Einstein's Heroes: Imagining the World through the Language of Mathematics

Overview

"Einstein's Heroes blends science history and biography to take you on a journey of discovery about the phenomenon of mathematics - humanity's universal language and one of our most amazing accomplishments." It uses as its axis the lives and work of the brilliant scientists who inspired Einstein particularly James Clerk Maxwell, Michael Faraday and Isaac Newton. Together Maxwell and Faraday settled a centuries-old physical dispute , which Newton had left in his majestic wake and established mathematics as the ultimate arbiter of physical reality. ...
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Overview

"Einstein's Heroes blends science history and biography to take you on a journey of discovery about the phenomenon of mathematics - humanity's universal language and one of our most amazing accomplishments." It uses as its axis the lives and work of the brilliant scientists who inspired Einstein particularly James Clerk Maxwell, Michael Faraday and Isaac Newton. Together Maxwell and Faraday settled a centuries-old physical dispute , which Newton had left in his majestic wake and established mathematics as the ultimate arbiter of physical reality.
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
This deeply resonant book is about Albert Einstein's intellectual heroes: Sir Isaac Newton, Michael Faraday, and most especially James Clark Maxwell. As author Robyn Arianrhod argues brilliantly, Maxwell was the first physicist to embrace deliberately the ambiguous relationship between language and reality; the first to accept that in a very real sense, language is reality. Maxwell showed that the structure of mathematical language seems to reflect hidden physical patterns, thus setting the stage for counterintuitive insights into our universe.
Publishers Weekly
Admirably sketching the battle lines currently staked out over the idea of objective truth, a Cambridge professor of philosophy makes his subject lively and accessible even as he parts some of its deepest waters, with absolutists-traditionalists-realists on the one side and relativists-postmodernists-idealists on the other. The absolutists believe in "plain, unvarnished objective fact"; the relativists say with Nietzsche, "There are no facts, only interpretations." Blackburn scrutinizes the claims of both sides with a collegial but critical eye, carefully distinguishing positions and identifying places where the two sides are speaking past each other, covering, among others, Protagoras, Plato, Hume, James, Nagel, Wittgenstein, Locke, Rorty and Davidson. He constructs a simple diagram that makes sense of four contrasting attitudes toward truth: eliminativism, realism, constructivism and quietism. Out of this inquiry emerges a middle position: truth is real if accepted in a minimalist way; relativism is not necessarily incoherent; and we can respond to science with "well-mannered animation" that is indistinguishable from belief. As Blackburn recognizes, this solution will not please everyone: absolutists may find it treasonous, relativists too conservative. But the overall result is to salvage a plausible version of truth. Blackburn considers truth "the most exciting and engaging issue in the whole of philosophy," and, with wit and erudition, he succeeds in proving that point. (Aug.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Dealing with physics history at several different levels, Australian mathematician Arianrhod offers an intriguing blend of science, history, and biography. Noting that the widely admired Albert Einstein had his own scientific heroes-Isaac Newton, Michael Faraday, and James Clerk Maxwell-she explains the reasons for the great physicist's esteem. She especially pays detailed attention to Maxwell and his famous set of four equations that summed up the essence of electricity and magnetism and revealed that light itself is an electromagnetic phenomenon. Using the marvelous eventual success of Maxwell's equations, the author then reflects on the uncanny usefulness of mathematics in building models of physical discoveries and in predicting physical facts not yet revealed by experiments. (E.P. Wigner, a great modern physicist, has referred to the "unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics in the natural sciences.") Arianrhod's well-written, fascinating discussion of intertwined topics not usually presented in one book aimed at general readers is highly recommended for academic and public libraries.-Jack W. Weigel, Ann Arbor, MI Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
From the Publisher

"Arianrhod is an infectiously enthusiastic writer, keen for her audience both to admire Einstein's heroes and to understand their contributions to fundamental mathematical physics."--Physics Nature

"Arianrhod's achievement is to so masterfully combine history, biography, and mathematics as to absorb and enlighten even the mathematically maladroit."--Booklist

"A magnificent saga...well worth reading.... For those who are interested in scientific subjects but have no experience with math or physics, the author takes particular care to include simple descriptions and drawings to illustrate the ideas. Thus this really is a book for all who would like to know the essentials of a key part of modern science."--American Scientist

"An intriguing blend of science, history, and biography.... Arianrhod's well-written, fascinating discussion of intertwined topics not usually presented in one book aimed at general readers is highly recommended."--Library Journal (starred review)

"A thrilling story.... Arianrhod is an easy author to like, and not simply for the clarity of her narrative. She brings out the human side of the scientists. She also is a student of imaginative prose: Her explication of a novel by the Australian David Malouf helps introduce ideas about mathematics, and she quotes the poet William Blake to crystallize a thought about Maxwell.... Scientists' quest for knowledge is exhilarating to Arianrhod, and she conveys that to the reader."--bloombergnews.com

"Offers readers an engaging intellectual exercise combining physics, language, mathematics, and biography."--Science News

"On one level, Robyn Arianrhod's Einstein's Heroes is about the crowning achievement of classical physics--James Clerk Maxwell's understanding of electricity, magnetism, and light. But on another level, Arianrhod adeptly examines a much deeper idea: why is mathematics the language of nature and how do physicists tap the hidden power of numbers to understand the physical world? Einstein's Heroes does an admirable job of explaining the strange allure that mathematics holds over the scientists who so dramatically altered the way we look at the universe."--Charles Seife, author of Zero: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195308907
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 6/30/2006
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 1,146,023
  • Product dimensions: 7.90 (w) x 5.30 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Robyn Arianrhod is a writer and mathematician whose passion for both literature and mathematics reflects her love of language. She teaches mathematics at Monashonorary University, where she is also an Honorary Research outside Associate.

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Table of Contents

A Seamless Intertwining 1
A Reluctant Revolutionary 8
Beetles, Strings and Sealing Wax 14
The Nature of Physics 29
The Language of Physics 42
Why Newton Held the World in Thrall 51
Rites of Passage 83
A Fledgling Physicist 96
Electromagnetic Controversy 104
Mathematics as Language 130
The Magical Synthesis of Algebra and Geometry 172
Maxwell's Mathematical Language 195
Maxwell's Rainbow 229
Imagining the World with the Language of Mathematics: A Revolution in Physics 248
Epilogue 274
Appendix 282
Notes and Sources 284
Bibliography 307
Index 316
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