Monday, October 7, 2013

Highlights from the New Books List: October

Copies available at UW-Madison
Morus, Iwan Rhys. (2005). When physics became king. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

"Making physics the king of the sciences required more than simply producing powerful theories. It meant convincing people that the theories were true, that physics was the best way of finding out the truths of nature, and that such knowledge was important to society. [...]

Against the background of the changing status of the field, Morus explores the ideas, institutions, and settings through which a new and international discipline was forged. He demonstrates that the rise of physics as an uncompromising discipline was accompanied by the strenuous efforts of physicists to define the field's social roles. [...]

A few good histories of physics during that remarkable age exist [the 19th century] — but none as readable or comprehensive as Morus's superb book." -- Robert M. Brain, as reviewed in Physics Today, April 2006, p. 67

Copies available at UW-Madison
 Gribbin, John. (2013). Erwin Schrödinger and the quantum revolution. Hoboken: Wiley. 

"In his latest book, Erwin Schrödinger and the Quantum Revolution, prolific science writer John Gribbin tells a fascinating tale of scientific endeavour starring Schrödinger -- a man as complex and unpredictable as the phenomena he studied. As the major players in the book show, the Germanspeaking world dominated science in the first half of the 20th century, and nowhere more so than in quantum physics.

From Max Born to Ludwig Boltzmann, Friedrich Hasenöhrl to Werner Heisenberg, Gribbin expertly elucidates the relationships and discoveries that shaped Schrödinger's thoughts, including his lengthy correspondence with Albert Einstein, which led to the famous cat-in-the-box thought experiment in 1935.

Yet what sets Gribbin's book apart is the elegance with which it delivers a simple but neglected truth: that each of us is a product of our times. Gribbin addresses the myriad forces which shape both the process of scientific discovery and those making the discoveries. From the fortunes of nations to the work of peers, political ideologies to romantic affairs and religious convictions, he deftly identifies the influences that sculpted Schrödinger and his pivotal role in the quantum revolution.

Anyone wishing to dip their feet in the muddy waters of quantum physics will enjoy this scientific soap opera. But it should be required reading for those eager to understand how the process of scientific discovery really works." -- Andrew Purcell, as reviewed in New Scientist, Vol. 213, Issue 2858 (2012).

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