As promised, here are a few of the most exciting new additions to our collection this month.
Gratzer, W. B. (2009). Giant molecules : from nylon to nanotubes. Oxford [England]: Oxford University Press.
Our lives are dominated by giant molecules, which have remarkable properties, some of which are only just being discovered and exploited by science, though many have long been exploited far more effectively by Nature. Giant molecules dominate our lives - from the proteins and DNA within us to the man-made fibres of our clothes and the many plastics that we use every day. And they are set to have an enormous impact on the future, as scientists and engineers learn from nature (biomimetics), and utilize the full potential of tiny carbon nanotubes. The possibilities may seem like science fiction - a space station tethered to Earth by cables of giant molecules, tiny molecular vehicles carrying and dispensing drugs in our bodies, smart materials that adjust automatically to optimize our comfort, minute computers utilizing the information storage capacity of DNA - but they are the subjects of cutting edge research.
Walter Gratzer gives a fascinating account of the discovery and variety of giant molecules, how they come to have their remarkable properties, and how these are used by Nature and increasingly by us, pausing now and again to tell of some of the remarkable characters involved in their discovery and development.
Close, F. E. (2011). The infinity puzzle. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Speculation is rife that by 2012 the elusive Higgs boson will be found at the Large Hadron Collider. If found, the Higgs boson would help explain why everything has mass. But there’s more at stake—what we’re really testing is our capacity to make the universe reasonable.
Our best understanding of physics is predicated on something known as quantum field theory. Unfortunately, in its raw form, it doesn’t make sense—its outputs are physically impossible infinite percentages when they should be something simpler, like the number 1. The kind of physics that the Higgs boson represents seeks to “renormalize” field theory, forcing equations to provide answers that match what we see in the real world.
The Infinity Puzzle is the story of a wild idea on the road to acceptance. Only Close can tell it.
Update: Bob Kariotis wrote a review of this book in August.
Cox, B., & Forshaw, J. R. (2012). The quantum universe : (and why anything that can happen, does). 1st Da Capo Press ed. Boston [Mass.]: Da Capo Press.
In The Quantum Universe, Brian Cox and Jeff Forshaw approach the world of quantum mechanics in the same way they did in Why Does E=mc2?and make fundamental scientific principles accessible—and fascinating—to everyone.
The subatomic realm has a reputation for weirdness, spawning any number of profound misunderstandings, journeys into Eastern mysticism, and woolly pronouncements on the interconnectedness of all things. Cox and Forshaw’s contention? There is no need for quantum mechanics to be viewed this way. There is a lot of mileage in the “weirdness” of the quantum world, and it often leads to confusion and, frankly, bad science. The Quantum Universe cuts through the Wu Li and asks what observations of the natural world made it necessary, how it was constructed, and why we are confident that, for all its apparent strangeness, it is a good theory.
The quantum mechanics of The Quantum Universe provide a concrete model of nature that is comparable in its essence to Newton’s laws of motion, Maxwell’s theory of electricity and magnetism, and Einstein’s theory of relativity.