- Hardcover: 240 pages
- Publisher: Thomas Allen Publishers; 1st Edition edition (Sept. 18 2010)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0887626157
- ISBN-13: 978-0887626159
- Product Dimensions: 15.9 x 2.2 x 23.5 cm
- Shipping Weight: 476 g
- Average Customer Review: 5 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #512,346 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Einstein Wrote Back: My Life in Physics Hardcover – Sep 18 2010
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Moffat ably renders controversies in physics in layman's terms, and has a gift for explaining complex ideas without seeming to patronize. Best of all, the entertainment quotient of the books is high, and his portraits of the giants he has known are illuminating and frequently hilarious. (Maclean's)
About the Author
John W. Moffat is the author of Reinventing Gravity: A Physicist Goes Beyond Einstein. He is a professor emeritus at the University of Toronto and an adjunct professor at the University of Waterloo, as well as a member of the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Ontario.
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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.
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.
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.
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