Physics: An Illustrated History of the Foundations of Science


Here is the fourth book in the successful Ponderables™ series. Physics: An Illustrated History of Physics lays out the story of this science through the thoughts and deeds of its greatest thinkers and focuses on 100 of their most significant stories. Each story relates a confounding puzzle each thinker faced that became a discovery and changed the way we see the world. We call these Ponderables™.

Knowledge does not arrive fully formed, it requires many minds to puzzle over the ...

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Here is the fourth book in the successful Ponderables™ series. Physics: An Illustrated History of Physics lays out the story of this science through the thoughts and deeds of its greatest thinkers and focuses on 100 of their most significant stories. Each story relates a confounding puzzle each thinker faced that became a discovery and changed the way we see the world. We call these Ponderables™.

Knowledge does not arrive fully formed, it requires many minds to puzzle over the evidence and, step by step, edge ever closer to the truth. Here we track the history of Physics, the field of enquiry that investigates the very foundations of Nature and without which all other sciences would be meaningless.

Our story shows how great physicists uncovered the truths about the Universe. In the 6th century BCE, Thales of Miletus, a philosopher from ancient Greece, refused to accept explanations for natural phenomena that did not match up with what he could observe himself. With that, the seeds of a new way of thinking were sewn. Today we call it science. It would take centuries to grow, and the many branches of modern science all stem from a central core of understanding. This is physics.

Physics deals with basics—space, matter, energy—and combines them to create forces, motion, heat, light and everything else in the Universe. The development of physics is a story of many chapters, each adding to our understanding of the way the Universe functions:

  • Archimedes has the original Eureka moment while taking a bath when he figures out the way objects float or sink.
  • Galileo discovered the principles of pendulums while watching a lamp swing in church.
  • Isaac Newton realized that the force holding the Moon in orbit was the same one that made apples fall from trees.
  • Otto von Guericke pits a team of horses against the power of air pressure—and the air wins.
  • By complete accident, Luigi Galvani turns freshly cut frogs legs into a simple battery and sparks humankind's link to electricity.
  • Heinrich Hertz invents a way to send and receive invisible radio waves, and his name is immortalized in the frequencies of the world's radio stations.
  • In just one miraculous year, Albert Einstein provides the first observable proof that atoms exist, reveals the mechanism behind light, and explains how space and time are really the same thing!
  • Richard Feynman figured out how subatomic particles behave while watching a student spin a lunch plate.

These physicists and many like them have changed the way we picture the Universe. As we study the stuff of nature in ever-closer detail, what will we see next?

With over three hundred exciting and historical illustrations, Physics: An Illustrated History of the Foundations of Science presents a history of this science in an original and entertaining way, and includes:

  • The life and works of the great physicists who changed the world
  • One hundred Ponderables™, the puzzles solved and inspirations reached, that tells the story of physics to the present day.
  • A glimpse of the Imponderables, the mysteries still to be solved!
  • Includes a removable foldout concertina neatly housed at the back of the book.
  • On the front side of this concertina, is a 12-page removable timeline which embeds the story of physics in historical context and allows the reader to see who did what when at a glance and what other great events were happening at the same time.
  • On the back of the timeline, take a look deeper inside physics and see how we measure the Universe.
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Editorial Reviews

A good overview of the subject for beginners…These fun science titles encourage understanding and exploration…a great pick for middle- and high-school students.
Mesmerizing stories, intriguing facts, and lavish illustrations…make these books not only useful but keepsakes for future generations…Great additions to any home library for kids of all ages!
Readers are immediately drawn to the colorful, detailed photographs, artworks, and diagrams.
Tablet Magazine
They're all beautiful. They'd make an awesome bar mitzvah gift.
They explain how the world works! It doesn't get any better than that.
Library Journal
Aimed at those who may find the history of science compelling but have not themselves studied it, this series installment summarizes thousands of years of human understanding of the physics of how the world works—in an attractive, coffee-table style volume. Each of the 100 entries names a concept; gives an extremely broad, sometimes multicentury explanation of its origins; and describes the idea in half a page to a spread. UK author Jackson concludes with a look ahead, a summary of what we know, and some major questions we still need to answer. While the overall progression of entries is chronological, each one can treat decades, especially in the early sections (e.g., "Understanding Magnets" covers the topic from the fourth century BCE to 1600 CE). The arrangement of entries—within the broad categories "The Dawn of Science," "The Scientific Revolution," "From Classical to Modern Physics," "The Subatomic Age," and "Modern Physics"—can thus in fact be unintuitive. Copious illustrations and a foldout time line make for a visually appealing layout and add helpful background information. VERDICT This broad overview for the general reader—and for YA and high school students—can serve as a springboard to deeper study for those whose interest it piques. Recommended.—Marcia R. Franklin, St. Paul
School Library Journal
Gr 5 Up—The newest addition to this science series that includes Mathematics, The Elements, The Universe (all Shelter Harbor, 2012) tackles physics in an easy-to-read and understand format, breaking down the discoveries made over centuries to explain the universe—from force and motion to quantum theory. The questions pondered and the scientists who sought answers and made discoveries are presented. Short summaries are paired with colorful illustrations and photographs that guide readers to appreciate how each discovery led to a greater understanding of the universe. Brief biographies of each scientist in the book are included for easy reference with birthdate, birthplace, and date of death along with the importance of their discovery. An extensive 12-page, foldable time line is tucked in the back cover, with 1000 milestone facts from 600 BCE to present day in color-coded categories that include culture, world events, science and invention, and physics. Avid scientists might find the explanations of theories simplistic, but typical readers will find the information fascinating and gain a greater understanding of how discoveries are made and how they lead to others.—Denise Moore, O'Gorman Junior High School, Sioux Falls, SD
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780985323066
  • Publisher: Shelter Harbor Press
  • Publication date: 10/28/2013
  • Pages: 168
  • Sales rank: 485,575
  • Product dimensions: 9.50 (w) x 10.90 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Tom Jackson is a science author based in the United Kingdom. He has written more than 80 books and contributed to many more, covering everything from axolotls to Zoroastrianism. He studied zoology at the University of Bristol, and still lives in the city with his wife and three children, where he can be found mainly in the attic.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 26, 2013

    Tom Jackson is one of my top three favorite authors. Unlike most

    Tom Jackson is one of my top three favorite authors. Unlike most sciencey type books that are extremely dry, Tom Jackson has a creative gift to make science a fun and easy read (if your interested in the cosmos). I would recommend it to anyone who is a thinker or shares some (if not a lot) of interest in science who is of age 14 and up.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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