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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Einstein Wrote Back,
This review is from: Einstein Wrote Back: My Life in Physics (Hardcover)In addition to Moffat's experiences in the physics world, this book describes the men of physics and says a great deal about how research in physics is conducted and the outlook for scientific advancement. The physics giants are notable as much for their peculiarities as for their science. The book confirms what the man in the street always thought about scientists just as in the "Far Side" cartoons.
Whereas cartoons generally depict scientists reasonably benignly, Moffat paints a picture in which the upper echelons of the physics community are engaged in a cut-throat war of attrition among themselves. Obsession, paranoia and backstabbing are the norm with rampant manipulation of the scientific publishing journals to advance personal agendas (compare Climategate).
A sub-text of the book concerns string theory or, as some like to believe, the "theory of everything". Moffat points out that the mainstream superstring theory is disconnected from experiment and is driven by mathematical aesthetics. One wonders how this differs from studying how many angels can sit on a the head of a pin. If just a few scientists were engaged in such esoterics at the taxpayer's expense, it might be considered acceptable but this is a bandwagon. Dissention is rewarded by "excommunication" and scientists, such as Moffat are lucky not to be sidelined entirely. Apparently even Einstein was subjected to this type of treatment in his later years.
The book is a wake up call to our funding agencies. Why are we funding research that cannot possibly be validated in the next decade? This is a boondoggle of gigantic proportions! Therefore Moffat's book is well worth reading.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Fascinating Scientific Memoir,
This review is from: Einstein Wrote Back: My Life in Physics (Hardcover)I don't imagine that there are many physicists alive today who have met and interacted with so many of the great physicists of the twentieth century as the author of this book has. Starting with his turbulent childhood in war-torn Europe and progressing on from there, the author recounts his unusual education and how he discovered his great affinity and talent for theoretical physics. As the chapters roll by, the author relates his life as a physicist and often focuses on his interactions with several of the giants of twentieth century physics. This is particularly interesting because of the little-known quirks that many of them had that are related here. Throughout this memoir the reader becomes aware of the intense competitiveness in the world of cutting-edge theoretical physics and one can see the (occasionally-less-than-honest) reality of how science works at that level.
The writing style is clear, friendly, often quite lively and very engaging. As to accessibility, the author occasionally describes details of his work, some of which can prove rather challenging to a general audience. Consequently, although a general reader can still fully enjoy this book by skipping over the more technical passages, science buffs, especially those with a physics background, would likely benefit the most.
On a technical note, there is an error in the footnote at the bottom of page 33. The note states that a photon is emitted from an atom when one of its electrons makes a transition from a lower energy level to a higher one, and when an electron absorbs a photon it goes from a higher energy state to a lower one. In fact, the exact opposite of this occurs.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Stories I Heard and More,
This review is from: Einstein Wrote Back: My Life in Physics (Hardcover)Full disclosure: I met John in 1982, did two years of post-doc for him starting in 1988. I like, admire, and respect him very much. So, if I gush a bit, take it in stride.
I had heard some of these stories in working with John and his students over the years. But many of them I had not heard, especially the ones regarding his childhood, and his experiences in WWII. They are quite gripping. The stories about his early academic life I had not heard in the detail here. And it is quite nice to have the accurate details of many of the other events that I have heard, sometimes second-hand. John has worked with many of the great names in physics, and quite a few of them are memorable characters.
It was quite fascinating to "look over his shoulder" and watch the process of his work. It really made me pine for my academic days. His passion comes through very clearly.
John is also a gentleman. He mentions me in this book, where I think my contribution to the work involved was really quite minor. Thanks John.
5.0 out of 5 stars A remarkable career in physics,
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This review is from: Einstein Wrote Back: My Life in Physics (Hardcover)John Moffat is a most unusual physicst as his career demonstrates. One of the great thinkers of our time and as he met many of the famous names in physics his insights are most interesting. Highly recommended
5.0 out of 5 stars highly recommended read!,
This review is from: Einstein Wrote Back: My Life in Physics (Hardcover)This is an absolutely excellent book for anyone with a past or present interest in physics. I truly wish this book were part of the undergrad Physics curriculms, it gives a historical aspect that is typically missing in the University programs.
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Einstein Wrote Back: My Life in Physics by John W. Moffat (Hardcover - Sept. 18 2010)
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