Doing Physics, Second Edition: How Physicists Take Hold of the World

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This is easy: The Feynman Lectures on Physics. Still unbeaten in freshness, depth and insight. In spite of the great cultural distance, I feel there is something useful for us to learn in this book. It may perhaps even be useful to emerge from some of the current confusion in theoretical physics. I was in the last year of my PhD and looking for anything to read that would distract me from writing my thesis.

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The central idea in the book was the non-computability of the brain and consciousness — Penrose therefore argued that computers could never replicate consciousness. This is a tough one — there are many books that are vital for a physicist, but of course it depends on what level you are at. If I had to pick one I would cheat and pick a three-volume set. In fact, any physicist reading this will already probably have guessed I am referring to the classic The Feynman Lectures on Physics.

The book is very clear and thought-provoking, and contains some well-researched stories about the struggle of the early pioneers to understand quantum mechanics, such as the famous Bohr—Einstein debates of the late s. Science blogger, author, senior reporter at Ars Technica. The book explores the sometimes tragic nature of genius, and how their ideas defined their era. Forget The Tipping Point — this is the book you should read to understand how sweeping social changes occur.

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Centola applies the lessons learned in epidemiology, on how viral epidemics spread, to understanding how social networks can broadly alter human behaviour, and includes some pointers for how we might harness these insights to produce positive change. Theoretical physicist and mathematician, blogger, author. This is the best history of modern particle physics ever written. Any good quantum mechanics textbook. For the more mathematically inclined readers, I also wrote a text myself — Quantum Theory, Groups and Representations: an Introduction.

I read this first as a judge for the Royal Society Aventis Science Book Prize which it won , and found it not only fascinating and beautifully written but also positively exciting.

Albert Einstein - HISTORY

Holmes is not a science writer, but primarily a biographer with a deep knowledge of the Romantic poets. But the book is more than a history: it argues a passionate and important case for seeing science as a central strand of human culture, interwoven with others, and not some kind of isolated fortress of dry rationalism. In science, The Immortalists by David Friedman is a great account of the crazy collaboration between tissue-culture pioneer Alexis Carrel and aviator and Nazi sympathizer Charles Lindbergh.

The defining characteristic of physicists, to me, is less about the factual content of our areas of study than about a mindset, a sort of reductionist approach that tries to break the world down into the smallest possible number of fundamental principles, and use them to explain as much as possible. He caught some flak for his political views a few years back, so this is not without controversy, but the book is a great demonstration of the physics mindset in action.

I did start reading Totally Random by Tanya and Jeffrey Bub, though, which is a non-fiction comic about quantum physics. Journalist, author, broadcaster, co-host of the BookLab podcast.


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The last 30 years have brought a flood of popular-science books, many of them very good. Pinker is a brilliant, clear, and persuasive writer, and every page of this book is simply crammed with fascinating information that forces the reader to rethink deeply-entrenched assumptions.

Even Hawking can be a tough slog for the uninitiated. But thanks to Carlo Rovelli, I think I know where to point them.

His book Seven Brief Lessons on Physics is a wonderful introduction not just to physics but to the question of why we do physics — and it almost fits in your pocket. Hossenfelder is asking for a reality check. Her book, with its mix of science and humour, comes as a breath of fresh air. Author, co-host of the BookLab podcast. All the pillars of modern physics — relativity, quantum mechanics, thermodynamics — meet in paradox at the edge of a black hole.

It serves as an important reminder that physics is a very human ordeal, and that science books can be works of literature, too. Mother Nature by Sarah Blaffer Hrdy is a brilliant, rigorous, tender exploration of motherhood and its role in human evolution. Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs by Lisa Randall. I had the pleasure of meeting her earlier this year, and seeing her speak, and she was incredible. Witty, accessible and at the cutting edge of physics, her books put complex concepts within reach for those of us who can find theoretical physics impenetrable.

History of physics

I studied engineering and I feel there should be more books like this one, explaining how the built environment around us works and what a feat it is. The agony of choice! Philip Ball has consistently written engaging and entertaining science books that combine deep analysis with punchy prose. He manages to pull off the difficult trick of clearly explaining complex science concepts while never dumbing down or patronizing the reader.

This is a must-read for anyone with even a passing interest in physics and should be on the shelves of every physicist.


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Hossenfelder highlights some of the key issues with the state of the art in 21st-century theoretical physics and dissects the pathological reliance of some on mathematical beauty as the foremost guiding principle in science. The couple had an illegitimate daughter, Lieserl, born in early , of whom little is known.

After finding a position as a clerk at the Swiss patent office in Bern, Einstein married Maric in ; they would have two more children, Hans Albert born and Eduard born While working at the patent office, Einstein did some of the most creative work of his life, producing no fewer than four groundbreaking articles in alone. In the first paper, he applied the quantum theory developed by German physicist Max Planck to light in order to explain the phenomenon known as the photoelectric effect, by which a material will emit electrically charged particles when hit by light.

To do this, Einstein introduced his special theory of relativity, which held that the laws of physics are the same even for objects moving in different inertial frames i.


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A fourth paper concerned the fundamental relationship between mass and energy, concepts viewed previously as completely separate. Einstein continued working at the patent office until , when he finally found a full-time academic post at the University of Zurich. In , he arrived at the University of Berlin, where he was made director of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Physics. In , Einstein published the general theory of relativity, which he considered his masterwork.

This theory found that gravity, as well as motion, can affect time and space. In , two expeditions sent to perform experiments during a solar eclipse found that light rays from distant stars were deflected or bent by the gravity of the sun in just the way Einstein had predicted. In , he won the Nobel Prize for his work on the photoelectric effect, as his work on relativity remained controversial at the time.

Einstein soon began building on his theories to form a new science of cosmology, which held that the universe was dynamic instead of static, and was capable of expanding and contracting. A longtime pacifist and a Jew, Einstein became the target of hostility in Weimar Germany, where many citizens were suffering plummeting economic fortunes in the aftermath of defeat in the Great War. In December , a month before Adolf Hitler became chancellor of Germany, Einstein made the decision to emigrate to the United States, where he took a position at the newly founded Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey.

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Quantum mechanics

He would never again enter the country of his birth. In the process, Einstein became increasingly isolated from many of his colleagues, who were focused mainly on the quantum theory and its implications, rather than on relativity. Roosevelt advising him to approve funding for the development of uranium before Germany could gain the upper hand. Einstein, who became a U. Throughout the last years of his life, Einstein continued his quest for a unified field theory. Though he published an article on the theory in Scientific American in , it remained unfinished when he died, of an aortic aneurysm, five years later.

But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us! Subscribe for fascinating stories connecting the past to the present. Was Albert Einstein really a poor student, did he almost become the president of Israel and what, if anything, did he have to do with the development of the atomic bomb? Separate Einstein myth from reality and explore some of the most startling chapters from the life story of Underachieving school kids have long taken solace in the claim that Einstein flunked math as a youth, but the records show that he was actually an exceptional, if not reluctant, student.

He scored high grades during his school days in

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