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The Physics Book: From the Big Bang to Quantum Resurrection, 250 Milestones in the History of Physics [Hardcover]

Clifford A. Pickover
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Nov. 1 2011 1402778619 978-1402778612
Following the hugely successful The Science Book and The Math Book comes a richly illustrated chronology of physics, containing 250 short, entertaining, and thought-provoking entries. In addition to exploring such engaging topics as dark energy, parallel universes, the Doppler effect, the God particle, and Maxwell's demon, the book's timeline extends back billions of years to the hypothetical Big Bang and forward trillions of years to a time of “quantum resurrection.” Like the previous titles in this series, The Physics Book helps readers gain an understanding of major concepts without getting bogged down in complex details.

 

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The Physics Book: From the Big Bang to Quantum Resurrection, 250 Milestones in the History of Physics + The Math Book: From Pythagoras to the 57th Dimension, 250 Milestones in the History of Mathematics + The Medical Book: From Witch Doctors to Robot Surgeons, 250 Milestones in the History of Medicine
Price For All Three: CDN$ 65.71

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About the Author

Clifford A. Pickover received his PhD from Yale in Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry, and has written more than 40 books and over 200 articles on such topics as computers and creativity, art, mathematics, black holes, human intelligence, time travel, alien life, religion, and the history of science. . Currently, he is an associate editor for several scientific journals and holds over 60 U.S. patents for inventions dealing with computer graphics and interfaces. His research has received considerable attention from such media outlets as CNN, the Discovery Channel, The New York Times, and WIRED, and his Web site, www.pickover.com, has received millions of visits.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Awesome Book! March 3 2014
By Pristine13 TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Bought this book and was happy with the material inside! It's wrote in a way you easily understand what's being explained. Great for those of you that don't have hours to sit down and read. :)
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Overview of Physics and it's History Oct. 18 2012
By Chris P
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is an incredible overview and timeline of a subject that scares many people intellectually. It's the perfect starter book for anyone interested in physics and I use it as my coffee table book to intrigue visitors. The concise nature of each milestone will entice anyone who is interested in the deeper and more amazing finds of our human history. I highly recommend this book especially for teenagers entering the area of science and wondering whether they will take a course in physics. I truly believe this book could ignite passions in students and it should be recommended reading for all high school students.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely The Physics Book Oct. 23 2011
Format:Hardcover
Although Clifford Pickover is the author of over forty books, it has been two years since we have seen him produce a new one. It has been worth the wait. "The Physics Book" is a perfect companion to his work of 2009, "The Math Book." Both books present us with 250 milestones in their fields. However, their temporal scopes differ. While "The Math Book" covers a period from 150 million BC to 2007, seemingly a good chunk of time, "The Physics Book" outdoes it by orders of magnitude in both the past and the future. "The Physics Book" starts with the Big Bang, 13.7 billion years ago, and as if that is not enough, goes past 100 trillion years into the future to finish with Quantum Resurrection.

For each milestone, there is a page of explanation facing a full-page image, which illustrates the milestone. The images include photos, works or art, and even U.S. patents. My favorite images are the close-up photo of a hand holding a boomerang, what looks like a bowling ball plummeting from the Leaning Tower of Pisa, and a supernova explosion. One charm of the book is that the images are not always the expected ones. For example, Pickover's idiosyncratic world view shines through in his use of a muskrat standing in for Brownian Motion. According to the book jacket, the author's inventiveness has resulted in over seventy U.S. patents. This inventiveness is apparent in the choice of images.

Going cover-to cover, I see several themes emerge. The first is the physics of the very large: cosmology and astronomy. The second is that of the very small: particles, waves, and quantum mechanics. These two themes run from the very beginning to the very end.
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Amazon.com: 4.6 out of 5 stars  41 reviews
54 of 58 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely The Physics Book Oct. 20 2011
By Paul Moskowitz - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Although Clifford Pickover is the author of over forty books, it has been two years since we have seen him produce a new one. It has been worth the wait. "The Physics Book" is a perfect companion to his work of 2009, "The Math Book." Both books present us with 250 milestones in their fields. However, their temporal scopes differ. While "The Math Book" covers a period from 150 million BC to 2007, seemingly a good chunk of time, "The Physics Book" outdoes it by orders of magnitude in both the past and the future. "The Physics Book" starts with the Big Bang, 13.7 billion years ago, and as if that is not enough, goes past 100 trillion years into the future to finish with Quantum Resurrection.

For each milestone, there is a page of explanation facing a full-page image, which illustrates the milestone. The images include photos, works or art, and even U.S. patents. My favorite images are the close-up photo of a hand holding a boomerang, what looks like a bowling ball next to a baseball plummeting from the Leaning Tower of Pisa, and a supernova explosion. One charm of the book is that the images are not always the expected ones. For example, Pickover's idiosyncratic world view shines through in his use of a muskrat standing in for Brownian Motion. According to the book jacket, the author's inventiveness has resulted in over seventy U.S. patents. This inventiveness is apparent in the choice of images.

Going cover-to cover, I see several themes emerge. The first is the physics of the very large: cosmology and astronomy. The second is that of the very small: particles, waves, and quantum mechanics. These two themes run from the very beginning to the very end. They are punctuated by the discoveries of the reality that surrounds us in the classical areas of optics, fluids, gases, electromagnetics, thermodynamics, and mechanics. There are the great discoveries of Newton, Einstein, and Hawking. Of course, we will always have Maxwell's Equations.

Is there anything more that I would like to have seen in the book? As a physicist, I can be very picky about my own field. I would like to have seen an entry about the Principle of Least Action and Feynman's application of that principle to quantum mechanics. Perhaps that will find its way into another Pickover book. No problem, it is covered in an edition of "The Physics Book" in a parallel world.

I believe that the great achievement of "The Physics Book" is to make the subject of physics accessible to those who are not physicists. It does this through its use of images and one-page explanations. Equations are occasionally included, but only for their esthetic value. The book actually makes physics seem like fun, something that I had a hard time doing for my students. Some of the really fun topics include the curve ball, silly putty, the drinking bird, neon signs, and lava lamps. For those who wish deeper insight, I think that Pickover's "Archimedes to Hawking," which explores the great laws of physics, is a good place to go next.
56 of 63 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An eclectic romp through the wonders of physics, but insufficiently detailed: 3.5 stars Oct. 25 2011
By A. Jogalekar - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
In this book, the prolific writer Clifford Pickover leads us through an astonishing variety of inventions and discoveries that reveal the sheer range of the science and application of physics, from the Big Bang to the transistor. Starting from the Big Bang itself 13.7 billion years ago, Pickover judiciously picks key years in the history of physics and describes inventions and discoveries made during each year along with the names of the relevant scientists.

For the most part Pickover's choices are both varied and important. What I really liked about this book was the sheer variety of topics Pickover treads on; from the mundane-sounding but important (gas laws) to the technologically revolutionary (transistor) to the practically amusing (baseball curveballs, the "drinking bird") to the philosophically earth-shattering (Heisenberg's uncertainty principle) to the exotic and wondrous (Dyson spheres, Randall-Sundrum branes, quantum immortality). The examples illustrate the tremendous power of physics to both explain and practically enrich the world around us, at every different scale and dimension that we can conceive.

The problem I have with the book is that it limits the discussion of every single topic to a single page. I understand that Pickover's goal was to give us a sampling of the wonders of physics rather than any comprehensive overview, but his one-page descriptions of topics as important as relativity, quantum mechanics and cosmology left me hungry and restless for more. It seems unfair and incomplete to devote a page each to both the lava lamp and the uncertainty principle when the latter is far more important for physics. In my view Pickover could have easily reduced the number of entries by about ten percent, devoted an extra page or two to the really revolutionary discoveries and still retained the diversity of topics. Ultimately the book does serve as a glimmering showcase of the reach of physics, but it leaves you wishing that the author had delved a little more into the things that really matter.
17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Elegant Encore Nov. 11 2011
By Ray Erskins - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
"The Physics Book" is Clifford Pickover's latest version of the illuminated scientific manuscript. This stunning, visually impressive work is a beautiful companion piece to its award winning predecessor, "The Math Book: From Pythagoras to the 57th Dimension, 250 Milestones in the History of Mathematics (Sterling Milestones)." In this effort the principles of physics (250 in all) are distilled into single pages of text with accompanying illustrations on the pages to the right. As in "The Math Book" you have an opportunity to focus upon the matter at hand as it etches its essence into your memory without your becoming distracted by other brain teasers that comprise the field of physics (or mathematics) in its totality. And as soon as you feel myopia setting in, you can simply turn the page and it's as if a new episode of "Star Trek" has begun.

The waters run pretty deep as you peruse the pages, but difficult-to-fathom concepts are skillfully explained. "Pauli's Exclusion Principle" (page 340) is a perfect example. Most descriptions I've read of it are rather abstruse, unless you are a physicist. But Pickover provides a wonderful illustration that says it all, one that clearly demonstrates that two objects cannot occupy the same space at the same time. You'll find this artwork quite humorous if you love dogs.

Then, as you scan page after page, the fundamental importance of physics in our everyday lives becomes increasingly obvious. The mystery of the "Baseball Curveball" is explained (page 238). It really does curve (which is explained scientifically by Bernoulli's Law of Fluid Dynamics), but it also tricks the batter's eye by distorting his perception of it as the position of the ball shifts from direct to peripheral vision, making it that much more difficult to hit.

As the abovementioned demonstrates, Cliff Pickover works very hard to engage the non-specialist, often by choosing topics that already have a large following. Golf, for instance. Did you know that "Golf Ball Dimples" are intended to increase the ball's flight characteristics as it is driven down the fairway? A ball could be designed that would enable more of us to play like Arnold Palmer. But then, all the old records would be shattered with the new, scientifically engineered balls. This is deftly explained on page 298.

Speaking of balls, Buckyballs (page 480) have become objects of intense interest in science. They are named after Buckminister Fuller, the famous engineer, inventor, and philosopher who "created cage like structures, like the geodesic dome, that reminded the C60 discoverers of the buckyball." Buckyballs may have a future as "superionic' batteries. They may also have "biological, electrical, optical, and magnetic applications..." This is just another example of the fractal nature of physics and its potential to spawn new technologies from previous archetypes of our understanding.

Going deeper, "The Special Theory of Relativity" (STR) on page 292 becomes accessible in an instant as you gaze into the face of a clock that resembles the spiral vortex of the Fibonacci curve. The relativity of space and time is right before your eyes as you swirl down into the infinitesimal center like "Alice in Wonderland."

Think about this for a moment as you listen to Pink Floyd or Vangelis. Then, as your "Lava Lamp" (page 444) turns your brain into "Silly Putty" (page 384) and "Maxwell's Demon" (page 234) and the "Drinking Bird" (page 386) make you think that you can build a perpetual motion machine, lean back and pet "Schrodinger's Cat" (page 376) as your mind drifts into "Parallel Universes" (page 418) where you can contemplate "Quantum Immortality" (page 482), and after numerous thermal fluctuations occur over a period of 100 trillion years or more, you might just attain "Quantum Resurrection" (page 516) and float through the universe as one of Boltzmann's Brains.

All of the above is but a thin slice of the wonders that await you within the confines of "The Physics Book!" From the sublime to the everyday, from the noetic to the poetic, it's all in there, somewhere.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Physics for everyone Nov. 10 2011
By Daniel Isaac - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Cliff Pickover's The Physics Book is one of the rare books that combines science with art while creating a sense of curiosity about the world around us and the ingenuity of scientists through the ages. The book is a collection of intriguing milestones in physics set in chronological order. Although I enjoyed reading the book from beginning to end, the book's format allows the reader to skip topics or even use the book as a reference.

I would recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in physics, no matter what level of education they have. Students will find interest in gadgets, cosmology, paradoxes, and the questions of life we all have. I could see this book reviving students' interest in the sciences.

To sum up, I found this book to be fascinating, with a wide range of topics -- as complex as Schrodinger's Cat, Olbers' Paradox, and Tsiolkovsky's Rocket Equation -- to more playful entries for younger (or younger at heart) readers like super balls, Silly Putty and dunking birds. Beautiful images not only enhance the book's content but also delight the eye.
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Joy to Read Oct. 23 2011
By G. Christy-Stefanik - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Several days ago I received a review copy of The Physics Book: From the Big Bang to Quantum Resurrection, 250 Milestones in the History of Physics by Clifford Pickover. [Just how this package from Sterliing Publishers in New York was able to wend its way from the main mail entry point in flooded Bangkok and then 700 wet kilometers north to Chiang Mai is any body's guess, but the Royal Thai Post Office system is amazingly efficient.]

But on to the book itself.
I recall that as a child in our native Slovakia my father, a history professor, advised me, "Otázka vsetko" [Question everything]. Advice that has served me well for over seven decades. That one phrase has helped me to decipher the psycho-babble of politicians, military leaders, religious leaders, obtuse professors, and even historians. Throughout my life I have been challenged to look beyond the clever words people use, and into the substance.

Though I chose the career path of literature, my secondary interest has always been in science and 'questioning everything'. 'The Physics Book' almost seems as if it were written specifically for me since it questions, and provides a response, for every significant event in the history of the universe from the Big Bang to trillions of years into the future.

The format of this handsome book is unique in that each of the 250 milestones in the history of physics also has a full page illustrative graphic image.

And more importantly, it is thrilling reading. God, how I wish this magnificent tome had been available when I took my compulsory college science course in physics years ago. Now that class, and professor, gave a new meaning to dull.

'The Physics Book' is an absolute joy to read, and it does indeed 'question everything'.
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