's steadfast refusal to accept certain aspects of quantum theory
was rooted in his insistence that physics has to be about reality. Accordingly,
he once derided as "spooky action at a distance" the notion that two
elementary particles far removed from each other could nonetheless influence
each other's properties--a hypothetical phenomenon his fellow theorist Erwin
Schrodinger termed "quantum entanglement." In a series of ingenious
experiments conducted in various locations--from a dank sewage tunnel under
the Danube River to the balmy air between a pair of mountain peaks in the Canary
Islands--the author and his colleagues have demonstrated the reality of such
entanglement using photons, or light quanta, created by laser beams. In principle
the lessons learned may be applicable in other areas, including the eventual
development of quantum computers
Light is the research focus of Zeilinger, a physicist in Austria who studies
photons’ ghostly quantum behavior. Here Zeilinger introduces the fictional
Dr. Quantinger, who assigns two students to experiment on an apparatus that
sends photons to separate detectors that they observe. Alice and Bob periodically
report their findings, proffer theories to account for the results, listen raptly
to Dr. Quantinger’s hints about quantum states of light, such as entanglement
and polarity, then repair to their detectors to watch more photons. Sometimes
Zeilinger suspends this fictional device to address readers directly about the
quality of entanglement––the property of pairs of particles, no
matter how far separated, whether by the Danube in Alice and Bob’s case
or by light-years of space, to “know” the quantum state of its partner.
This faster-than-light talent of quantum particles bothered Einstein but excites
Zeilinger, who describes the technologies that entanglement could in principle
permit, such as quantum computers or quantum teleportation. An innovative presenter
of a complicated topic, Zeilinger will appeal to the futurists of the science
set. --Gilbert Taylor
some readers may wonder why Professor Zeilinger employed the fiction of "two
junior experimenters discussing their measurements with academics who then dragged
them through the thought processes of the original quantum scientists".
I attended one of Professor Zeilinger's public lectures (in 2005 at
PI in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada)
and I remember him telling us that the English word "entanglement"
poorly approximates to the German word "Verschronkung"
coined by Erwin Schrödinger.
"Bob" and "Alice" are standard labels used in cryptology
and/or signal communications
Einstein Wrote Back: My Life in Physics (2010)
John W. Moffat
lover's "must have"
An entertaining memoir about the peculiar
and competitive world of modern physics.
John W. Moffat was a poor student
of math and science. That is, until as a young man in the early 1950s in Copenhagen
he read Einstein's famous paper on general relativity and Einstein's current
work seeking a unified theory of gravity and electromagnetism. Realizing that he
had an unusual and unexplained aptitude for understanding complex physics and mathematics,
Moffat wrote two papers based on Einstein's unified field theory. Soon, he found
himself being interviewed by Denmark's most famous physicist, Niels Bohr, and
giving a seminar on unified theory at the Niels Bohr Institute. When he faced derision
and criticism of Einstein's current research by the audience of physicists at
the Bohr Institute, Moffat went home and wrote a letter to Einstein that would change
the course of his life. Einstein replied to Moffat and they exchanged
a series of letters in which they discussed both technical matters relating to the
scientific papers and their views on the current state of physics. This correspondence
led to Moffat being interviewed by influential physicists in Britain and Ireland,
including Erwin Schrödinger. Their recommendations resulted in Moffat being
enrolled in the PhD physics program at Trinity College, Cambridge, the first student
in the College's 400-year history to be enrolled without an undergraduate degree.
Moffat and Einstein did not continue their correspondence, as the great man
died shortly after Moffat began his studies. However, Moffat continued, over the
next fifty years, to modify and expand on Einstein's theory of gravity.
Einstein Wrote Back tells the story of Moffat's unusual entry into the world
of academia and documents his career at the frontlines of twentieth-century physics
as he worked and studied under some of the greatest minds in scientific history,
including Niels Bohr, Fred Hoyle, Wolfgang Pauli, Paul Dirac, Erwin Schrödinger,
J. Robert Oppenheimer, Abdus Salam, among others.
Taking readers inside the
classrooms and minds of these "giants" of modern science, Moffat affectionately
exposes the foibles and eccentricities of these great men, as they worked on the
revolutionary ideas that, today, are the very foundation of modern physics and cosmology.
Merchants of Doubt (2010) Naomi Oreskes and Erik
M. Conway subtitled: How a Handful of Scientists
Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming
recommended for any citizen wondering about science denial or political
Oreskes and Conway tell an important story about the misuse of science to
mislead the public on matters ranging from the risks of smoking to the reality
of global warming. The people the authors accuse in this carefully documented
book are themselves scientists—mostly physicists, former cold warriors
who now serve a conservative agenda, and vested interests like the tobacco industry.
The authors name these scientists—all with powerful connections in government
and the media—including Robert Jastrow, Frederick Seitz, and S. Fred Singer.
Seven compelling chapters detail seven issues (acid rain, the dangers of smoking
and second-hand smoke, the ozone hole, global warming, the Strategic Defense
Initiative, and the banning of DDT) in which this group aimed to sow seeds of
public doubt on matters of settled science. They did so by casting aspersions
on the science and the scientists who produce it. Oreskes, a professor of history
and science studies at UC–San Diego, and science writer Conway also emphasize
how journalists and Internet bloggers uncritically repeat these charges.
This book deserves serious attention for the lessons it provides about
the misuse of science for political and commercial ends.
UCSD (University of California at San Diego) Professor of History and Science
Studies Naomi Oreskes Ph.D. presented
this 58 minute lecture on the History of Global Warming Science
titled The American Denial of Global Warming https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2T4UF_Rmlio <---
58 minute video lecture by Naomi Oreskes Ph.D.
This book is recommended to anyone who...
wonder why "peer-reviewed scientists" are attacked by "non-peer-reviewed
scientists working for big tobacco, big pharma, the fossil fuel industry, as
well as political and economic think tanks"
wondered how conservative politics shifted from "conserving the environment"
to "conserving big money" Facts:
Conservative presidents from Theodore Roosevelt through to Richard Nixon
equated some part of their administration to also conserving air, land,
Theodore Roosevelt's administration was well known for setting aside
large tracts of wilderness areas for recreational use by current and
Richard Nixon's administration created: The EPA (Environmental
Protection Agency), "The Clean Air Act", "The Clean Water
Act", "Banned DDT", etc.
Conservative presidents starting with Ronald Regan (stating: "government
was in the way") openly attacked government organizations like the
EPA while turning a blind eye to the actions of big business. Then people
of a similar political mind-set label environmentalists as left-wing liberals,
tree-huggers, and enviro-nazis. After this, the Bush-Cheney administration
had no problem opening "protected wilderness" to oil and mining
wondered why some people have such faith in the "unfettered free market".
Can anyone give me one example where pollution control targets were ever adhered
to without government legislation?
wondered if the "science denial movement" (which was started by
conservative scientists working for "big tobacco") might have been
amplified by that other large faction of conservatives, namely "the religious
right". People, no amount of prayer will ever be as effective as the polio
a few right-wing organizations you may wish to inspect (be
sure to: search for words like "tobacco", "second
hand smoke", "climate change", etc.)
wondered why conservatives claim that a liberal-bias exists in the US media
when in 2010, the US was home to 76 right-wing think tanks but only 4 left-wing
think tanks. Then there is the takeover by corporate conservatives (see associated
Seeing Further: The Story of Science and The Royal
Society (2010) Bill Bryson
lover's "must have"
22 essays celebrating the 350th anniversary of the Royal Society
The Society of London began in November 1660 when
a dozen men gathered at Gresham College to discuss advances in science and promote
science education. A royal charter from King Charles II triggered a name change
to the Royal Society of London. This organization was
responsible these two (of many) advances:
shifting science publications from Latin to English opened this field
to a larger segment of the population
requiring peer-review prior to publishing (was the only way to end the
repetition of nonsense)
The Royal Society of London only enforced a few rules:
no discussion of religion
no discussion of politics
no discussion of news unless it relates to science
The Greatest Show On Earth: The Evidence for Evolution
(2010) Richard Dawkins
lover's "must have"
I have read almost every popular publication by Dawkins and can tell you
that this is his best work yet. I liked it so much that I immediately read it
a second time.
Chapter 4 ("Silence and Slow Time")
Excerpt from page 85: If the history-deniers who doubt the fact of
evolution are ignorant of biology, those who think the world began less
than ten thousand years ago are worse than ignorant, they are deluded to
the point of perversity. They are denying not only the facts of biology
but those of physics, geology, cosmology, archaeology, history and chemistry
as well. This chapter is about how we know the ages of rocks and the fossils
embedded in them. It presents the evidence that the timescale on which life
has operated on this planet is measured not in thousands of years but in
thousands of millions of years.
pages 91-107 contain a superb explanation of "radioactive clocks"
including Carbon-14 (half-life: 5,730 years), Potassium-40 (half-life: 1.260
billion years), as well as eight others. By the way, these clock prove the
Earth is 4.6 billion years old.
Chapter 5 ("Before Our Very Eyes") contains a detailed explanation
of a stunning experiment done by Richard Lenski and his colleagues at Michigan
State University. In the experiment, 12-isolated colonies of e-coli are encouraged
to grow beyond the their food resources every day (inducing a competitive pressure)
over a 20-year period and are seen to evolve.
Chapter 9 ("The Ark of the Continents") contains a superb explanation
of "plate tectonics" (previously known as the Continental Drift Hypothesis)
and how it affected evolution on planet earth (marsupials only in Australia;
lemurs only in Madagascar; entire order of Edentata only in South America)
In Search of the Multiverse (2009) John Gribbin
Personal Comment: For some reason I don't fully understand, many members of the
public learned about quantum weirdness then use it to justify any other weird idea.
IMHO, the many
worlds interpretation of Quantum Mechanics only throws gasoline on the problem
(so to speak). That said, this book is still worth a read even if just to understand
why this idea hasn't been discarded by all scientists.
Chapter 1 (The Coming of Quantum Cats) takes us through to the world of
Hugh Everett (the
theorist who gave us the "many worlds interpretation")
Chapter 2 (Cosmic Coincidences Revisited) justifies the purchase of this
book. Here is just one observation relating the strength of
gravity to other fundamental forces:
In order to move to a more stable configuration, atoms less massive
than iron would like to fuse via the strong force into more massive atoms,
but the force of Electromagnetic Repulsion (between the two nuclei) attempts
to block it.
If the EM force was only a little stronger then the universe would
consist of only lighter elements like hydrogen and helium because there
would have been no fusion (no carbon = no humans)
If the EM force was only a little weaker then the universe would
consist of only heavier elements because everything would have already
fused all the way up to iron (no carbon = no humans).
gravity is of zero importance at the atomic level
gravity in a star is able to overwhelm the electromagnetic force to
enable fusion (thus converting hydrogen into heavier elements)
the mass of a carbon atom is: 1 x 10 -26 Kg
the mass of our sun is: 2 x 10 30 Kg
the mass of an average adult human is 1 x 10 2 Kg
Just counting zeros, a human is 28 zeros more massive than a single
carbon atom while the sun is 28 zeros more massive than a human. Ignoring
for the moment that whales are much heavier than humans while ants are much
lighter, isn't it fascinating that humans are almost exactly in the middle
between where gravity is of zero consequence (atoms) to where gravity can
overwhelm the electromagnetic force (sun)?
The Prism and the Pendulum (2003) Robert Crease
lover's "must have"
Chapters (A thought-provoking interlude exists after each chapter):
Measuring the World: Eratosthenes' Measurement of the Earth's Circumference
Interlude: Why Science is Beautiful
Dropping the Ball: The Legend of the Leaning Tower Interlude: Experiments
The Alpha Experiment: Galileo and the Inclined Plane
Paraphrased from Galileo's notebooks and correspondence (re: rolling
a ball down an inclined plane): As the time increases in a single
unit progression (1, 2, 3, ...) then the distance traversed by the object
between each succeeding beat increases according to the odd-numbered
progression (1, 3, 5, ...) Comments:
summing the odd-number progression results in the sequence:
1, 4, 9, ...
the phrase "succeeding beat" is curious. Did Galileo
(who was also a musician) really employ a water timer or did he
use cat gut to produce a click or beat? If he used cat gut, then
wouldn't this source of friction skew the numbers?
Interlude: The Newton-Beethoven Comparison
Experimentum Crucsis: Newton's Decomposition of Sunlight with Prisms
Interlude: Does Science Destroy Beauty?
Weighing the World: Cavendish's Austere Experiment
In a fifty-year career of obsessive work, he wrote fewer than twenty
articles and no books. As a result, Ohms' Law (which
describes the relationship among electrical voltage, resistance, and
amperage), and Coulomb's Law (which describes the force
between two electrically charged bodies) were not named for the man
who first came across them. (namely Henry Cavendish)
Interlude: Integrating Science and Popular Culture
Light a Wave: Young's Lucid Analogy Interlude: Science and Metaphor
Seeing the Earth Rotate: Foucault's Sublime Pendulum Interlude: Science
Seeing the Electron: Millikan's Oil-Drop Experiment Interlude: Perception
Dawning Beauty: Rutherford's Discovery of the Atomic Nucleus Interlude:
Artistry in Science
The Only Mystery: The Quantum Interference of Single Electrons Interlude:
Runners-Up Conclusion: Can Science Still Be Beautiful
The Great Equations (2008-2009) Robert P. Crease subtitled: Breakthroughs in Science from Pythagoras
lover's "must have"
Although most people can recite Einstein's famous little equation, even
if we don't know quite what it means, who has heard of the 18th-century mathematician
Leonhard Euler, let alone know anything at all about his famous equation? Crease,
a Stony Brook philosophy professor and popular science writer, has already taken
on the ten most beautiful experiments in science in The Prism and the Pendulum,
and in this enjoyable book he explores 10 rather beautiful equations. He begins
with the beguiling simplicity of the equation that bears Pythagoras' name (although
he says the Greek wasn't the first to discover it) and moves on to Newton's
second law of motion and law of universal gravitation, the second law of thermodynamics,
Maxwell's celebrated equations, discoveries by Einstein and Schrödinger
and, finally, Heisenberg's famous uncertainty principle. Crease explains the
significance of each of these formulas for science and, in brief interludes
between chapters, explores the journeys these scientists took from ignorance
to knowledge, and the social lives of their theories—their impact on the
larger culture. Any reader who aspires to be scientifically literate will find
this a good starting place.
I purchased this book with the intention of only reading Chapter 6 (James
Clerk Maxwell) but am now reading the whole thing because of the high signal-to-noise
This material is heavily cross-referenced (a good thing since most stuff
published on the internet is not)
Chapters (An interlude exists after each chapter):
Pythagoras's Theorem (~700 BC).
Newton's Second Law of Motion (1666).
Newton's Universal Gravitation Law (1666).
Euler's Equation (1740's).
The Second Law of Thermodynamics (1840's - 1850's).
Maxwell's Equations (1860's).
E=mc^2 (1905) from Einstein's Special Theory of Relativity
Caveat: page 99 of the hardcover edition describes equation "y=2^x"
but the shows a graph for equation "y=x^2". I just checked the soft
cover edition which contains the correct graph. That said, this is still a highly
The Discovery of Global Warming (2008) Spencer R. Weart
highly recommended for anyone interested in science or climate change
Author Spencer Weart
was originally trained as a physicist but is now a science historian
A Scientific American "Editors Recommend"
Excerpt: In 1973, Nicholas (Nick) Shackleton nailed it
all down for certain. What made it possible was the new magnetic-reversal dates
established by radioactive potassium, plus Shackleton's uncommon combination
of technical expertise in different fields. A splendid deep-sea core had been
pulled — "one of the best and most complete records of the entire
Pleistocene that is known" — the famous core Vema 28-238 (named after
the Lamont Observatory's oceanographic research vessel, a converted luxury yacht).
It reached back over a million years, and included the most recent reversal
of the Earth's magnetic field, which geologists dated at a bit over 700,000
years ago. This calibrated the chronology for the entire core. As a further
benefit, Shackleton managed to extract and analyze the rare foraminifera that
lived in the deep sea, and which reflected basic oceanic changes independent
of the fluctuating sea-surface temperatures. The deep-sea forams showed the
same isotopic variations as surface ones, confirming that the variations gave
a record of the withdrawal of water to form ice sheets. When Shackleton showed
his graph of long-term change to a roomful of climate scientists, a spontaneous
cheer went up. The core Vema 28-238 and a few others contained such a long run
of consistent data that it was possible to analyze the numbers with a mathematically
sophisticated "frequency-domain" calculation, a well-established technique
for picking out the lengths of cycles in a set of data. Detailed measurements
and numerical calculations found a set of favored frequencies, a spectrum of
regular cycles visible amid the noise of random fluctuations. The first unimpeachable
results (well, almost unimpeachable) were achieved in 1976 by James Hays, John
Imbrie and Shackleton. The trio not only analyzed the oxygen-isotope record
in selected cores from the Indian Ocean, but checked their curves against temperatures
deduced from the assemblage of foraminifera species found in each layer.
The long cores proved beyond doubt what Emiliani had stoutly maintained —
there had been not four major ice ages, but dozens. The analysis showed cycles
with lengths roughly 20,000 and 40,000 years, and especially the very strong
cycle around 100,000 years, all in agreement with Milankovitch calculations.
Extrapolating the curves ahead, the group predicted cooling for the next 15,000
years. As Emiliani, Kukla, and other specialists had already concluded several
years earlier, the Earth was gradually — indeed, perhaps quite soon as
geologists reckoned time — heading into a new ice age. These results,
like so many in paleoclimatology, were promptly called into question. For one
thing, there was no solid reason to suppose that our current interglacial period
would be of average length and was therefore nearing its end. (And in fact,
as noted below, improved orbital calculations and paleoclimate data would eventually
show that the natural end of the current interglacial is tens of thousands of
years away.) But the main results withstood all criticism. Confirmation
came from other scientists who likewise found cycles near twenty and forty thousand
years, give or take a few thousand. The most impressive analysis remained the
pioneering work of Hays, Imbrie, and Shackleton. They could even split the 15,000
year cycle into a close pair of cycles with lengths of 19,000 and 23,000 years —
exactly what the best new astronomical calculations predicted. By the
late 1970s, most scientists were convinced that orbital variations acted as
a "pacemaker" to set the timing of ice ages. Science magazine reported
in 1978 that the evidence for the Milankovitch theory was now "convincing,"
and the theory "has recently gained widespread acceptance as a factor"
in climate change.
Collider: The Search for the World's Smallest Particles
(2009) Paul Halpern
A history of experimental particle physics (particle accelerators to colliders)
from Ernest Rutherford to the LHC (Large Hadron Collider). This book also contains
some shocking information about how and why the SSC (Superconducting Super Collider)
was shut down after $2 billion was already spent and 13 miles of tunnel was already
The Evolution of Charles Darwin (2009)
highly recommended for people wanting more details about Darwin, and
the times in which he lived.
this 4-disc package from CBC Audio is a bargain at $40. I recently listened
to it a second time and was shocked by the amount of stuff I missed (or forgot).
Perhaps I will listen to it every February as a memorial to Darwin's birth.
One theoretical physicist critiques the works of others
This book is not an attack on Einstein, it just proves he was a gifted mortal
Provides a good overview of Galileo's inquisition by the Catholic Church
Galileo suffered from hatter's syndrome (lead poisoning cause by his alchemy
E=mc2 was known before Einstein's five papers of 1905.
He Knew He Was Right (2008) John Gribbin
What an unexpected surprise. Not only does this book include a biography of
James Lovelock along
with a description of his Gaia Hypothesis, it also includes a general history of
the physics and chemistry of atmospheric and geological sciences which starts in
the 1700s with the work of Jean Fourier (heat) and Joseph Black (discoverer if Carbon
Dioxide which was then known as "fixed air"). Maybe it is only because
I am a science fan but I couldn't put this book down. It is highly recommended to
the general reader wishing to learn more about climate change.
First Principles: The Crazy Business of Doing Serious
Science (2009) Howard Burton
how Howard Burton (MA, PhD) and RIM CEO
Mike Lazaridis created
Waterloo's Perimeter Institute for Theoretical
Howard Burton was a freshly-minted physics PhD from the University of Waterloo
when a random job query resulted in a meeting with
founder and co-CEO Mike Lazaridis. Mike had a crazy idea: he wanted to fund
a state-of-the-art science research facility and bring in the most innovative
scientists from around the world. Its mission? To study and probe the most complex,
intriguing and fundamental problems of science. Mike was ready to commit $100
million of his own money to get it started. But that wasn’t his only crazy
idea. He wanted Howard to run it. First Principles is part-biography and part
lively rumination on the world—and the world of science in particular—by
the engaging physicist and former director of the prestigious Perimeter Institute
in Waterloo, Ontario. Since its founding in 1999, the Institute has received
more than $125 million in government grants, not including the eye-popping sum
of $150 million that Mike Lazaridis has donated from his own personal fortune.
Climate Wars (2008) Gwynne Dyer
recommended for everyone in the modern world
Although the current warming trend began with the industrial revolution,
it really ramps with global industrialization after World War 2. During this
time industrialization of farms enables
population to grow from 2 billion (in 1927) to 6 billion (by 1999) with
a projected value of 7 billion by 2012.
Average atmospheric CO2 levels:
180 ppm during the previous ice age
280 ppm after the previous ice age
380 ppm after the beginning of the industrial age
so human activities are equal to the changes which moved our planet out of an
Since oceans are colder than land, global temperature averages can be very
misleading. For example, an average temperature increase of 1.3°C would
translate into 2°C over land and 4-5°C over the polar regions.
Melting winter snow and glacial ice is responsible for most river water
in the summer time. A warmer planet will cause three major changes:
rivers will be higher in the winter but much lower in the summer
the Tibetan plateau feeds 6 rivers running through India, Pakistan,
and China. What will happen when these people can't feed themselves?
Rivers feeding California will eventually run dry in the summertime.
the ocean levels are already
cm higher since 1880 which means that storm surges will destroy human
communities situated too close to river deltas (perhaps Hurricane Katrina
at New Orleans was the first "heads up" warning for the west;
people in India and indo-china have been experiencing these surges for a
involve ocean evaporation at the equator which results in rainfall north
and south of the equator. A hotter ocean means the cells can rise to a higher
height before falling as rain. This higher height will result in more droughts
and desertification (Australia has been experiencing increased droughts
for the past 6 years)
Chapter 7 contains shocking information from paleontologists like Peter
Ward. It appears that four out of five mass extinctions were due to climate
change (one was due to an
asteroid strike 65 million years ago).
comment: We all know that "people who refuse to learn
history are doomed to repeated it". I now believe that "history"
in this statement also refers to information from sources like the "fossil
record", analysis of "ice cores", etc.
The Upside of Down (2007) Thomas Homer-Dixon subtitled: Catastrophe, Creativity and the Renewal
The author starts by making a detailed analysis of how much energy was required
to build the Roman Coliseum 1900 years ago then uses this data to show how we
might be repeating the same mistakes.
World-wide Petroleum discovery peaked in the 1960s
EROI (Energy Return On Investment)
the energy found in 1 barrel of oil was required to produce
~ 100 barrels of oil (from depths of 1000 feet or less)
the energy found in 1 barrel of oil is required to produce ~
16 barrels of oil (from depths of 2000 feet or more)
the energy found in 1 barrel of oil is required to produce ~
4 barrels of oil from the Alberta Tar sands (proof that the low
hanging fruit is almost gone)
Since no one can live without food, shouldn't we make sure that all our
farmers have enough petroleum to feed us all? This means that other human activities
may need to be powered by technologies like nuclear, wind, solar.
Reinventing Gravity (2009) John W Moffat
recommended for people interested in science
This book is a delightful read which begins with a short overview of physics
from Galileo and Newton through to Einstein. It explains how scientists struggle
with their models while new data is introduced from various sciences including:
electromagnetic waves, gravity, quantum mechanics, nuclear energy, and string
theory. Sometimes gaps in our knowledge were attributed to things like "ether"
and the author thinks that we've made the same thing by inventing "Dark
Playing With Planets (Dutch: 2006, English: 2009)
Gerard 't Hooft
If you think the future is a mystery, think again. With a solid foothold
in realism, an extraordinary insight into scientific and technological developments,
and a dry sense of humor, Nobel laureate Professor Gerard 't Hooft confidently
dissects fact from fiction and shows us what our future might really hold. Professor
'T Hooft takes the reader firmly by the hand and, within the boundaries of solid
physics and proven laws of nature, takes us on a ride into the world of the
future, which holds remarkable surprises for us all. "Do you dream of intergalaxy
space travel, time warps, and mini-mes?" 'T Hooft asks. "Then please,
get yourself some more science fiction books, for fiction it is. But for those
who are interested in the real world, let me tell you what we can expect for
the future". We meet robots with a sense of irony, ride elevators into
space, and build floating cities; let us just say that "Playing with Planets",
which is translated from the original Dutch edition by Professor 'T Hooft's
daughter Saskia, supports the old adage that truth is indeed stranger than fiction.
Recommended reading for anyone interested in Hard-Sci-Fi and speculation
Classic Feynman: All the Adventures of a Curious
Character (2006) Ralph Leighton
covers the stories of Richard Feynman (1918-1988)
includes a CD-ROM recording of Feynman titled "Los Alamos from Below"
(~ 78 minutes)
All engineering and space enthusiasts need to re-read the last few chapters
about the Challenger (Space Shuttle) Investigation
Arthur C. Clarke - The Authorized Biography (1992) Neil
430 pages and published in 1992 Caveat: This book covers Clarke's life
from 1917 up to 1991 but every true fan knows that he died in 2008 and published
many books between 1992 and 2008. 3001: The Final Odyssey is
just one example. Rumor has it that there are a few more books waiting to be
I was shocked to learn about the Heinlein initiated feud with Clarke which
was apparently started after Clarke publicly criticized Ronald Regan's SDI (Strategic
Defense Initiative) commonly known as Star Wars. Apparently, Heinlein was a
stanch supporter of the Republican party and didn't think a British snob should
be lecturing Americans. Think about this political bias next time you read Heinlein's "Starship
"God's Mechanics" (2007) Guy Consolmagno
This book is written for techies (math, science, computer, etc.) and touches
on logic, philosophy, science + religion
The author attended MIT for seven years (earning two degrees then spending
3 years as a postdoc) then became a Jesuit Brother
He is one of many Vatican astronomers.
He thinks that the Intelligent Design theory which is being promoted to
help religion, will eventually hurt religion.
quote: techies already accept many abstract concepts on faith (electrons,
quarks, black holes). God is just another abstract concept.
Heat: How to Stop the Planet from Burning (2006) George Monbiot
Just a few interesting facts from the first couple of chapters:
being a technological-Luddite will make things worse: when used
as a light source, a candle is 71 times less efficient than than an old fashioned
incandescent bulb and 357 times less efficient than a compact florescent model
sometimes actual facts are counter-intuitive: burning a liter
of kerosene in an engine, to drive a generator, to power a fluorescent lamp,
can produce 250-450 times more useful light than burning the same amount in
an oil lamp (page xxiii)
In 2004, an article in Science reported the results
of a survey of scientific papers containing the words 'global climate change'.
The author found 928 of them on the database she searched. None of the papers,
she discovered, disagreed with the consensus position. Politicians, economists,
journalists and others may have the impression of confusion, disagreement, or
discord among climate scientists, but that impression is incorrect. (page 4)
(to put it another way, lobbyists have manipulated the facts to protect their
own financial interests)
Web sites are popping up all over America to cast doubt on real
science. These web sites are funded by companies like oil producer ExxonMobil
and tobacco companies Philip Morris and "Brown and Williamson". These
web sites sometimes publish articles by actual scientists with no experience
in Climatology. As is true on the web, these biased articles spread like wild-fire
across the net and eventually get published by newspapers.
Carbon trading won't work but carbon rationing will (if you're
dumb enough to buy an SUV, then when you use up your carbon rations for the
year you'll need to buy rations from someone who is behaving a little more responsively.
This will shift the carbon burden away from industries who will never accept
it (Oil, Airline, etc.) and place it directly on the consumer.
my 2 cents worth: Rather than save the planet for
future generations, most older people seem more interested in ensuring their last
10 years of life are comfortable (makes you wonder why they bothered to have children).
So all other open minded people need to lobby our politicians to take this topic
seriously. And why not? Big businesses are lobbying.
The Theory of Almost Everything (2005) Robert Oerter
lover's "must have"
While the man on the street searches for scientific answers in popular explanations
in string theory, multi-verses and other popular
voodoo, the poorly named "Standard Model of Elementary Particles"
is largely ignored. And yet this theory is the crowning achievement
This book describes the most successful and important theory in physics
today, fully explained to general readers
This book does for "the Standard Model" what Brian Greene
did for "String Theory"
Historical perspective begins in the 19th century and explains where
we are today and where we are heading next. Includes:
how people like Einstein and Noether kicked off Relativity
how people like De Broglie, Schrödinger, Heisenberg and Pauli
kicked off quantum mechanics
how people like Feynman, Schwinger and Tomonaga kicked off QED (Quantum
how people like Gell-Mann and Zweig kicked off QCD (Quantum Chromo
Compelling writing full of rich metaphor and analogy (similar to Feynman's
70 illustrations present concepts to readers visually
Although many people are talking about string theory, it may only amount
to a passing fashion: It hasn't yet been confirmed by experiment, the real test.
What has? Where do we really stand?
Robert Oerter shows what the
next step in physics will without question be based on: The Theory of
Almost Everything; the single theory that has dominated particle physics
for the past 30 years. Cobbled together by many brilliant minds throughout the
20th century, and modestly known as the Standard Model of Elementary
Particles, it is the most wide-ranging and precise theory in the history
of physics. From the chemical reactions that power all living things to the
nuclear reactions that power the sun, except for gravity, it describes all known
Robert Oerter teaches physics
at George Mason University. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Maryland.
He has done research in the areas of supergravity, especially as applied to
superstring theories, and in the quantum mechanics of chaotic systems. He lives
Big Bang: The Origin of the Universe (2005) Simon Singh
lover's "must have"
Albert Einstein once said: 'The most
incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it is comprehensible.' Simon Singh
believes geniuses like Einstein are not the only people able to grasp the physics
that govern the universe. We all can. As well as explaining what the Big Bang theory
actually is, the book will address why cosmologists believe that it is an accurate
description of the origin of the universe. It will also tell the story of the scientists
who fought against the establishment idea of an eternal and unchanging universe.
Simon Singh, renowned for making difficult ideas much less difficult than they first
seem, is the perfect guide for this journey. Everybody has heard of the Big Bang
Theory. But how many of us can actually claim to understand it? With characteristic
clarity and a narrative peppered with anecdotes and personal histories of those
who have struggled to understand creation, Simon Singh has written the story of
the most important theory ever.
Brother Astronomer - Adventures of a Vatican Scientist (2001)
the Vatican operates astronomical observatories world
the Vatican owned a really large meteorite collection
that Galileo would not have been arrested (and that whole embarrassing episode
in church history would not have happened) if the Jesuits would not have been
pushed out of favor during the century of the incident
the Vatican sees no conflict between religion and the theory of evolution
as long as one acknowledged the creator acting this way
great men in science and religion:
Albert the Great
Father of Geology
Father of Chemistry
Father of Genetics
"second Euclid" of the renaissance
father of Astrophysics
father of the Big Bang theory
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