The Hunt for Vulcan

... and How Albert Einstein Destroyed a Planet, Discovered Relativity, and Deciphered the Universe

Author: Thomas Levenson

Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks

ISBN: 0812988302

Category: Science

Page: 256

View: 920

The captivating, all-but-forgotten story of Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein, and the search for a planet that never existed For more than fifty years, the world's top scientists searched for the "missing" planet Vulcan, whose existence was mandated by Isaac Newton's theories of gravity. Countless hours were spent on the hunt for the elusive orb, and some of the era's most skilled astronomers even claimed to have found it. There was just one problem: It was never there. In The Hunt for Vulcan, Thomas Levenson follows the visionary scientists who inhabit the story of the phantom planet, starting with Isaac Newton, who in 1687 provided an explanation for all matter in motion throughout the universe, leading to Urbain-Jean-Joseph Le Verrier, who almost two centuries later built on Newton's theories and discovered Neptune, becoming the most famous scientist in the world. Le Verrier attempted to surpass that triumph by predicting the existence of yet another planet in our solar system, Vulcan. It took Albert Einstein to discern that the mystery of the missing planet was a problem not of measurements or math but of Newton's theory of gravity itself. Einstein's general theory of relativity proved that Vulcan did not and could not exist, and that the search for it had merely been a quirk of operating under the wrong set of assumptions about the universe. Levenson tells the previously untold tale of how the "discovery" of Vulcan in the nineteenth century set the stage for Einstein's monumental breakthrough, the greatest individual intellectual achievement of the twentieth century. A dramatic human story of an epic quest, The Hunt for Vulcan offers insight into how science really advances (as opposed to the way we're taught about it in school) and how the best work of the greatest scientists reveals an artist's sensibility. Opening a new window onto our world, Levenson illuminates some of our most iconic ideas as he recounts one of the strangest episodes in the history of science. Praise for The Hunt for Vulcan "Delightful . . . a charming tale about an all-but-forgotten episode in science history."--The Wall Street Journal "Engaging . . . At heart, this is a story about how science advances, one insight at a time. But the immediacy, almost romance, of Levenson's writing makes it almost novelistic."--The Washington Post "A well-structured, fast-paced example of exemplary science writing."--Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
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The Hunt for Vulcan

. . . And How Albert Einstein Destroyed a Planet, Discovered Relativity, and Deciphered the Universe

Author: Thomas Levenson

Publisher: Random House

ISBN: 0812988299

Category: Science

Page: 256

View: 621

The captivating, all-but-forgotten story of Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein, and the search for a planet that never existed For more than fifty years, the world’s top scientists searched for the “missing” planet Vulcan, whose existence was mandated by Isaac Newton’s theories of gravity. Countless hours were spent on the hunt for the elusive orb, and some of the era’s most skilled astronomers even claimed to have found it. There was just one problem: It was never there. In The Hunt for Vulcan, Thomas Levenson follows the visionary scientists who inhabit the story of the phantom planet, starting with Isaac Newton, who in 1687 provided an explanation for all matter in motion throughout the universe, leading to Urbain-Jean-Joseph Le Verrier, who almost two centuries later built on Newton’s theories and discovered Neptune, becoming the most famous scientist in the world. Le Verrier attempted to surpass that triumph by predicting the existence of yet another planet in our solar system, Vulcan. It took Albert Einstein to discern that the mystery of the missing planet was a problem not of measurements or math but of Newton’s theory of gravity itself. Einstein’s general theory of relativity proved that Vulcan did not and could not exist, and that the search for it had merely been a quirk of operating under the wrong set of assumptions about the universe. Levenson tells the previously untold tale of how the “discovery” of Vulcan in the nineteenth century set the stage for Einstein’s monumental breakthrough, the greatest individual intellectual achievement of the twentieth century. A dramatic human story of an epic quest, The Hunt for Vulcan offers insight into how science really advances (as opposed to the way we’re taught about it in school) and how the best work of the greatest scientists reveals an artist’s sensibility. Opening a new window onto our world, Levenson illuminates some of our most iconic ideas as he recounts one of the strangest episodes in the history of science. Praise for The Hunt for Vulcan “Delightful . . . a charming tale about an all-but-forgotten episode in science history.”—The Wall Street Journal “Engaging . . . At heart, this is a story about how science advances, one insight at a time. But the immediacy, almost romance, of Levenson’s writing makes it almost novelistic.”—The Washington Post “Captures the drama of the tireless search for this celestial object.”—Science “A well-structured, fast-paced example of exemplary science writing.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred review) “A short, beautifully produced book that tells a cautionary tale . . . Levenson is a breezy writer who renders complex ideas in down-to-earth language.”—The Boston Globe “An inspiring tale about the quest for discovery.”—Walter Isaacson “Equal to the best science writing I’ve read anywhere, by any author. Beautifully composed, rich in historical context, deeply researched, it is, above all, great storytelling.”—Alan Lightman, author of The Accidental Universe “Levenson tells us where Vulcan came from, how it vanished, and why its spirit lurks today. Along the way, we learn more than a bit of just how science works—when it succeeds as well as when it fails.”—Neil deGrasse Tyson “Science writing at its best. This book is not just learned, passionate, and witty—it is profoundly wise.”—Junot Díaz From the Hardcover edition.
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The Hunt for Vulcan

How Albert Einstein Destroyed a Planet and Deciphered the Universe

Author: Thomas Levenson

Publisher: N.A

ISBN: 9781784973971

Category: Astronomy

Page: 229

View: 2708

In 1859, the brilliant scientist Urbain LeVerrier discovered that the planet Mercury has a wobble, that its orbit shifts over time. His explanation was that there had to be an unseen planet circling even closer to the sun. He called the planet Vulcan. Supported by the theories of Sir Isaac Newton, the finest astronomers of their generation began to seek out Vulcan and at least a dozen reports of discovery were filed. There was only one problem. Vulcan does not exist - and was never there. The real explanation was only revealed when a young Albert Einstein came up with a theory of gravity that also happened to prove that Mercury's orbit could indeed be explained - not by Newton's theories but by Einstein's own theory of general relativity. THE HUNT FOR VULCAN is a scientific detective tale at the intersection of theory, measurement, and belief; and a reflection on a bizarre period in which the power of conformity led very smart people to literally see a planet that wasn't there.
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Einstein in Berlin

Author: Thomas Levenson

Publisher: Random House

ISBN: 0525508953

Category: Biography & Autobiography

Page: 496

View: 6665

In a book that is both biography and the most exciting form of history, here are eighteen years in the life of a man, Albert Einstein, and a city, Berlin, that were in many ways the defining years of the twentieth century. Einstein in Berlin In the spring of 1913 two of the giants of modern science traveled to Zurich. Their mission: to offer the most prestigious position in the very center of European scientific life to a man who had just six years before been a mere patent clerk. Albert Einstein accepted, arriving in Berlin in March 1914 to take up his new post. In December 1932 he left Berlin forever. “Take a good look,” he said to his wife as they walked away from their house. “You will never see it again.” In between, Einstein’s Berlin years capture in microcosm the odyssey of the twentieth century. It is a century that opens with extravagant hopes--and climaxes in unparalleled calamity. These are tumultuous times, seen through the life of one man who is at once witness to and architect of his day--and ours. He is present at the events that will shape the journey from the commencement of the Great War to the rumblings of the next one. We begin with the eminent scientist, already widely recognized for his special theory of relativity. His personal life is in turmoil, with his marriage collapsing, an affair under way. Within two years of his arrival in Berlin he makes one of the landmark discoveries of all time: a new theory of gravity--and before long is transformed into the first international pop star of science. He flourishes during a war he hates, and serves as an instrument of reconciliation in the early months of the peace; he becomes first a symbol of the hope of reason, then a focus for the rage and madness of the right. And throughout these years Berlin is an equal character, with its astonishing eruption of revolutionary pathways in art and architecture, in music, theater, and literature. Its wild street life and sexual excesses are notorious. But with the debacle of the depression and Hitler’s growing power, Berlin will be transformed, until by the end of 1932 it is no longer a safe home for Einstein. Once a hero, now vilified not only as the perpetrator of “Jewish physics” but as the preeminent symbol of all that the Nazis loathe, he knows it is time to leave.
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Newton and the Counterfeiter

Author: Thomas Levenson

Publisher: Faber & Faber

ISBN: 0571265758

Category: History

Page: 336

View: 3336

Already famous throughout Europe for his theories of planetary motion and gravity, Isaac Newton decided to take on the job of running the Royal Mint. And there, Newton became drawn into a battle with William Chaloner, the most skilful of counterfeiters, a man who not only got away with faking His Majesty's coins (a crime that the law equated with treason), but was trying to take over the Mint itself. But Chaloner had no idea who he was taking on. Newton pursued his enemy with the cold, implacable logic that he brought to his scientific research. Set against the backdrop of early eighteenth-century London with its sewers running down the middle of the streets, its fetid rivers, its packed houses, smoke and fog, its industries and its great port, this dark tale of obsession and revenge transforms our image of Britain's greatest scientist.
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Measure for Measure

A Musical History of Science

Author: Thomas Levenson

Publisher: Simon and Schuster

ISBN: 0684804344

Category: Science

Page: 352

View: 8957

In this imaginative investigation of the links between science and art, Levenson explores how we have come to understand and experience the natural world through instruments both scientific and musical. As he traces the development of the organ, the microscope, Stradivarius's miraculous violins and cellos, and computers, Levenson reveals why science itself is an art. 48 b&w line drawings.
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The Perfect Theory

A Century of Geniuses and the Battle over General Relativity

Author: Pedro G. Ferreira

Publisher: HMH

ISBN: 0547554907

Category: Science

Page: 288

View: 6224

“One of the best popular accounts of how Einstein and his followers have been trying to explain the universe for decades” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review). Physicists have been exploring, debating, and questioning the general theory of relativity ever since Albert Einstein first presented it in 1915. This has driven their work to unveil the universe’s surprising secrets even further, and many believe more wonders remain hidden within the theory’s tangle of equations, waiting to be exposed. In this sweeping narrative of science and culture, an astrophysicist brings general relativity to life through the story of the brilliant physicists, mathematicians, and astronomers who have taken up its challenge. For these scientists, the theory has been both a treasure trove and an enigma. Einstein’s theory, which explains the relationships among gravity, space, and time, is possibly the most perfect intellectual achievement of modern physics—yet studying it has always been a controversial endeavor. Relativists were the target of persecution in Hitler’s Germany, hounded in Stalin’s Russia, and disdained in 1950s America. Even today, PhD students are warned that specializing in general relativity will make them unemployable. Still, general relativity has flourished, delivering key insights into our understanding of the origin of time and the evolution of all the stars and galaxies in the cosmos. Its adherents have revealed what lies at the farthest reaches of the universe, shed light on the smallest scales of existence, and explained how the fabric of reality emerges. Dark matter, dark energy, black holes, and string theory are all progeny of Einstein’s theory. In the midst of a momentous transformation in modern physics, as scientists look farther and more clearly into space than ever before, The Perfect Theory exposes the greater relevance of general relativity, showing us where it started, where it has led—and where it can still take us.
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Physics on the Fringe

Smoke Rings, Circlons, and Alternative Theories of Everything

Author: Margaret Wertheim

Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing USA

ISBN: 0802778739

Category: Science

Page: 336

View: 7094

For the past fifteen years, acclaimed science writer Margaret Wertheim has been collecting the works of "outsider physicists," many without formal training and all convinced that they have found true alternative theories of the universe. Jim Carter, the Einstein of outsiders, has developed his own complete theory of matter and energy and gravity that he demonstrates with experiments in his backyard,-with garbage cans and a disco fog machine he makes smoke rings to test his ideas about atoms. Captivated by the imaginative power of his theories and his resolutely DIY attitude, Wertheim has been following Carter's progress for the past decade. Centuries ago, natural philosophers puzzled out the laws of nature using the tools of observation and experimentation. Today, theoretical physics has become mathematically inscrutable, accessible only to an elite few. In rejecting this abstraction, outsider theorists insist that nature speaks a language we can all understand. Through a profoundly human profile of Jim Carter, Wertheim's exploration of the bizarre world of fringe physics challenges our conception of what science is, how it works, and who it is for.
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A Force of Nature: The Frontier Genius of Ernest Rutherford

Author: Richard Reeves

Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company

ISBN: 0393076040

Category: Science

Page: 208

View: 3547

"Starred Review. Reeves deploys his considerable writing skill in portraying Rutherford's personality ... capturing the full aspect of the man."—Booklist Born in colonial New Zealand, Ernest Rutherford grew up on the frontier—a different world from Cambridge, to which he won a scholarship at the age of twenty-four. His work revolutionized modern physics. Among his discoveries were the orbital structure of the atom and the concept of the "half-life" of radioactive materials. Rutherford and the young men working under him were the first to split the atom, unlocking tremendous forces—forces, as Rutherford himself predicted, that would bring us the atomic bomb. In Richard Reeves's hands, Rutherford comes alive, a ruddy, genial man and a pivotal figure in scientific history.
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The Hunt for Zero Point

Inside the Classified World of Antigravity Technology

Author: Nick Cook

Publisher: Broadway Books

ISBN: 9780307419439

Category: Technology & Engineering

Page: 304

View: 8273

This riveting work of investigative reporting and history exposes classified government projects to build gravity-defying aircraft--which have an uncanny resemblance to flying saucers. The atomic bomb was not the only project to occupy government scientists in the 1940s. Antigravity technology, originally spearheaded by scientists in Nazi Germany, was another high priority, one that still may be in effect today. Now for the first time, a reporter with an unprecedented access to key sources in the intelligence and military communities reveals suppressed evidence that tells the story of a quest for a discovery that could prove as powerful as the A-bomb. The Hunt for Zero Point explores the scientific speculation that a "zero point" of gravity exists in the universe and can be replicated here on Earth. The pressure to be the first nation to harness gravity is immense, as it means having the ability to build military planes of unlimited speed and range, along with the most deadly weaponry the world has ever seen. The ideal shape for a gravity-defying vehicle happens to be a perfect disk, making antigravity tests a possible explanation for the numerous UFO sightings of the past 50 years. Chronicling the origins of antigravity research in the world's most advanced research facility, which was operated by the Third Reich during World War II, The Hunt for Zero Point traces U.S. involvement in the project, beginning with the recruitment of former Nazi scientists after the war. Drawn from interviews with those involved with the research and who visited labs in Europe and the United States, The Hunt for Zero Point journeys to the heart of the twentieth century's most puzzling unexplained phenomena. From the Hardcover edition.
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Skunk Works

A Personal Memoir of My Years of Lockheed

Author: Ben R. Rich,Leo Janos

Publisher: Little, Brown

ISBN: 031624693X

Category: History

Page: 400

View: 4245

From the development of the U-2 to the Stealth fighter, the never-before-told story behind America's high-stakes quest to dominate the skies Skunk Works is the true story of America's most secret and successful aerospace operation. As recounted by Ben Rich, the operation's brilliant boss for nearly two decades, the chronicle of Lockheed's legendary Skunk Works is a drama of cold war confrontations and Gulf War air combat, of extraordinary feats of engineering and human achievement against fantastic odds. Here are up-close portraits of the maverick band of scientists and engineers who made the Skunk Works so renowned. Filled with telling personal anecdotes and high adventure, with narratives from the CIA and from Air Force pilots who flew the many classified, risky missions, this book is a riveting portrait of the most spectacular aviation triumphs of the twentieth century.
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What Einstein Told His Barber

More Scientific Answers to Everyday Questions

Author: Robert Wolke

Publisher: Dell

ISBN: 0307568474

Category: Science

Page: 288

View: 7057

What makes ice cubes cloudy? How do shark attacks make airplanes safer? Can a person traveling in a car at the speed of sound still hear the radio? Moreover, would they want to...? Do you often find yourself pondering life's little conundrums? Have you ever wondered why the ocean is blue? Or why birds don't get electrocuted when perching on high-voltage power lines? Robert L. Wolke, professor emeritus of chemistry at the University of Pittsburgh and acclaimed author of What Einstein Didn't Know, understands the need to...well, understand. Now he provides more amusing explanations of such everyday phenomena as gravity (If you're in a falling elevator, will jumping at the last instant save your life?) and acoustics (Why does a whip make such a loud cracking noise?), along with amazing facts, belly-up-to-the-bar bets, and mind-blowing reality bites all with his trademark wit and wisdom. If you shoot a bullet into the air, can it kill somebody when it comes down? You can find out about all this and more in an astonishing compendium of the proverbial mind-boggling mysteries of the physical world we inhabit. Arranged in a question-and-answer format and grouped by subject for browsing ease, WHAT EINSTEIN TOLD HIS BARBER is for anyone who ever pondered such things as why colors fade in sunlight, what happens to the rubber from worn-out tires, what makes red-hot objects glow red, and other scientific curiosities. Perfect for fans of Newton's Apple, Jeopardy!, and The Discovery Channel, WHAT EINSTEIN TOLD HIS BARBER also includes a glossary of important scientific buzz words and a comprehensive index. --> From the Trade Paperback edition.
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Lucky Planet

Why Earth is Exceptional—and What That Means for Life in the Universe

Author: David Waltham

Publisher: Basic Books

ISBN: 0465080820

Category: Science

Page: 208

View: 7561

Why Earth’s life-friendly climate makes it exceptional—and what that means for the likelihood of finding intelligent extraterrestrial life We have long fantasized about finding life on planets other than our own. Yet even as we become aware of the vast expanses beyond our solar system, it remains clear that Earth is exceptional. The question is: why? In Lucky Planet, astrobiologist David Waltham argues that Earth’s climate stability is what makes it uniquely able to support life, and it is nothing short of luck that made such conditions possible. The four billion year-stretch of good weather that our planet has experienced is statistically so unlikely that chances are slim that we will ever encounter intelligent extraterrestrial others. Citing the factors that typically control a planet’s average temperature—including the size of its moon, as well as the rate of the Universe’s expansion—Waltham challenges the prevailing scientific consensus that Earth-like planets have natural stabilizing mechanisms that allow life to flourish. A lively exploration of the stars above and the ground beneath our feet, Lucky Planet seamlessly weaves the story of Earth and the worlds orbiting other stars to give us a new perspective of the surprising role chance plays in our place in the universe.
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Pluto's Secret

An Icy World's Tale of Discovery

Author: Margaret Weitekamp,David DeVorkin,National Air and Space Museum

Publisher: Abrams

ISBN: 1613124961

Category: Juvenile Nonfiction

Page: 40

View: 1190

People, children especially, have been baffled, bewildered, and even outraged by the fact that Pluto is no longer called a planet. Through whimsical artwork and an entertaining dialogue format, Pluto’s Secret explains the true story of this distant world. Providing a history of the small, icy world from its discovery and naming to its recent reclassification, this book presents a fascinating look at how scientists organize and classify our solar system as they gain new insights into how it works and what types of things exist within it. The book includes a glossary and bibliography. Praise for Pluto's Secret "Pairing a lighthearted narrative in a hand-lettered–style typeface with informally drawn cartoon illustrations, this lively tale of astronomical revelations begins with the search for Planet X.” —Kirkus Reviews "This picture book offers a fresh, positive perspective on Pluto, showing that its change of status is not a demotion but a correction." —Booklist "Light-hearted imagining of a gregarious Pluto.” —Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books "Fun reading… The book provides a factual history of our faraway 'dwarf,' and on its companion icy worlds, and on the discovery of Kuiper-like bands around other stars." —School Library Journal Award New York Public Library’s annual Children’s Books list: 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing 2013
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Einstein's Dice and Schršdinger's Cat

How Two Great Minds Battled Quantum Randomness to Create a Unified Theory of Physics

Author: Paul Halpern

Publisher: Basic Books

ISBN: 0465040659

Category: Science

Page: 288

View: 4628

When the fuzzy indeterminacy of quantum mechanics overthrew the orderly world of Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein and Erwin Schrödinger were at the forefront of the revolution. Neither man was ever satisfied with the standard interpretation of quantum mechanics, however, and both rebelled against what they considered the most preposterous aspect of quantum mechanics: its randomness. Einstein famously quipped that God does not play dice with the universe, and Schrödinger constructed his famous fable of a cat that was neither alive nor dead not to explain quantum mechanics but to highlight the apparent absurdity of a theory gone wrong. But these two giants did more than just criticize: they fought back, seeking a Theory of Everything that would make the universe seem sensible again. In Einstein’s Dice and Schrödinger’s Cat, physicist Paul Halpern tells the little-known story of how Einstein and Schrödinger searched, first as collaborators and then as competitors, for a theory that transcended quantum weirdness. This story of their quest—which ultimately failed—provides readers with new insights into the history of physics and the lives and work of two scientists whose obsessions drove its progress. Today, much of modern physics remains focused on the search for a Theory of Everything. As Halpern explains, the recent discovery of the Higgs Boson makes the Standard Model—the closest thing we have to a unified theory— nearly complete. And while Einstein and Schrödinger failed in their attempt to explain everything in the cosmos through pure geometry, the development of string theory has, in its own quantum way, brought this idea back into vogue. As in so many things, even when they were wrong, Einstein and Schrödinger couldn’t help but get a great deal right.
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Galileo's Muse

Renaissance Mathematics and the Arts

Author: Mark A. Peterson

Publisher: Harvard University Press

ISBN: 0674062973

Category: Science

Page: 352

View: 9417

Mark Peterson makes an extraordinary claim in this fascinating book focused around the life and thought of Galileo: it was the mathematics of Renaissance arts, not Renaissance sciences, that became modern science. Painters, poets, musicians, and architects brought about a scientific revolution that eluded the philosopher-scientists of the day.
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Brilliant

The Evolution of Artificial Light

Author: Jane Brox

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

ISBN: 0547487150

Category: History

Page: 368

View: 5835

Brilliant, reminiscent of Lewis Hyde’s The Gift in its reach and of Timothy Egan’s The Worst Hard Time in its haunting evocation of human lives, offers a sweeping view of a surprisingly revealing aspect of human history—from the stone lamps of the Pleistocene to the LEDs embedded in fabrics of the future. Brox plumbs the class implications of light—who had it, who didn’t—through the many centuries when crude lamps and tallow candles constricted waking hours. She convincingly portrays the hell-bent pursuit of whale oil as the first time the human desire for light thrust us toward an environmental tipping point. Only decades later, gas street lights opened up the evening hours to leisure, which changed the ways we live and sleep and the world’s ecosystems. Edison’s “tiny strip of paper that a breath would blow away” produced a light that seemed to its users all but divorced from human effort or cost. And yet, as Brox’s informative and hair-raising portrait of our current grid system shows, the cost is ever with us. Brilliant is infused with human voices, startling insights, and—only a few years before it becomes illegal to sell most incandescent light bulbs in the United States—timely questions about how our future lives will be shaped by light.
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Electric Universe

How Electricity Switched on the Modern World

Author: David Bodanis

Publisher: Broadway Books

ISBN: 9781400050604

Category: Science

Page: 288

View: 7517

David Bodanis, bestselling author of E=mc2, weaves tales of romance, divine inspiration, and fraud through an account of the invisible force that permeates our universe—electricity—and introduces us to the virtuoso scientists who plumbed its secrets. For centuries, electricity was seen as little more than a curious property of certain substances that sparked when rubbed. Then, in the 1790s, Alessandro Volta began the scientific investigation that ignited an explosion of knowledge and invention. The force that once seemed inconsequential was revealed to be responsible for everything from the structure of the atom to the functioning of our brains. In harnessing its power, we have created a world of wonders—complete with roller coasters and radar, computer networks and psychopharmaceuticals. In Electric Universe, the great discoverers come to life in all their brilliance and idiosyncrasy, including the visionary Michael Faraday, who struggled against the prejudices of the British class system, and Samuel Morse, a painter who, before inventing the telegraph, ran for mayor of New York City on a platform of persecuting Catholics. Here too is Alan Turing, whose dream of a marvelous thinking machine—what we know as the computer—was met with indifference, and who ended his life in despair after British authorities forced him to undergo experimental treatments to “cure” his homosexuality. From the frigid waters of the Atlantic to the streets of Hamburg during a World War II firestorm to the interior of the human body, Electric Universe is a mesmerizing journey of discovery.
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The Planet Remade

How Geoengineering Could Change the World

Author: Oliver Morton

Publisher: Princeton University Press

ISBN: 1400874459

Category: Science

Page: 440

View: 6625

The risks of global warming are pressing and potentially vast. The difficulty of doing without fossil fuels is daunting, possibly even insurmountable. So there is an urgent need to rethink our responses to the crisis. To meet that need, a small but increasingly influential group of scientists is exploring proposals for planned human intervention in the climate system: a stratospheric veil against the sun, the cultivation of photosynthetic plankton, fleets of unmanned ships seeding the clouds. These are the technologies of geoengineering—and as Oliver Morton argues in this visionary book, it would be as irresponsible to ignore them as it would be foolish to see them as a simple solution to the problem. The Planet Remade explores the history, politics, and cutting-edge science of geoengineering. Morton weighs both the promise and perils of these controversial strategies and puts them in the broadest possible context. The past century’s changes to the planet—to the clouds and the soils, to the winds and the seas, to the great cycles of nitrogen and carbon—have been far more profound than most of us realize. Appreciating those changes clarifies not just the scale of what needs to be done about global warming, but also our relationship to nature. Climate change is not just one of the twenty-first century’s defining political challenges. Morton untangles the implications of our failure to meet the challenge of climate change and reintroduces the hope that we might. He addresses the deep fear that comes with seeing humans as a force of nature, and asks what it might mean—and what it might require of us—to try and use that force for good.
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Trespassing on Einstein's Lawn

A Father, a Daughter, the Meaning of Nothing, and the Beginning of Everything

Author: Amanda Gefter

Publisher: Bantam

ISBN: 034553963X

Category: Science

Page: 432

View: 6506

NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY KIRKUS REVIEWS In a memoir of family bonding and cutting-edge physics for readers of Brian Greene’s The Hidden Reality and Jim Holt’s Why Does the World Exist?, Amanda Gefter tells the story of how she conned her way into a career as a science journalist—and wound up hanging out, talking shop, and butting heads with the world’s most brilliant minds. At a Chinese restaurant outside of Philadelphia, a father asks his fifteen-year-old daughter a deceptively simple question: “How would you define nothing?” With that, the girl who once tried to fail geometry as a conscientious objector starts reading up on general relativity and quantum mechanics, as she and her dad embark on a life-altering quest for the answers to the universe’s greatest mysteries. Before Amanda Gefter became an accomplished science writer, she was a twenty-one-year-old magazine assistant willing to sneak her and her father, Warren, into a conference devoted to their physics hero, John Wheeler. Posing as journalists, Amanda and Warren met Wheeler, who offered them cryptic clues to the nature of reality: The universe is a self-excited circuit, he said. And, The boundary of a boundary is zero. Baffled, Amanda and Warren vowed to decode the phrases—and with them, the enigmas of existence. When we solve all that, they agreed, we’ll write a book. Trespassing on Einstein’s Lawn is that book, a memoir of the impassioned hunt that takes Amanda and her father from New York to London to Los Alamos. Along the way, they bump up against quirky science and even quirkier personalities, including Leonard Susskind, the former Bronx plumber who invented string theory; Ed Witten, the soft-spoken genius who coined the enigmatic M-theory; even Stephen Hawking. What they discover is extraordinary: the beginnings of a monumental paradigm shift in cosmology, from a single universe we all share to a splintered reality in which each observer has her own. Reality, the Gefters learn, is radically observer-dependent, far beyond anything of which Einstein or the founders of quantum mechanics ever dreamed—with shattering consequences for our understanding of the universe’s origin. And somehow it all ties back to that conversation, to that Chinese restaurant, and to the true meaning of nothing. Throughout their journey, Amanda struggles to make sense of her own life—as her journalism career transforms from illusion to reality, as she searches for her voice as a writer, as she steps from a universe shared with her father to at last carve out one of her own. It’s a paradigm shift you might call growing up. By turns hilarious, moving, irreverent, and profound, Trespassing on Einstein’s Lawn weaves together story and science in remarkable ways. By the end, you will never look at the universe the same way again. Praise for Trespassing on Einstein’s Lawn “Nothing quite prepared me for this book. Wow. Reading it, I alternated between depression—how could the rest of us science writers ever match this?—and exhilaration.”—Scientific American “To Do: Read Trespassing on Einstein’s Lawn. Reality doesn’t have to bite.”—New York “A zany superposition of genres . . . It’s at once a coming-of-age chronicle and a father-daughter road trip to the far reaches of this universe and 10,500 others.”—The Philadelphia Inquirer From the Hardcover edition.
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