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What Makes Nature Tick? / Edition 1

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For many of us, the physical sciences are as obscure as the phenomena they explain. We see the wonders of nature but miss the symmetry beneath, framed as it is in ever stranger symbols and concepts. Roger Newton's accessible account of how physicists understand the world allows the expert and novice alike to explore both the mysteries of the universe and the beauty of the science that gives shape to the unseeable.

In What Makes Nature Tick? we find engaging discussions of solitons and superconductors, quarks and strings, phase space, tachyons, time, chaos, and indeterminacy, as well as the investigations that have led to their elucidation. But Roger Newton does not limit this volume to late-breaking discoveries and startling facts. He presents physics as an expanding intellectual structure, a network of very human ideas that stretches back three hundred years from our present frontier of knowledge. Where does our unidirectional sense of time come from? What makes a particle elementary? How can forces be transmitted through empty space? In addition to providing these answers, and a host of others at the very heart of physics, Newton shows us how physicists formulate the questions--a process in which intuition, imagination, and aesthetics have a powerful influence.

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Editorial Reviews

New Scientist

Physicists will love [this book] and the physical tinkerers, classifiers, problem-solvers and conceptualizers will rejoice...If you really want to know how physicists tick and what keeps them happy, I can think of no better way than sitting down and reading [What Makes Nature Tick?].
— David Hughes

Newton has directed his book to anyone with a modest background in basic science who wants to understand why and how our current view of nature has developed. He blends ideas such as symmetry, causality, action at a distance, and time's arrow (among others) into the body of knowledge that has been developed over the past three centuries. The influence of imagination, intuition, and an appreciation of beauty are skillfully woven into the story of those who have created the physics of today...Not just a history of physics, the book uses current areas of interest such as chaos, quarks, and superconductors to illustrate how physicists apply, expand, and refine their understanding and how that understanding is constantly evolving. An outstanding presentation, highly recommended.
Times Higher Education Supplement

This is an excellent and useful book.
— Euan J. Squires

American Scientist

[A] marvelous work.
— Peter S. Sheridan

New Scientist - David Hughes
Physicists will love [this book] and the physical tinkerers, classifiers, problem-solvers and conceptualizers will rejoice...If you really want to know how physicists tick and what keeps them happy, I can think of no better way than sitting down and reading [What Makes Nature Tick?].
Sheldon Glashow
Newton's book is, quite simply, a masterpiece. I wish that I had written it.
Times Higher Education Supplement - Euan J. Squires
This is an excellent and useful book.
American Scientist - Peter S. Sheridan
[A] marvelous work.
A reasonably accessible account of how physicists understand the universe. Newton covers most of the recently popular topics, such as the arrow of time and chaos, but also ranges into subjects often omitted in popular texts. His discussion culminates in a fascinating essay on beauty and symmetry in physics, where "the theories of science are determined not by facts alone, but also, in the words of Galileo, by what is 'pleasing to the mind.'" Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674950825
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 7/15/1998
  • Edition description: REPRINT
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 0.57 (w) x 6.14 (h) x 9.21 (d)

Meet the Author

Roger G. Newton is Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Physics at Indiana University.
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Table of Contents

Introduction 1
1 Science, Mathematics, and Imagination 9
2 Chaos and the Ghost of Laplace 23
3 Time's Arrow 53
4 Forces Acting Through Space 79
5 Waves: Standing, Traveling, and Solitary 101
6 Tachyons, the Aging of Twins, and Causality 126
7 Spooky Action at a Distance 143
8 What Is an Elementary Particle? 162
9 Collective Phenomena 183
10 The Beauty and Power of Symmetry 200
Epilogue 234
Further Reading 237
References 243
Illustration Credits 247
Index 251
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