Monday, December 20, 2010

Galileo's Finger: The Ten Great Ideas of Science - P. W. Atkins

This beautifully written but at times overly ambitious book illustrates both the possibilities and the limitations of science popularizations. Chemistry professor Atkins examines the epochal ideas of science, including evolution, the role of DNA in heredity, entropy, the atomic structure of matter, symmetry, wave-particle duality, the expansion of the universe and the curvature of spacetime. Exploring the history of these concepts from the ancient Greeks onward, the chapters amount to case studies in the power of the Galilean paradigm of the "isolation of the essentials of a problem," and mathematical theorizing disciplined by real-world experiment, as humanity's understanding moves from armchair speculation and observational lore to testable theories of great explanatory power. Amazon

The chapters:

Evolution: The Emergence of Complexity
DNA: The Rationalization of Biology
Energy: The Universalization of Accountancy
Entropy: The Spring of Change
Atoms: The Reduction of Matter
Symmetry: The Quantification of Beauty
Quanta: The Simplification of Understanding
Cosmology: The Globalization of Reality
Spacetime: The Arena of Action
Arithmetic: The Limits of Reason

File size: 33 MB
Format: djvu

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