This book contains 50 concise overviews of important ideas that form the basis of classical and modern physics. They are grouped into five sections, namely:
· Matter in Motion (mostly classical physics, such as Newton's laws of motions and Kepler's laws, but with some more modern ideas such as Chaos theory).
· Beneath the Waves (wave behavior of light, electromagnetic waves and Maxwell's equations).
· Quantum Conundrums (quantum mechanics, including Planck's law of black body radiation, photoelectric effect, Schrodinger's wave equation, Heisenberg's uncertainty principle and superconductivity).
· Splitting Atoms (structure of the atom, atomic fission and fusion, the standard model of particle physics and string theory)
· Space and Time (special and general relativity, the big bang theory, black holes, dark matter and dark energy).
The specific topics listed above represent only 20 of the 50 ideas covered in the book, each of which is presented in exactly four pages. Each idea is supplemented with boxes containing some extended discussion of a particular point, some quotations concerning the idea and biographical information about some scientists. Given that only four pages are allotted to each idea, the presentation is necessarily only superficial, but the author did a very good job of compressing the most salient points into a very limited space.
This is a good book for those who only want an general overview of some very important ideas, presented without any math, for a general audience. It is also a useful review book for those who know are better versed in physics. Some very complex ideas (such as Newton's bucket, the difference between Fraunhoffer and Fresnel diffraction, Feynman diagrams and the Anthropic principle) that are often not discussed in basic physics texts are covered. This is thus more than just an elementary overview of physics.
Given that the author has been limited to only 50 ideas (this book is part of a series of 50 idea books) there are those who will quibble about the choices that were made. I for one think that they were reasonably comprehensive (although I would have liked to see more thermodynamics) and I highly recommend this book.