The Story of Physics

ISBN: 8174800808

Category: Technical

Tag: Science/Engineering

Posted on 2011-01-01. By anonymous.


The Story of Physics
Delhi 110 016. 2005 | ISBN: 8174800808 | 48 pages | PDF | 56 MB

Steven Weinberg, in his advice to students at the start of their scientific careers (Nature,2003, 426, 389) says ‘Finally, learn something about the history of science, or at a minimum the history of your own branch of science. . . More importantly,the history of science can make your work seem more worthwhile to you . . . you can get great satisfaction by recognizing that your work is a part of history’. I think that the advice holds true for working scientists as well as school kids aspiring to go into a career in science.
Several internet sites, notably the one by APS, provide an illustrated tour of the history of physics. Of course, not all the students in India have high-speed internet access and, with the risk of sounding
a bit old-fashioned, internet browsing does not even come close to the sheer pleasure of stretching out on a couch and reading a book. For children, and some enlightened adults, comic books are fun,captivating and one can never have enough of them. Thus, it is great that the author has told the story of physics in a
comic book format. The narration is, to a large extent, smooth with lots of humour and the illustrations are nicely done.

The first part describes, not surprisingly,the development of classical mechanics, since the motion of the sun, moon and stars have always been a source of curiosity and wonder. Aristotle, Copernicus, Brahe, Kepler, Galileo and Newton being the main players, occupy a significant portion of the text.

Wave vs particle as represented by Huygens vs Newton, the laws of Kepler, and the gradual eroding of Aristotle’s hold are presented well. The part on electricity and magnetism is highlighted by the critical contributions due to Cavendish (although he was trying to determine the earth’s density rather than the mass or the gravitational constant), Volta, Ampere, and Faraday and culminates with the grand synthesis by Maxwell. Somehow, Nikola Tesla got left out! Still, the sequence of events leading up to Maxwell’s unification of electricity and magnetism is described nicely in the book. I liked the fact that the particle vs wave fight, being one of the all time favourite bone of contention,has been given ample space with some really funny lines. A couple of pages are reserved for the whirlwhind description of the creation of thermodynamics.

Students would be familiar with most of the names like Joule, Carnot, Kelvin, Clausius (misprinted as ‘Classius’ a.k.a Muhammad Ali) and Boltzmann. The rise of relativity and Einstein’s contributions is probably the best written part of the entire book. The author manages to get across the excitement and finishes with a funny clip. The next fifteen or so pages is in real fast forward, accounting for the creation of quantum mechanics to the unification of weak and electromagnetic forces. Probably a little too quick, but then all of the story had to be told in fifty pages! Rutherford, Planck, Bohr, Schrödinger, Heisenberg, Dirac,
Fermi, Bose, Yukawa, Schwinger, Tomonaga, Feynman, Gelmann, Salam, Wein-berg, . . . whew! In comparison, the relatively recent book, not a comic book though, by Cropper (Great Physicists –
The Life and Times of Leading Physicists from Galileo to Hawking) is 500 pages long.



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