Great Ideas in Physics / Edition 3

Great Ideas in Physics / Edition 3

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by Alan P. Lightman
     
 

The conservation of energy, the second law of thermodynamics, the theory of relativity, quantum mechanics­­together, these concepts form the foundation upon which modern physics was built. But the influence of these four landmark ideas has extended far beyond hard science. There is no aspect of twentieth-century culture­­including the arts,

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Overview

The conservation of energy, the second law of thermodynamics, the theory of relativity, quantum mechanics­­together, these concepts form the foundation upon which modern physics was built. But the influence of these four landmark ideas has extended far beyond hard science. There is no aspect of twentieth-century culture­­including the arts, social sciences, philosophy, and politics­­that has not been profoundly influenced by them.

In Great Ideas in Physics, Alan Lightman clearly explains the physics behind each of the four great ideas and deftly untangles for lay readers such knotty concepts as entropy, the relativity of time, and the Heisenberg uncertainty principle. Throughout the book he uses excerpts from the writings of scientific luminaries such as Newton, Kelvin, Einstein, and de Broglie to help place each in its proper historical perspective. And with the help of expertly annotated passages from the works of dozens of writers, philosophers, artists, and social theorists, Lightman explores the two-way influences of these landmark scientific concepts on our entire human culture and the world of ideas.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780071357388
Publisher:
McGraw-Hill Professional Publishing
Publication date:
06/28/2000
Edition description:
REV
Pages:
300
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 8.80(h) x 0.89(d)

Table of Contents

Excerpts
Introduction1
Ch. IThe Conservation of Energy6
AConversation Laws8
BGravitational Energy10
CKinetic Energy21
DUnits of Length, Mass, Weight, and Energy31
EConservation Laws and Human Freedom33
FHeat Energy36
GThe Conservation of Energy and the Limited Lifetime of the World52
HReactions to Possible Violations of the Conservation of Energy53
Ch. IIThe Second Law of Thermodynamics60
AReversible and Irreversible Phenomena62
BStates of a System and Probability of Configurations64
CMechanical Energy and Heat78
DThe Irreversible Flow of Heat80
EDoing Work with Heat83
FEntropy and Order93
GResistance to the Implications of the Second Law98
HThe Second Law Applied to Human Society103
IThe Second Law Used to Refute the Theory of Evolution109
Ch. IIIThe Relativity of Time116
ARelativity in Brief119
BScience Leading to the Theory of Relativity121
CThe Theory of Relativity133
DAbolition of Absolute Space and Time162
EEinstein's Approach to Science165
FThe Influence of the Theory of Relativity on Literature170
GRelativity and Sculpture173
Ch. IVThe Wave-Particle Duality of Nature180
AWaves183
BThe Photoelectric Effect187
CThe Double-Slit Experiment196
DThe Role of the Observer and the Nature of Reality201
EQuantum Physics and Language206
FThe Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle and the Demise of Determinism in Science207
GDeterminism, Causality, and Choice in the Quantum World234
Appendix AA Review of Some Basic Mathematics245
Appendix BThe Second Law of Thermodynamics and the Behavior of Systems with Large Numbers of Molecules255
Credits263
Index265

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