BN.com Gift Guide

First You Build a Cloud: And Other Reflections on Physics as a Way of Life

Overview

For many of us, physics, like math, has always been a thing of mystery and complexity. In First You Build a Cloud, K. C. Cole provides cogent explanations through animated prose, metaphors, and anecdotes, allowing us to comprehend the nuances of physics-gravity and light, color and shape, quarks and quasars, particles and stars, force and strength. We also come to see how the physical world is so deeply intertwined with the ways in which we think about culture, poetry, and philosophy. Cole, one of our preeminent ...

See more details below
Paperback (1 HARVEST)
$13.07
BN.com price
(Save 12%)$14.95 List Price
Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (55) from $1.99   
  • New (10) from $10.00   
  • Used (45) from $1.99   
First You Build a Cloud: And Other Reflections on Physics as a Way of Life

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 7.0
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 10.1
  • NOOK HD Tablet
  • NOOK HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK eReaders
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac
  • NOOK for Web

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook)
$10.49
BN.com price
(Save 29%)$14.95 List Price

Overview

For many of us, physics, like math, has always been a thing of mystery and complexity. In First You Build a Cloud, K. C. Cole provides cogent explanations through animated prose, metaphors, and anecdotes, allowing us to comprehend the nuances of physics-gravity and light, color and shape, quarks and quasars, particles and stars, force and strength. We also come to see how the physical world is so deeply intertwined with the ways in which we think about culture, poetry, and philosophy. Cole, one of our preeminent science writers, serves as a guide into the world of such legendary scientific minds as Richard Feynman, Victor Weisskopf, brothers Frank Oppenheimer and J. Robert Oppenheimer, Philip Morrison, Vera Kistiakowsky, and Stephen Jay Gould.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Scientific American
With felicitous use of analogy and metaphor, Cole guides the reader gently through fields that anyone unschooled in physics might view as impenetrable: forces, quantum theory, relativity, entropy...
Library Journal
Every new advance in knowledge changes the way we perceive the world. Physics and astronomy have moved humankind from the center of creation to a fringe, almost incidental, role. This must inevitably be reflected in our philosophy of life and its meaning. As a result, it becomes increasingly more difficult to draw the line between physics and metaphysics, and no one is more aware of this than researchers working at the frontiers of science. In this exposition, Los Angeles Times science writer Cole (The Universe and the Teacup: The Mathematics of Truth and Beauty, LJ 11/1/97) tries to show how such researchers think about the world and how our perceptions, language, and aesthetic senses shape our description of the universe. Her work is just specific enough to pique interest and imagination and perhaps to encourage the reader to delve more deeply into scientific literature.--Harold D. Shane, Baruch Coll., CUNY Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Scientific American
With felicitous use of analogy and metaphor, Cole guides the reader gently through fields that anyone unschooled in physics might view as impenetrable: forces, quantum theory, relativity, entropy...
Kirkus Reviews
Los Angeles Times science writer Cole has found a niche writing in lyrical prose about basic concepts in physics and math for the layperson (The Universe and the Teacup, 1998). Here she revisits the world of physics first explored in Sympathetic Vibrations (1984). Insightful quotes illustrate how physicists think about the world. Those quoted comprise a virtual Who's Who of leaders in the field, from Newton and Einstein to Richard Feynman, Victor Weisskopf, and Steven Weinberg, but perhaps the most frequently mentioned is "my friend the physicist," who turns out to be the late Frank Oppenheimer (younger brother of J. Robert), a primary force in the creation of San Francisco's exemplary science museum, the Exploratorium. These strong personalities animate their subject. As for physics's content, Cole is fond of saying that it deals with "old stuff" like gravity, which is what black holes are all about; or temperature, which at the extremes underlies phenomena like superconductivity (supercold) or the plasma composition of stars (superhot). Much of physics, she reminds us, depends on metaphors, models, and mathematical equations, since it often deals with the invisible (quarks) and the imponderable (the moment of the Big Bang). Physics also deals with complementarity and opposites, and Cole may be at her best exploring and explaining these concepts; one of the book's enduring messages is that physics has advanced as it has embraced and exploited apparent paradoxes. Equally notable are Cole's canny observations on slight perturbations and small differences. She wraps up her rhapsody in praise of physics with the reminder that we owe our very existence to a slight excess of matter overantimatter at the dawn of the universe and to the chance aggregation of matter at a particularly apposite locale in the solar system. Once again, this talented author compellingly links a scientific discipline to the philosophical questions it raises about truth, reality, aesthetics, and metaphysics.
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780156006460
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 4/28/1999
  • Edition description: 1 HARVEST
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 248
  • Product dimensions: 5.25 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.56 (d)

Meet the Author

A popular science columnist for the Los Angeles Times and teacher at UCLA, K.C. Cole is a recipient of the 1995 American Institute of Physics Award for Best Science Writing. She is also the author of the internationally bestselling The Universe and the Teacup, First You Build a Cloud, and The Hole in the Universe. Cole lives in Santa Monica, California.

Read More Show Less

Interviews & Essays

Exclusive Author Essay
Physicist Frank Oppenheimer used to say that artists and scientists were the official "noticers" of society. Their job was to notice things that other people either had never been taught to see or had learned to ignore -- then to go out and tell the world about what they'd found.

I realize now that this is precisely what I've become: an official noticer. I get paid to be the ultimate voyeur. I peer over scientists' shoulders as they build machines of almost unfathomable proportions that re-create -- albeit on a small scale -- the creation of the universe. I eavesdrop as they struggle to find the unifying principles of nature in ten-dimensional space. I hang out in laboratories and lecture halls where scientists try to decode the messages written on the walls of the universe or streaming from the deep throats of black holes.

I certainly didn't start out as someone who was interested in science. I wanted to understand the way the world works. And I thought the way to do that was to study the social sciences: psychology, sociology, anthropology, political science. Like most people with an interest in human affairs, I never gave much of a thought to math or physics -- fields that seemed to have little to do with the kinds of things that interested me.

One of the reasons, of course, was that most of the science I learned in school was crammed into rigid boxes labeled geometry, biology, physics -- as if they have nothing to do with each other, much less with human experience. It was science stripped of all the wonderful ambiguity that pervades the real practice of science: the wrong answers; the right answers to the wrong questions. Most of all, it didn't reflect the role -- the critical role -- that our understanding of the physical universe plays in shaping our emotional and philosophical one.

I first started making these connections in a series of "Hers" columns for The New York Times. These grew into my first science book: First You Build a Cloud: Reflections on Physics as a Way of Life. It explores what hard science has to say about quasi-philosophical questions such as the nature of right and wrong, cause and effect, aesthetics, disorder, and the use and abuse of metaphor.

The next book, similarly, grew mostly from articles I had written for The Los Angeles Times that linked mathematics with everything from the O. J. Simpson trial to fairness in divorce settlements. It is called The Universe and the Teacup: The Mathematics of Truth and Beauty, and it's a celebration of mathematics as a singular set of rules for seeing the truth.

The subsequent book is perhaps less obviously philosophical. Yet The Hole in the Universe: How Scientists Peered Over the Edge of Emptiness and Found Everything (you can see I have a fondness for long subtitles) also links physics, mathematics and perception in an exploration of the invisible forces that shape everything. We only call them "nothings" because we aren't aware of their existence. But they hold up the universe just the same. Like physics and philosophy, something and nothing are two sides of the same coin.

--K. C. Cole

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(0)

4 Star

(0)

3 Star

(0)

2 Star

(0)

1 Star

(0)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously

    If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
    Why is this product inappropriate?
    Comments (optional)