After reading Quicksilver, the first book in Neal Stephenson’s Baroque Cycle, I became very interested to learn more about some the historical figuresAfter reading Quicksilver, the first book in Neal Stephenson’s Baroque Cycle, I became very interested to learn more about some the historical figures around whom the story revolved – Robert Hooke, Robert Boyle, John Wilkens, Christopher Wren, …, and Isaac Newton, the founders and early members of the Royal Society. Given my interest in physics, optics, and math, especially Isaac Newton.
Fortunately for me, James Gleick’s biography of Newton, simply titled Isaac Newton, was published earlier that year (2003). Gleick was not new to me – both Chaos: Making a New Science and Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman, have a place on my bookshelves – so I had high hopes for his biography of Newton. I was not disappointed.
Chances are you’ve heard of Isaac Newton, if for nothing else than the fact that he came up with the idea of gravity when he saw an apple fall from a tree. (Which, by the way, is a vast oversimplification.) You may have even heard of his 3 laws of motion or that he invented – some might say discovered – the calculus. You may even think that he invented calculus so he could figure out his laws of motion. (As it turns out, he used geometry.)
Newton didn’t actually publish – or care to publish – his work in mathematics, or anything else, until someone else published similar work. Unlike the rest of the fellows of the Royal Society, who were interested in sharing their new found knowledge as much as possible, Newton experimented and discovered and wrote to satisfy his own curiosity, not that of anyone else. Only in the very recent past have the many documents of Newton come to light, and it is through these many documents that Gleick tells this unique story of arguably the greatest mind ever.
Considering the subject, the book is relatively short with just under 200 pages of main text and about 50 pages of notes. It is a pretty quick read, though I did find that flipping back and forth to the end notes tended to slow me down. And if you are looking for detailed discussion and analysis of the actual content of Newton’s various writings, this is not your book.
If, however, you want to gain an understanding of what drove Newton, of why he wanted to figure things out, and get a glimpse into his incredible mind, this is an excellent book with which to begin....more
I have read just about everything there is about, and by, Richard Feynman, so was a bit curious what else could be said in a new biography. Although tI have read just about everything there is about, and by, Richard Feynman, so was a bit curious what else could be said in a new biography. Although this book does cover familiar ground, the focus on Feynman's science - and especially his approach to conducting that science - does provide a few new tidbits of insight.
If you are a "fan" of Feynman already, I think you will appreciate this book. If you are wondering what's the big deal about this guy, this book will help you understand the impact that Feynman had, and continues, to have, on science and the everyday.
An excellent telling of the story of Nicholas Copernicus, the development of his heliocentric theory, and how it almost didn't see the light of day. AAn excellent telling of the story of Nicholas Copernicus, the development of his heliocentric theory, and how it almost didn't see the light of day. Along the way, Dava Sobel provides context of the age, specifically the political and religious conflict between the Roman Church and the "heretical" Lutherans. I was already familiar with Copernicus and his story, but learned quite a bit new.
I have read several of her other books, so I had high expectations that I would enjoy this one. (And it is about math and astronomy!) I wasn't disappointed. My only quibble with the book is her use of a play, a speculative one at that, to tell the middle part of the story. I understand why it is speculative, since there really is no record of what actually happened. And though I enjoy plays, and would probably enjoy hers, I've just never been a fan of reading plays.
I would also like to have seen a bit more of the scientific and mathematical details of Copernicus' ideas, but this was not the book for that. And rightly so. This book is something that anyone could read - should read - as a way to understand the scientific mind and the impact the environment can have on achievement....more
As a regular reader of his blog, I've followed the evolution of Carl Zimmer's Science Tattoo Emporium since it's inception. So when I saw this book atAs a regular reader of his blog, I've followed the evolution of Carl Zimmer's Science Tattoo Emporium since it's inception. So when I saw this book at the library I had to pick it up.
It's not really a book that you read so much as it is a book that you page through and enjoy. Each work of ink comes complete with the story behind the tattoo itself, and the story behind the story, a description of what each equation, formula, diagram means. So not only is it entertaining, it is informative - dare I say educational - as well....more
Somewhere between new-Earth creationism and flat out atheism lies the truth, that the Universe has a designer and that the design process is still, alSomewhere between new-Earth creationism and flat out atheism lies the truth, that the Universe has a designer and that the design process is still, always, underway. This may be hard for you to accept, depending where you fall on that spectrum, and it is no less so for the protagonist of "Calculating God". Not quite what I expected when I picked up the book, but probably better than what I expected.
Aside from the cosmological and theological discussions, the whole approach to first contact with aliens is fantastic. If you are at all interested in any of these things, this book will give you something to think about. ...more