The Prism and the Pendulum: The Ten Most Beautiful Experiments in Science
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The Prism and the Pendulum: The Ten Most Beautiful Experiments in Science

3.78 of 5 stars 3.78  ·  rating details  ·  59 ratings  ·  13 reviews
Is science beautiful? Yes, argues acclaimed philosopher and historian of science Robert P. Crease in this engaging exploration of history’s most beautiful experiments. The result is an engrossing journey through nearly 2,500 years of scientific innovation. Along the way, we encounter glimpses into the personalities and creative thinking of some of the field’s most interest...more
Paperback, 272 pages
Published October 12th 2004 by Random House Trade Paperbacks (first published 2003)
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Spencer
A very quick read, with some chapters clearer and more fascinating than others. Much of the highlights were the biographies of the scientists themselves--Galileo, Newton, Young, Rutherford, and especially Henry Cavendish, who needs his own biopic, stat. Each experiment is separated by short 'Interludes' on various topics concerning science and philosophy that are surprisingly successful, and nowhere near as redundant or pat as they could have been. You'll probably want the internet handy, though...more
Britt
The most beautiful experiments in science are all physics and astronomy experiments! Coincidence? I think not! :)

As a physicist, I enjoyed the book very much, though I can't comment on how accessible it would be to the layman. This book would make a great basis for an undergraduate course for physics majors or for non-majors, as many of the experiments could be easily reproduced in the classroom, and they raise a lot of important issues about the nature of science, of experiment, and of reality....more
David
I only stuck with The Prism and the Pendulum out of persistence, and not wanting to give up on a book before it was finished. I still question if that was a good idea.

The author asks, "Can a science experience be beautiful? And if the answer is 'Yes', what does that say about science? What does that say about beauty?" This isn't just an introduction. He was serious about attempting to answer these boring questions. So, between chapters describing the experiments, there were essays that further e...more
Jason
An excellent book, it effectively uses the ten experiments to illustrate a set of broader ideas in the philosophy of science through a series of interludes. In this way it dried to draw a broader set of lessons than George Johnson's "The Ten Most Beautiful Experiments." And to tell less of a human story than Johnson's book.

It is remarkable that two books that share a title/subtitle had so few overlapping experiments. Maybe they both should have dropped the adjective "most," resting only on the u...more
Booknerd Fraser
The chief problem with this book is that it was written by a philosopher, not a scientist, and I'm not sure he understands the concept of "elegance" in science, viz. "beauty", and in "Interludes" brings in all sorts of (IMHO) unneeded philosophical content. Also, not being a native scientist, some of his explanations are strained. Furthermore, the book was conceived after a poll at a physics magazine the author writes for, so the entries are all physics experiments.
Elizabeth
I liked reading this book. It took me a long time to get through it, the science is understandable for a lay-person, but very dense. I was a little disappointed that almost all the experiments were physics experiments. But they were all very important experiments about the world we live in, so I can live with it. Overall, a very good book.
Lucas Miller
Incredible writing and thinking by Mr. Crease. Highly impressed with this short book that will be of interest to those who like to think about science in our lives and societies and/or the history of science. As I'm one that seldom gives 5 stars I will clarify that they mean "I love it" rather than "a classic."
Tiffany
This book was spot-on for my Scientific Thinking class. I especially enjoyed the Eratosthenes/Newton/Cavendish chapters. Why do these "Beautiful Experiments" books (George Johnson wrote another) neglect Biology so shamefully? We deserve our own book!
Anthony
Illuminates some of the thought processes and the humanity of the scientists behind some of the most famous experiments ever.
Chizu Nakamura


I learn a lot from this book not only about history of science but also the art of experiments.
Jeremy
Learning about the clever things that brilliant people do is fun!
Kristen
If you love science and history, it is a great combo
Mic
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Professor Robert P. Crease is Chairman of the Department of Philosophy at Stony Brook University, New York.
More about Robert P. Crease...
The Great Equations: Breakthroughs in Science from Pythagoras to Heisenberg The Second Creation: Makers of the Revolution in Twentieth-Century Physics World in the Balance: The Historic Quest for an Absolute System of Measurement A Brief Guide to the Great Equations The Play of Nature: Experimentation as Performance

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