God and the Atom

God and the Atom

by Victor J. Stenger

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This history of atomism, from Democritus to the recent discovery of the Higgs boson, chronicles one of the most successful scientific hypotheses ever devised. Originating separately in both ancient Greece and India, the concept of the atom persisted for centuries, despite often running afoul of conventional thinking. Until the twentieth century, no direct evidence for atoms existed. Today it is possible to actually observe atoms using a scanning tunneling microscope.

In this book, physicist Victor J. Stenger makes the case that, in the final analysis, atoms and the void are all that exists.

The book begins with the story of the earliest atomists - the ancient Greek philosophers Leucippus, Democritus, and Epicurus, and the Latin poet Lucretius. As the author notes, the idea of elementary particles as the foundation of reality had many opponents throughout history - from Aristotle to Christian theologians and even some nineteenth-century chemists and philosophers. While theists today accept that the evidence for the atomic theory of matter is overwhelming, they reject the atheistic implications of that theory.

In conclusion, the author underscores the main point made throughout this work: the total absence of empirical facts and theoretical arguments to support the existence of any component to reality other than atoms and the void can be taken as proof beyond a reasonable doubt that such a component is nowhere to be found.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781616147549
Publisher: Prometheus Books
Publication date: 04/09/2013
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 332
Sales rank: 1,150,722
File size: 3 MB

About the Author

Victor J. Stenger (1935 - 2014) was an adjunct professor of philosophy at the University of Colorado and emeritus professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Hawaii. He was the author of the New York Times bestseller God: The Failed Hypothesis, God and the Atom, God and the Folly of Faith, The Comprehensible Cosmos, and many other books.

Table of Contents

Preface 11

Acknowledgments 19

1 Ancient Atomism 21

Defining Atomism 21

Leucippus and Democritus 23

Atoms and Gods 25

Atoms and the Senses 26

Late Night with Lederman 27

Atomism in Ancient India 28

Epicurus 30

Differences with Democritus 33

Post-Epicurean Atomism 33

Lucretius 35

The Antiatomists 42

2 Atoms Lost and Found 47

Atomism in Early Christianity 47

Atomism in the Middle Ages 49

Poggio and Lucretius 51

Gassendi 56

3 Atomism and the Scientific Revolution 61

The New World of Science 61

Galilean Relativity 65

The Principia 67

Particle Mechanics 70

Mechanical Philosophy 72

Primary and Secondary Qualities 73

Other Atomists 75

More Antiatomists 76

4 The Chemical Atom 79

From Alchemy to Chemistry 79

The Elements 83

The Chemical Atoms 84

The Chemical Opposition 86

The Philosophical Opposition 87

5 Atoms Revealed 91

Heat and Motion 91

The Heat Engine 93

Conservation of Energy and the First Law 95

The Mechanical Nature of Heat 97

Absolute Zero 99

The Second Law of Thermodynamics 100

Kinetic Theory 100

How Big Are Atoms? 102

Statistical Mechanics 104

The Arrow of Time 110

The Energetic Opposition 110

The Positivist Opposition 113

Evidence 117

6 Light and the Aether 119

The Nature of Light 119

The Aether 123

Fields 126

Electromagnetic Waves 130

The Demise of the Aether 131

Time and Space in Special Relativity 133

Defining Time and Space 137

Matter and Energy in Special Relativity 139

Invariance 140

Symmetry 141

The Source of Conservation Principles 142

7 Inside the Atom 145

Anomalies 145

Light Is Particles 147

The Rutherford Atom 150

The Bohr Atom and the Rise of Quantum Mechanics 152

Are Electrons Waves? 154

The New Quantum Mechanics 155

Spin 157

Dirac's Theory of the Electron 158

What Is the Wave Function? 159

The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle 160

Building the Elements 162

8 Inside the Nucleus 167

Nuclei 167

The Nuclear Forces 169

"Atomic" Energy 170

Nuclear Fusion 172

Nuclear Fission 174

Poisoning the Atmosphere 175

Nuclear Power 177

Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors 179

9 Quantum Fields 185

Physics in 1945 185

More Hydrogen Surprises 187

QED 188

Fields and Particles 194

10 The Rise of Particle Physics 197

Pion Exchange and the Strong Force 197

The Fermi Theory of the Weak Force 200

The Particle Explosion 202

New Conservation Principles 204

Broken Symmetries 206

"Nuclear Democracy" and The Tao of Physics 208

11 The Dreams that Stuff is Made of 213

The Quarks 213

Particles of the Standard Model 216

Gauge Symmetry 219

Forces in the Standard Model 222

The Higgs Boson 226

Making and Detecting the Higgs 229

Hunting the Higgs 231

Higgs Confirmed! 234

Mass 234

Grand Unification 236

Supersymmetry 238

12 Atoms and the Cosmos 241

After the Bang 241

Inflation 243

The Stuff of the Universe 246

What Is the Dark Matter? 248

Dark Energy 250

The Cosmological Constant Problem 252

Before the Bang 253

The Matter-Antimatter Puzzle 255

The Eternal Multiverse 256

Something about Nothing 257

13 Summary and Conclusions 261

They Had It (Mostly) Right 261

Matter 263

Materialism Deconstructed? 266

Field-Particle Unity 267

Wave-Particle Duality 269

Reduction and Emergence 270

The Role of Chance 272

The Cosmos 274

The Mind 275

No Higher Power 276

Notes 279

Bibliography 297

About the Author 309

Other Books Victor J. Stenger 313

Index 317

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