Radioactivity: A History of a Mysterious Science
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Radioactivity: A History of a Mysterious Science

3.46 of 5 stars 3.46  ·  rating details  ·  57 ratings  ·  14 reviews
This is the story of a new science. Beginning with an obscure discovery in 1896, radioactivity led researchers on a quest for understanding that ultimately confronted the intersection of knowledge and mystery.
Mysterious from the start, radioactivity attracted researchers who struggled to understand it. What caused certain atoms to give off invisible, penetrating rays? Whe...more
Hardcover, 267 pages
Published August 25th 2011 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published July 20th 2011)
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Brendon Schrodinger
'Radioactivity: A History of a Mysterious Science' presents a body of work that is more mysterious than the supposed 'mysterious science'. Oh and before I go any further, all science is mysterious after discovery and in the initial research, radioactivity is not the exception. And I fail to understand how radioactivity could still be perceived as mysterious today, unless you have never learnt about it.

Which brings me to my next point. Just who is this book aimed at? The book is split into three...more
This book does a good job of decribing the history of radioactivity : from Becquerel rays to radium to alpha and beta particles, on to the theories about the nucleus and the ultimate applications of radioactivity and nuclear energy. Unfortunately, the book, written by someone with an impressive pedigree in physics and the history of science, requires the reader to be fairly knowledgeable about the subject already. This is not Radioactivity 101 ! For instance, the author does a good job of listin...more
Brian Clegg
Don’t judge a book by its cover, my old gran used to say (and some of the covers of the books she read certainly proved she believed what she said), but in practice it is difficult advice to follow. Covers have a huge impact on our approach to a book – and combined with an old-fashioned feeling title this one screamed ‘dull textbooky kind of thing at me.’ Luckily, though, I resisted the urge to lose it at the bottom of the review pile, because Radiation has a lot going for it.

Marjorie Malley div...more
John Gribbin

Radioactivity is a great disappointment. The idea of a little book using radiation as the unifying theme to discuss some of the great science of the twentieth century is appealing, the level of the book is pitched just right for young teenagers developing an interest in science, and the rather plodding style could be forgiven if the information conveyed were accurate. Alas, in all too many places, it is not, in spite of being, we are told by the author, “based on years of my research”.
This is about the 5th book about radioactivity I've read this year. All featured Marie Curie to some degree and all had a different perspective. This book really focused on the individuals responsible for teasing out the mysteries surroungding radioactivity, but rather than focus on their stories, really was a summary of the history and how various theories developed over time. I think the book may have worked better if it didn't jump around so much in time. Also, I think the last few chapters s...more
I enjoyed the book especially more info on Marie Curie, her political and humanist views. Much of the info on radioactivity I already knew about so I skipped sections of the book. The most tragic part was the fact that many of the scientists (probably most of them) were injured and several died as a result of their ignorance about handling radium and uranium.
Ashutosh Srivasatva
This is a very geeky books with lots of scientific jargon which a non-technical person nay not be able to understand without considerable effort. However, readers who have relevant technical background will find it a good and interesting read.
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An interesting look into tht history of the science of radioactivity and many of the key players involved in its discovery and understanding.
Daniel Ulm
Very Intrested It shows how all the chemical formulas and all the chemical accidents that happened very good book
It's rather pithy, and the language is often axiomatic, whereas she makes a statement then moves on without context or support. But I guess this can be seen as a virtue, considering people are usually opposed to digression and infinite regression. A more meaty appendix with in-text referrals to said appendix would have been helpful...
it fed my geek streak and then some. this was a comprehensive and fairly accessible history of radioactivity, a little "dry" at times but over all an enlightening read on a science that is often misunderstood.
Not the most exciting book I ever read, but decent if you want a narrative for not only the basics of radioactivity, but also the timeline of the discovery of those basics.
Mike Abrahams
Too academic. If you are expecting a good layperson exposition of a complex and interesting subject this is not what you are going to get.
Adam Crouse
Pretty decent read. it took me a while to get into it, but I'm glad I did.
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