Black Bodies and Quantum Cats: Tales from the Annals of Physics

Black Bodies and Quantum Cats: Tales from the Annals of Physics

by Jennifer Ouellette
     
 

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Physics, once known as "natural philosophy," is the most basic science, explaining the world we live in, from the largest scale down to the very, very, very smallest, and our understanding of it has changed over many centuries. In Black Bodies and Quantum Cats, science writer Jennifer Ouellette traces key developments in the field,

Overview

Physics, once known as "natural philosophy," is the most basic science, explaining the world we live in, from the largest scale down to the very, very, very smallest, and our understanding of it has changed over many centuries. In Black Bodies and Quantum Cats, science writer Jennifer Ouellette traces key developments in the field, setting descriptions of the fundamentals of physics in their historical context as well as against a broad cultural backdrop. Newton’s laws are illustrated via the film Addams Family Values, while Back to the Future demonstrates the finer points of special relativity. Poe’s "The Purloined Letter" serves to illuminate the mysterious nature of neutrinos, and Jeanette Winterson’s novel Gut Symmetries provides an elegant metaphorical framework for string theory. An enchanting and edifying read, Black Bodies and Quantum Cats shows that physics is not an arcane field of study but a profoundly human endeavor—and a fundamental part of our everyday world.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
In 38 brief chapters, journalist Ouellette, whose "This Month in Physics History" column runs in APS (American Physical Society) News, presents an engaging overview of key advances in physics from the early 1500s to today. Although she admits in her preface that something is bound to be lost in translation whenever one tries to describe physical phenomena without actually using physics, she does a commendable job of making the underlying science accessible to the average reader without changing its essence. Ouellette's method of drawing interesting and sometimes vaguely weird parallels between snippets of pop culture and physics-e.g., likening one science fiction character's ability to bypass his companion's social defenses against him to the quantum mechanical effect of "tunneling"-keeps the reader captivated. The topics, which range from Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein to Velcro and Deep Blue, and the human factor that Ouellette has injected into the telling of each story add up to an enjoyable read for science fans. Recommended for all libraries.-Marcia Franklin, Academy Coll. Lib., Bloomington, MN Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780143036036
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
12/27/2005
Pages:
336
Sales rank:
776,197
Product dimensions:
5.25(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.65(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Meet the Author

Jennifer Ouellette is the author of three previous books, Black Bodies and Quantum Cats, Physics of the Buffyverse, and The Calculus Diaries. She writes the popular science and culture blog Cocktail Party Physics for Scientific American. She lives in Los Angeles, California.

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