Universal Foam: Exploring the Science of Nature's Most Mysterious Substance

Universal Foam: Exploring the Science of Nature's Most Mysterious Substance

by SIDNEY PERKOWITZ, S. Perkowitz
     
 

Physicist Sidney Perkowitz, whom the Washington Post calls "a gloriously lucid science writer," exposes the full dimensions of foam in our lives, from cappuccino to the cosmos.

Foam affects the taste of beer, makes shaving easier, insulates take-out coffee cups and NASA space shuttles, controls bleeding in trauma victims, aids in drilling for

Overview

Physicist Sidney Perkowitz, whom the Washington Post calls "a gloriously lucid science writer," exposes the full dimensions of foam in our lives, from cappuccino to the cosmos.

Foam affects the taste of beer, makes shaving easier, insulates take-out coffee cups and NASA space shuttles, controls bleeding in trauma victims, aids in drilling for oil, and captures dust particles from comets. The foam of ocean whitecaps affects Earth's climate, and astronomers believe the billions of galaxies that make up the universe rest on surfaces of immense bubbles within a gargantuan foam. From the cultural uses of foam to the cutting edge of foam research in cosmology and quantum mechanics, Perkowitz's investigations will delight readers of Henry Petroski, James Gleick and Michio Kaku.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Lively and delightful... The reader of this book will never look at the world in quite the same way again."
The Washington Post

"Highly readable and entertaining, with a wealth of interesting information set in an accurate and sound scientific framework... Deserves cult status."
New Scientist

"A sparkling, witty jaunt."
—Roald Hoffmann, Nobel Laureate in Chemistry
Publisher's Weekly
In a book that travels from the earthly delights of cappuccino to the frothy structure of the universe, Emory University physics professor Perkowitz (Empire of Light) shares his "foamy obsession." Deftly blending theoretical discussion with real-world examples, Perkowitz introduces readers to foams, both liquid (shaving cream, whitecaps, beer) and solid (cork, pumice and a nearly insubstantial high-tech material called aerogel). The book is a something-for-everyone tour led by a guide who sees voids and bubbles wherever he looks. After introducing the basics of making and observing this surprising, common phenomenon, the book moves to a compendium of example-rich chapters on edible foams, practical foams, living foams, earthly foams and cosmic foams. Though Perkowitz wrote most of the book at a favorite cappuccino spot, he carries readers to volcanic eruptions and foaming seas, into scientific laboratories and on a comet-sampling mission. He ends by tying together the infinitesimal with the infinite. Cosmologists speculate that the Big Bang began as a bubble, a quantum fluctuation that emerged from the primordial vacuum and inflated, creating space and time. Billions of years later, the signature of that fluctuation remains in the structure of the universe, which was recently discovered to be foamlike: galaxies lie on a gossamer network of bubbles with great expanses of nothingness inside. Some readers may tire of Perkowitz's compulsion to see everything through foam-covered glasses. Most, however, will forgive his fixation on froth, for his idiosyncratic vision enables them to discover substance in the most tenuous forms that nature or humans can create. (June) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Booknews
Perkowitz (physics, Emory U.) provides a breezy but strangely captivating discussion of the many kinds of naturally-occurring and artificial foams that play important roles in our lives, from the delicious on top of a fine espresso to the aerogel foam used by NASA to retrieve bits of comets. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Library Journal
While we are all familiar with soap bubbles and sea froth, we little realize how important a part of our daily life foam is. Among other things, it provides polystyrene cups, packing popcorn for shipping, and the head on our beer. There are also such exotic and high-tech applications as aerogel, which is now onboard a NASA spacecraft and will be used to collect particles from comets before the spacecraft returns to Earth. Perkowitz (physics, Emory Univ.) covers the various aspects of foams nicely and places the discussions in their historical context. Like his earlier, well-received Empire of Light (LJ 8/15/96), this is a pleasant, even delightful book, clearly intended for the general reader. Nicely illustrated and devoid of the mathematics that might put off the nonscientist, it is highly recommended for general readers and for public and academic libraries. James Olson, Northeastern Illinois Univ. Lib., Chicago Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Internet Bookwatch
Universal Foam blends science with a cultural overview and history of the physical world, from the simple soap bubble to the history of foam science. It's unusual to find a book devoted to foam science alone: this has a surprising amount of facts packed into a review of how foam operates.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780385720700
Publisher:
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
10/28/2001
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
208
Product dimensions:
5.16(w) x 8.02(h) x 0.59(d)

Meet the Author

Sidney Perkowitz is professor of physics at Emory University. He lives in Atlanta, Georgia.

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