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

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

by K. C. Cole
     
 

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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

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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.

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.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780156006460
Publisher:
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
04/28/1999
Edition description:
1 HARVEST
Pages:
248
Product dimensions:
5.25(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.56(d)

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