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Archimedes to Hawking takes the reader on a journey across the centuries as it explores the eponymous physical laws—from Archimedes' Law of Buoyancy and Kepler's Laws of Planetary Motion to Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle and Hubble's Law of Cosmic Expansion—whose ramifications have profoundly altered our everyday lives and our understanding of the universe.
Throughout this fascinating book, Clifford Pickover invites us to share in the amazing adventures of brilliant, quirky, and passionate people after whom these laws are named. These lawgivers turn out to be a fascinating, diverse, and sometimes eccentric group of people. Many were extremely versatile polymaths—human dynamos with a seemingly infinite supply of curiosity and energy and who worked in many different areas in science. Others had non-conventional educations and displayed their unusual talents from an early age. Some experienced resistance to their ideas, causing significant personal anguish. Pickover examines more than 40 great laws, providing brief and cogent introductions to the science behind the laws as well as engaging biographies of such scientists as Newton, Faraday, Ohm, Curie, and Planck. Throughout, he includes fascinating, little-known tidbits relating to the law or lawgiver, and he provides cross-references to other laws or equations mentioned in the book. For several entries, he includes simple numerical examples and solved problems so that readers can have a hands-on understanding of the application of the law.
A sweeping survey of scientific discovery as well as an intriguing portrait gallery of some of the greatest minds in history, this superb volume will engage everyone interested in science and the physical world or in the dazzling creativity of these brilliant thinkers.
"Pickover inspires a new generation of da Vincis to build unknown flying machines and create new Mona Lisas." — Christian Science Monitor
"The ploymathic Clifford Pickover discusses 'landmark laws of nature that were discovered over several centuries and whose ramifications have profoundly altered our everyday lives and understanding.'" — Kendrick Frazier, Skeptical Inquirer
"A perpetual idea machine, Clifford Pickover is one of the most creative, original thinkers in the world today." — Journal of Recreational Mathematics
"The incomparable Clifford Pickover has written another rich science narrative that t once informs and entertains. There is no one writing today with such an encyclopedic knowledge of all things scientific, and Archimedes to Hawking covers the gamut of what is arguably the most important topic in all of science - the laws of nature. Are they discovered or invented? Do they correspond to things out in the world or only to thoughts inside our heads? These and numerous other tantalizing questions are answered as Pickover takes us through a brief history of nearly everything in the universe (and the universe itself)." — Michael Shermer, Skeptic
"A ride through the history of world-changing scientific ideas. Pickover pays homage to the great minds who have laid bare the mathematical machinery whirring just beneath the skin of reality. An impressively researched tour de force." —Marcus Chown, author of The Quantum Zoo
"Clifford Pickover has brilliantly succeeded in a monumental task. He has explained, in his usual lucid style, some forty of the greatest laws of physics, and sketched the lives and often eccentric personalities of the geniuses who discovered them. Pickover's pages reflect his vast knowledge of physics and his firm conviction that mathematics has an awesome external reality." —Martin Gardner, author of The Colossal Book of Mathematics
Posted April 11, 2008
From Archimedes to Hawking and Everyone Between This is Dr. Pickover's first scientific book since his A Beginner's Guide to Immortality and The Mobius Strip writings of 2006. After over a year of pursuing science fiction, the author has provided us with a work that was worth waiting for. This is his best yet. Archimedes to Hawking is no dry listing of scientific laws. Yes, it does have the important laws of science and the runners-up which Pickover generously calls the 'Great Contenders.' The reason that the book runs to five hundred pages is that Pickover describes the lives and works of the lawgivers. These are not just people who showed up. Their biographies show that they worked at it. 'Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration.' Although the illustrations appear to be more for decoration than explanation, some are quite stunning. I particularly liked Bode's Virgo and Hooke's Flea, even if they have nothing to do with the laws named for those two. More illustrations like those would have been nice. The author's approach is interesting. The laws are arranged chronologically. Archimedes is the first, but we have to skip almost two millennia to the Renaissance to find the next. The Industrial Revolution then brings the bulk of the science. There is very little past the turn of the twentieth century. Only three of the scientists named in this collection are still alive. Perhaps we have stopped naming scientific laws after people because we regard the laws of nature more as discovery than personal invention, or maybe it is that we are so expectant of future refinements that we now distrust the concept of the immutable law. The geography of the lawgivers is mostly European. The bulk of the laws are attributed to French, English, and German physicists and chemists. Americans are fourth in number, but only if you include the runner-up category. Although Pickover is not a physicist by training, he shows that he understands the thought process of the physicist. He shows their quest for understanding of the principles of the universe, the search for the beauty and symmetry of nature. Even more, Pickover has learned to think like a physicist. Pickover gives a rational explanation for his inclusion of works in the great laws and the runner-up categories. Many people may be surprised to find that Maxwell's Equations do not have a chapter of their own but share the Faraday chapter, while relatively obscure works are included, even one of the runners-up that mentions my name. Pickover explains that the individual laws that make up Maxwell's Equations were developed by other people: Ampere, Faraday, Gauss. For a book like this it is necessary to make choices. The author explains his reasoning in a convincing manner. You may argue with his choices, but I think that if he errs, it is mostly on the side of inclusion, not exclusion. I do not think that you have to be a physicist or chemist to appreciate this book, but some formal science training may help you to appreciate the simplicity and beauty of the equations. I see this book becoming a standard reference work for those who study the physical sciences or the history of science. Or you may just like it for the joy of the science and the history.
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Posted November 11, 2009
Pickover, as usual, has done a bang-up job. It covers a wide range of knowledge, be it physics, chemistry and even short biographies of the greats since Archimedes. Formulae are provided for the cognoscenti, yet well-written enough to satisfy the casual reader.
I gave this book to a retired research physicist, who can be very punctilious, and he was amazed at the breadth of knowledge and so error free.
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Posted July 29, 2011
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