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Modern physics book recommendations


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#1 Tormod

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Posted 12 May 2002 - 11:10 AM

In a recent tread Michael asked for recommendations for readable books about quantum physics.

I'm sure others have more to add, but I'd like to get started with a few:

E=Mc2 - A biography of an equation
by David Bodanis
This is a great book which explains how Einstein's equation was founded on many different aspects of physics. It gives a good, general insight into what constitutes this formula and why it became so important for quantum physics.

Three Roads to Quantum Gravity
By Lee Smolin
As the covers says - Smolin is a leading physicist working to unify quantum theory, relativity and cosmology. Readable with illustrations, although perhaps a bit on the heavy side (though heavliy recommended)

Before the Big Bang - The origins of the universe
by Ernest J. Sternglass (reviewed at Hypography)
Sternglass has his own views of how the universe was born - and it makes for great reading. His theories are not mainstream but this book is a gem.

Hyperspace
by Michio Kaku
This is one great book, covering string theory, time warps, the future of the universe and much more. Kaku is one of the great science writers. All his booksare recommended.

Six Easy Pieces
By Richard Feynman
An introductiory text to relativity and other aspects of quantum theory. Again, Feynamn was an incredible writer. "Six Not-So-Easy Pieces" is a bit more difficult to follow, but his "The pleasure of finding things out" is a joyride through many bits of his wonderful life. Feynman was the physicist who demonstrated that the Challenger disaster was due to bad management, and his dissenting essay in the comittee report can be found by searching though Hypography.

The Origins of the Universe
by John D. Barrow
Mr Barrow is an excellent writer (read my review of his <SPAN class=overskrift>Theories of Everything: The Quest for Ultimate Explanation</SPAN>) who manages to present very difficult topics in a readable manner. I recommend all of his books - especially "Impossibility", which shows the limits of what we can know, and what we can't.

Since I have specialized in reading popular science (rather than textbooks), you may find that most of these books are not brimful of math, but they all help understand what quantum theory is about and should help you find more books to read after that.

Tormod

#2 michaelchang

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Posted 13 May 2002 - 11:25 AM

Thanks tormod, i'll prolly start with E=MC2

I've read an excerpt on "How to build a time machine". Seems very interesting, you might wanna give it a read.

Also, u've recommended book on quantum physics, got any easy(ish) books on relativity, or would i need a textbook for that?

#3 Tormod

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Posted 13 May 2002 - 12:17 PM

Michael,

why, E=mc2 is of course about relativity. In fact, any book on cosmology, relativity and quantum physics will cover much of the same material!

I have read "How to build a time machine", in fact it is up for review at Hypography soon. It was the prize for our April Quiz!

Tormod

#4 michaelchang

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Posted 18 May 2002 - 07:30 AM

Hey Tormod

Have you read "It must be beautiful: Great Equations of Modern Science" yet? It is an anthology of essays written by prominent scientist explaining the implications and origins of important equations. It is not TOO hard to read, tho i'm sure at the moment, i'm not taking in all that i'm s'pose to. Topics inlcude

Light delivered in quanums
E=MC2
General Relativity
Schoridingers wave equation
Dirac Equation

and 6 more on vairious equations NOT related to physics.

#5 Tormod

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Posted 18 May 2002 - 10:30 AM

Yeah, in fact I just reviewed it on National radio here in Norway. I think it is a great book, although it is aimed more at giving people an understanding of why there is an inherent beauty in great equations, rather than explaining the math or physics behind them in depth.

The chapter on Schrödinger and Heisenberg was excellent - and I really enjoyed the one on the Drake Equation as well.

#6 michaelchang

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Posted 18 May 2002 - 11:38 AM

hehee..yes, that's what i felt too. Not much mathmatics on it but a lot of background history..DOH!, i better consult with you first nxt time i buy a book.

btw, what's your job tormod? You seem to artistic (referring to this website) to be a scientist! Also, what's your secret behind knowing so much about physics, science etc?..Do you just read a lot?

#7 Tormod

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Posted 18 May 2002 - 02:43 PM

Part of my story is here:
http://www.hypograph...ticle.cfm/30511

Yeah, I read a lot. In fact, I am a regular book reviewer on National radio in Norway, appearing about twice a month (my favorite was when I appeared live in studio to review the reappearance of Carl Sagan's Cosmos on DVD). Next Thursday I'll be appearing live again, talking about the fashion of cosmology books, as well as presenting a great, new one, by National Geographic, called "Beyond Earth: Measuring the Universe".

I also write about four reviews a month for the Norwegian web site, http://www.forskning.no/, which is run by the National Science Council. I also write articles about using the web for educators at this site: http://www.skolenettet.no/. (Here's a sample - if you could only read Norwegian... Posted Image )

I review popular science books written in English because they are usually the most up-to-date, and because they are rarely translated into Norwegian (with the exception of the major names like Hawking) or because the translation appears very late. Most people in Norway can read English nowadays, anyway.

As for my background, I am a Bachelor of Music Performance from Augustana College, Rock Island, IL (class of '92). But I also have a degree in English literature, so I guess I am more qualified when it comes to books than when it comes to design...

The web design part happened as a coincidence - in 1995 a friend startet working as a link reviewer for the National phone company who wanted to build a giant web directory. When they decided to pull the plug after a year or so, two of us founded a company and startet to put together a web publishing soluition so we could continue what we were doing, in a way.

I quit that job in 1999, and had different jobs for a while until I founded a new company, this time with myself as the only employee. I work as a web freelancer, both building web sites and telling people how to plan their own, teach courses, write articlesetc. So I have picked up most of my design skills over the years, although I did take an evening class in typography and layout.

But my main hobby is reading and writing about science. Sadly there is seldom enough time for me to write about anything but books these days, and I write about them in Norwegian, and because of copyright reasons I can't just translate them into English and use them here at Hypgoraphy. My aim is to have more and more time to spend with Hypography so I can write much more than today!

#8 Noah

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Posted 19 May 2002 - 11:07 AM

Hi. Although these books are more astronomy/cosmology books, I think they are very good. A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking and Einstein's Greatest Blunder? By Donald Goldsmith (I think). I am waiting for the college library to get The Universe in a Nutshell. Later today or tommorow I am going to get Hyperspace. And one more GOOD physics book if you are a trekkie. The Physics of Star Trek. This explains how possible some of the stuff on ST is and what we would have to do. It was written in 1995 and I think some of the info is out of date, but nevertheless, very good.

Noah

#9 michaelchang

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Posted 20 May 2002 - 09:13 AM

It's ok if you're gonna take "A Universe In a Nutshell" out from a library, but don't spend money on it. Its not very good and I feel its a repeat of A Brief History of Time. His lack of use of formulas and equations makes things hard to understand. He does use lavish drawings from time to time, but they don't explain all his concepts.

My verdict?..A good coffee table book with nice drawings. A book which would attract visitors to have a flick through it...but nothing more.

P.s. Tormod, the chapter on Einsteins equation of General Relativity is very good, altho i must admit, its pretty tough going.

#10 Tormod

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Posted 20 May 2002 - 09:38 AM

Yeah, Michael, I agree. The first five chapters of "It must be beautiful" were all a bit heavy, but I really enjoyed the one on Shannon - I wasn't aware of his influence on the information age (even after working in it for 7 years!).

Tormod

#11 michaelchang

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Posted 22 July 2002 - 01:17 PM

hello..haven't posted in a long time!

I just stumbled across a book at my local library called "Relativity" by Albert Einstein. At first, i thought this was his original paper and was considering putting it back without starting it. Boy am i glad i didnt. This is by far the best book on the theory of relativity, both special and general.

It explains in very simple terms how he came up with both theories. I am going through the second half of the book (general relativity) and i'm starting to have trouble. But i think the section on special relativity is excellent.

#12 Tormod

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Posted 22 July 2002 - 02:30 PM

heh...I read that book as well, while I had a bad bronchitis this spring, and it felt like banging my head against a wall. I read lots of stuff but that book was just too heavy for me at the time... Posted Image

By the way, I am reading a very good book about Complex Networks called "NEXUS - Small Worlds and the groundbreaking science of networks" by Mark Buchanan. It's amazing how everything is connected! The Kevin Bacon game isn't just a strange coincidence.

#13 Evalain88

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Posted 28 July 2002 - 04:09 AM

Wow! You are all amazing! I'm going to read every book you've mentioned so far. I'll be here every day! You the smartest people I've seen in any science disscusion site. In some sites.....all they talk about is the Big Bang theory and basic chemistry,astronomy,physics(not so often) and the basic biology! But here I feel on a level.
Tormod you are a genius!
Regards to all
Best regards
Eva H.I.

#14 Tormod

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Posted 28 July 2002 - 09:01 PM

*blush*

Thanks! Posted Image Well, I read a lot so if others like my recommendations then that's good.

But I would really like to hear what other people are reading as well!

Tormod

#15 michaelchang

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Posted 30 July 2002 - 07:13 AM

hehe..i'm reading what you're reading!

I would like to suggest a fiction (not THAT fiction) novel, called Contact by Carl Sagan. It is about us finally receiving a signal from an advanced civilization. It details how the human race would react and all the complications that come along with this discovery. It is a truly amazing book, i think everyone ought to read it!.

#16 rileyj

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Posted 10 April 2004 - 11:17 AM

"The Kevin Bacon game isn't just a strange coincidence"
what game?

#17 IrishEyes

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Posted 05 May 2004 - 03:38 PM

"The Kevin Bacon game isn't just a strange coincidence"
what game?


Below is a link to the Kevin Bacon game. Check out their different pages explaining why the game was invented, etc. It's very interesting, and can be a lot fun if you're bored very late, and your husband is on a business trip to Hawaii (or not!).

http://www.cs.virginia.edu/oracle/