Knowing: The Nature of Physical Law

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We ask question after question of an indifferent universe that would just as soon remain mute; and slowly, patiently, one sentence at a time, we write our own version of the book of nature. It is called science, from the Latin word for knowledge, and it is a book everybody should read.
With simplicity and elegance, Knowing interprets the book of nature for curious readers of all sorts—but especially for those hoping to appreciate the beauty of physics without getting lost in the mathematics. Indeed, there is a world of scientific understanding in the pages of this gracefully written and inviting book, where hundreds of little diagrams substitute for the equations that physicists otherwise need to tell their tale. Readers will discover the way things work: how big things (like Earth or Moon) come from small things (like quarks and electrons), how tiny particles push and pull, and how the world hangs in the balance. We learn how an "unbiased" observer and a fixed speed of light, nothing else, conjure up E=mc2 and four-dimensional space-time. We see how Newton's clockwork universe of unwavering determination differs (but not in every respect) from Heisenberg's quantum universe of hazy uncertainty. And we see how a world of chaos throws a wrench into everybody's mechanical ideal.
From tiny atoms to vast galaxies, the universe is ours to explore and to know: its particles, its interactions, its laws, its unending surprises. Heavily illustrated with explanatory drawings and diagrams—perhaps no other science book for general readers uses diagrams so extensively—Knowing takes us to the edge of modern science, allowing us to peer in further than we would have dreamed possible.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"There is nothing more fundamental to everything in the entire universe than theoretical physics, and no subject more difficult to explain to the non-specialist. In addressing it in the well-titled Knowing, Munowitz has written one of the clearest and most inviting books of science exposition I have ever encountered."—Edward O. Wilson, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of On Human Nature and The Ants

"All those who are eager to understand how the world works but have been frustrated and discouraged by the forbidding mathematical language of physical science will welcome this fascinating, lucid, and satisfying account of what we know (and don't know) about this most profound of human endeavors. Munowitz has written 'physics without tears.'" —Christian de Duve, Nobel Prize Laureate in Physiology and Medicine

Publishers Weekly
In the preface to his new book, science writer Munowitz (Principles of Chemistry) declares that "one should not have to become a professional mathematician or physicist simply to appreciate what is arguably the greatest joy there is: the joy of knowing (just a little bit) how everything is put together." To that end, his "ruthlessly abridged" overview of the landscape of science offers "no formulas to memorize" but still manages to cover everything from basic Newtonian physics to advanced thermodynamics and quantum physics. Munowitz's skills as a writer and teacher are clear throughout, particularly when he tackles the thornier aspects of modern physics, but this is still far from an easy read (Munowitz's elaboration of general relativity is one of the clearest in print, but it's still tough going). At the same time, readers with a grounding in modern physics may find that the author's reworking of a science textbook by expanding on and recontextualizing the "standards"-much like a concert by a really good cover band-leaves them looking at familiar concepts in a refreshing new light. B&w illus. (Oct.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195167375
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 11/1/2005
  • Pages: 432
  • Sales rank: 1,422,378
  • Product dimensions: 9.30 (w) x 6.40 (h) x 1.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Michael Munowitz is a full-time science writer. A graduate of Yale University, he earned a Ph.D. in chemical physics from Harvard University and has held postdoctoral appointments at the University of Leiden and the University of California, Berkeley. He is the author most recently of Principles of Chemistry, described by one reviewer as "the best-written general chemistry book I have ever read." He lives in Naperville, Illinois.

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Table of Contents

Preface ... the book of nature
1 Great expectations ... to know all there is to know 1
2 Ties that bind ... four fundamental interactions 8
3 In the eye of the beholder ... reference frames and relativity 42
4 Three-part invention ... mechanics in general, classical mechanics in particular 67
5 Mass as a medium ... E = mc[superscript 2], plus the curvature of space-time 98
6 Taking charge ... the classical electromagnetic field 132
7 Never certain ... indeterminacy and the quantum 162
8 The path not taken ... quantum mechanics 185
9 Symmetry perforce ... quantum particles and fields 210
10 Ends and odds ... equilibrium, entropy, and the arrow of time 241
11 Surprise endings ... chaos and complexity 268
12 Loose ends ... the infinite and the ultimate 284
By the way ... nuance and elaboration 333
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