Driving Force: The Natural Magic of Magnets

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Overview

Driving Force unfolds the long and colorful history of magnets: how they guided (or misguided) Columbus; mesmerized eighteenth-century Paris but failed to fool Benjamin Franklin; lifted AC power over its rival, DC, despite all the animals, one human among them, executed along the way; led Einstein to the theory of relativity; helped defeat Hitler's U-boats; inspired writers from Plato to Dave Barry. In a way that will delight and instruct even the nonmathematical among us, James Livingston shows us how scientists today are creating magnets and superconductors that can levitate high-speed trains, produce images of our internal organs, steer high-energy particles in giant accelerators, and--last but not least--heat our morning coffee.

From the "new" science of materials to everyday technology, Driving Force makes the workings of magnets a matter of practical wonder. The book will inform and entertain technical and nontechnical readers alike and will give them a clearer sense of the force behind so much of the working world.

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Editorial Reviews

Nature

[A] delightful little book...[Livingston] connects magnetism to both past and present human culture and its underlying technology. This connection ranges over an incredible breadth of topics and personalities, a few (nonscientist) examples of the latter being James Bond, Plato, Ben Jonson, Gilbert and Sullivan, Jonathan Swift, Mary Baker Eddy, Dick Tracy, Uri Geller and Madonna...A smashing book...I wish there were more science books for the general population written with so engaging an approach.
— Paul M. Grant

Materials World

Livingston introduces magnetic principles through eight "facts about the force," and uses these to explain the theory behind later examples of applications. Mixed in with this excellent educational approach is a history of magnetism and its influence, which takes in everything from Plato to Gilbert and Sullivan...The book is an excellent and comprehensive look at magnetism and its applications. It is a good read for materials (and other) scientists, a thorough introduction to the subject for the layman, and, to boot, a useful reference text for students.
— Steve Hill

Choice
Driving Force is a popular science book about magnets and how they have affected our lives, written to be easily understood by any intelligent and interested person...After covering the basic physics and material science of magnetism in the early chapters, Livingston discusses application of magnets to a wide variety of instruments and technologies. Those include the use of magnets in home appliances, toys, magnetically levitating trains, and medical imaging devices. Perhaps what distinguishes this book from most others of its type is that throughout, one also reads about connections with history, politics, economics, literature, art, popular culture.
National Council Against Health Fraud Newsletter
Dr. James Livingston makes the physics of magnetism clear in this marvelous book, Driving Force. Livingston writes in a delightfully readable style. Readers will not only learn marvelous facts about lodestones, how the earth generates its own electromagnetic field, and the role of magnetism in nearly every modern technology, but they will also see how pseudosciences have exploited the mystery of magnetism.
Science Books & Films
This fascinating book gives a historical view of science undergirding the technology we use daily at home and in the workplace...[Livingston's] clear explanations, background information, and creative use of analogies guide any interested reader smoothly through the concepts [such as electromagnetic theory, the microstructure of matter, and quantum electrodynamics]...Livingston writes with a passion that grows out of his lifelong interest in materials science, and his personal experiences are woven throughout this scientific adventure story. He has a knack for keeping the science stimulating and the historical connections exciting...I recommend this book highly for readers who want to know the science involved in everyday applications of technology...This is truly a tour de force on magnetism.
American Journal of Physics

Livingston's engaging style and evident love of his subject should go far in attracting readers to a study of magnetism. Many of the applications discussed in the book are fascinating in their own right...Driving Force is a welcome addition to the library of books that seek to popularize hard science.
— G. Lyle Hoffman

Physics Today

Any book that has jacket blurbs from D. Allan Bromley, Leon Lederman (with pun) and Dave Barry has got to be worth investigating. For those who maintain a collection of books in the style of David Feldman's When Did Wild Poodles Roam the Earth? (HarperCollins, 1992) or David Macaulay's The Way Things Work (Houghton Mifflin, 1988), this is another one for the shelf...Livingston has devoted much of his career to magnetism, first at General Electric as a physicist in the materials department and more recently as a senior lecturer in materials science at MIT. He also tells a good story...[T]he book is mostly a serious and comprehensive discussion of the field, carefully crafted for the nonspecialist...I highly recommend the book, both for enjoyable reading and as a valuable source of information on the history of magnetism.
— Frederick R. Fickett

Booklist

Dr. Livingston presumes that some consumers, perhaps latently curious about their microwave oven beyond its instant zapping capability, wonder how the contraption works. In that appliance, as in dozens of others, Livingston describes the key as a magnetic device originally invented for a completely different purpose, in this case, for the radar that defeated U-boats in World War II...On top of making unexpected technology connections, Livingston simplifies Maxwell's electromagnetic theories into nine principles of magnetic behavior, whose action he regularly reminds the reader of during his crystal clear explanations of what, for example, makes a maglev train levitate or magnetic resonance imaging resonate...A stimulating variety of science, history, and technology delivered enthusiastically.
— Gilbert Taylor

Nature - Paul M. Grant
[A] delightful little book...[Livingston] connects magnetism to both past and present human culture and its underlying technology. This connection ranges over an incredible breadth of topics and personalities, a few (nonscientist) examples of the latter being James Bond, Plato, Ben Jonson, Gilbert and Sullivan, Jonathan Swift, Mary Baker Eddy, Dick Tracy, Uri Geller and Madonna...A smashing book...I wish there were more science books for the general population written with so engaging an approach.
Materials World - Steve Hill
Livingston introduces magnetic principles through eight "facts about the force," and uses these to explain the theory behind later examples of applications. Mixed in with this excellent educational approach is a history of magnetism and its influence, which takes in everything from Plato to Gilbert and Sullivan...The book is an excellent and comprehensive look at magnetism and its applications. It is a good read for materials (and other) scientists, a thorough introduction to the subject for the layman, and, to boot, a useful reference text for students.
Leon M. Lederman
Here is everything you ever, ever wanted to know about magnets...Covering subjects ranging from the science of magnetic forces to that great magnet in the sky, our planet, to the fakes who assure you that magnets will improve your wine and your sexual prowess, Livingston has written a book that is easy, entertaining, and often fascinating.
American Journal of Physics - G. Lyle Hoffman
Livingston's engaging style and evident love of his subject should go far in attracting readers to a study of magnetism. Many of the applications discussed in the book are fascinating in their own right...Driving Force is a welcome addition to the library of books that seek to popularize hard science.
Physics Today - Frederick R. Fickett
Any book that has jacket blurbs from D. Allan Bromley, Leon Lederman (with pun) and Dave Barry has got to be worth investigating. For those who maintain a collection of books in the style of David Feldman's When Did Wild Poodles Roam the Earth? (HarperCollins, 1992) or David Macaulay's The Way Things Work (Houghton Mifflin, 1988), this is another one for the shelf...Livingston has devoted much of his career to magnetism, first at General Electric as a physicist in the materials department and more recently as a senior lecturer in materials science at MIT. He also tells a good story...[T]he book is mostly a serious and comprehensive discussion of the field, carefully crafted for the nonspecialist...I highly recommend the book, both for enjoyable reading and as a valuable source of information on the history of magnetism.
Joel M. Rosenberg
The book deals exclusively with magnets, describing past, present, and future applications and history. Livingston's light and conversational style makes the material easy to read, quite accessible, and rather entertaining. His lifetime of experience with magnets, both at MIT and while doing research and development with General Electric, which he refers to often, comes through is his thorough treatment of the subject.
Ken Brady
In about 300 pages [Livingston] takes us on a magical mystery tour...For the layperson, it is a wonderful way to learn about how magnets are hidden in almost all modern technology used in war and peace--radar, microwave, ovens, maglev trains, etc...For the science teacher, I cannot think of a better way to integrate all disciplines of math and life and physical sciences than this book...I can see teachers using the information for their own self-enjoyment and in the classroom as a great tool for integrated science teaching: it could easily be a text book in the hands of a great teacher.
Booklist - Gilbert Taylor
Dr. Livingston presumes that some consumers, perhaps latently curious about their microwave oven beyond its instant zapping capability, wonder how the contraption works. In that appliance, as in dozens of others, Livingston describes the key as a magnetic device originally invented for a completely different purpose, in this case, for the radar that defeated U-boats in World War II...On top of making unexpected technology connections, Livingston simplifies Maxwell's electromagnetic theories into nine principles of magnetic behavior, whose action he regularly reminds the reader of during his crystal clear explanations of what, for example, makes a maglev train levitate or magnetic resonance imaging resonate...A stimulating variety of science, history, and technology delivered enthusiastically.
Library Journal
Magnets and magnetism are seldom thought about, but their quiet contribution to our lives in appliance motors, VCRs, cars, and medical equipment is truly astounding. Livingston, currently at MIT and previously a physicist in materials development at General Electric, deftly explains the uses of magnets, the properties of magnetism, and how modern materials science uses both. Writing succinctly and enthusiastically, he probes a varied list of subjects (geoscience, motors, biomagnetism, magic tricks and toys, trains, superconductors, etc.), with history and definitions included. Informative, well laid out, and enjoyable, this is highly recommended for all collections.-Michael David Cramer, Virginia Polytechnic & State Univ. Libs., Blacksburg
Booknews
Weird?- a passion for magnetism? Then Livingston (materials science, MIT) is very weird. He details this force's use & impact in cultures as diverse as Einstein & James Bond. Splendid, compelling popular science of medicine, toys, weapons, tools. Ideal for any collection intended to feed and stimulate curiosity about the physical universe. Graced by a great annotated bibliography. We've come away a little weird. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674216457
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 4/28/1997
  • Pages: 334
  • Product dimensions: 6.13 (w) x 8.76 (h) x 0.91 (d)

Meet the Author

James D. Livingston is a former physicist at GE and lecturer at MIT, and the author of Driving Force: The Natural Magic of Magnets.
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Table of Contents

Preface

1. A Magical Force

Einstein and Me

Paper Clips and Refrigerators

James Bond and Jaws

Hidden Magnets

Facts about the Force

2. Romancing the Stones

"A Perverse Willfulness"

Loving Stones

Inside the Loving Stones

Romancing from Afar

Looking for Lodestones

A Magnetic Love Song

3. Magnus Magnes

The Great Magnet

Reading the Rocks

Undercurrents

Cosmic Currents

Biocompasses

4. Supermagnets

A New Science

The Elements of Things

Improving on Lodestones

Better and Bitter

Electromagnets

Microthings and Megathings

5. Superconducting Magnets

Amps, Volts, and Ohms

The Big Chill

Superconductors and Ohmless Electromagnets

Big and Little Science

The Woodstock of Physics

6. Inside Magnets and Superconductors

In a Spin

The Magnetic Domain

Harder and Softer

Hard Superconductors

7. Attractors, Movers, and Shakers

Using the Force

Attractors

Movers

Shakers, Woofers, and Tweeters

8. AC, RF TV, and EAS

AC/DC

Catching the Waves

Catching the Crooks

Improving on Iron

9. Thanks for the Memories

Remembering Things Passed

Bugs and Bits

A Future in Films

10. Up with Magnets!

Fighting Gravity with Levity

Maglev

Bearing Up

Flying Trains

11. Magnets at War

Hitler's Secret Weapon

Hunting for Red October

Magnetrons and Radar

Calutrons and Little Boy

12. Magnets at Play

Child's Play

Magnets in Fiction

Magnets of Magic

Supersenses

13. Mesmerism and Magnetic Therapy

Healing with Magnets

Animal Magnetism

Mineral Magnetism

14. Medicine and MRI

Magnets in Medicine

Personal Images

Nuclear Magnets

Magnetic Resonance

The Imaging Technology

Magnets for MRI

15. Biomagnetism

Living Magnets

The Magnetic Mind

Killer Gauss?

The Birds and Bees

16. Source of the Force

Clark Kent and Superman

Alice and the Red Queen

Dave Barry and Virtual Effluvium

17. Pulling It Together

Magical Mystery Tour

Wonders of the World

Sources and Suggested Readings

Acknowledgments

Index

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 14, 2003

    Magnets: Science and Applications

    This is probably the best introduction to magnets and magnetism on the market. In a style that has become popular for science books, the author mixes science with history, popular culture, humor and even a little autobiography. The phenomenology of magnets and magnetism is very well explained. The explanations are just right for a scientifically literate lay readership. (Most books on magnets are of the gee-whiz type intended for a juvenile audience. This book is not in that category.) There is an extensive discussion of applications for magnets and electromagnets (including superconducting electromagnets). The applications are many: speakers, motors, generators, transformers, video- and audio-tape, magnetic levitation (maglev) trains, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), scientific instruments, and toys. Many applications of permanent magnets have been made possible only in recent years with the advent of new and improved magnetic materials. Geologists have used the magnetic record of rocks to support the idea of continental drift. There is a very nice bibliography for those readers wishing to dig deeper into the subject. This book serves as a good example of how science popularizations should be written. Another introduction to magnetism that can be recommended is the book by E. W. Lee, which contains excellent and intuitive descriptions of the physics. Unfortunately, Professor Lee's book is old (first published in 1963, reprinted by Dover in 1970) so that it is obsolete in its discussion of applications. For a modern view of magnet and electromagnet applications, one should read 'Driving Force: The Natural Magic of Magnets'.

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