This is an outstanding collection of various key documents in the history of our understanding of global warming. It provides both an informative viewThis is an outstanding collection of various key documents in the history of our understanding of global warming. It provides both an informative view into the history of the science behind global warming and a broad collection of responses to this reality, which makes this book both extremely gripping and very useful as a reference....more
The Diamond Theory of primary historical forces is a very compelling way to understand the way in which some cultures arrive at the ability to dominatThe Diamond Theory of primary historical forces is a very compelling way to understand the way in which some cultures arrive at the ability to dominate others. These forces can be summarized as follows:
1. Access to domesticable plants and (large) animals
2. Ease of intercourse with other cultures
3. Sufficient cultural diversity to allow for natural selection of dominant cultural traits
While developing this theory, Diamond includes a rich and fascinating analysis of these points and also provides a very useful summary of the broad topography of human history for the entire world. I particularly liked his analysis of how plants and animals came to be domesticated, in a sort of co-evolution with humans, and also why some plants and animals select more naturally for domestication than others.
Diamond's presentation does get repetitive at points, but this repetition serves to reinforce the reader's understanding of the core of the theory proposed. Diamond's presentation of his theory also lacks any moral analysis until the very end of the book, but it is easy to skim that off like so much cloying icing, leaving a very objective core analysis that the reader can combine with her own moral understanding for a richer synthesis....more
Part popular review of science, part history, and part biography, "Quantum" provides an intimate look into how quantum physics was developed, startingPart popular review of science, part history, and part biography, "Quantum" provides an intimate look into how quantum physics was developed, starting in the late 19th century, by following the physicists who investigated the mysteries that first led to quantum theory and which that theory then presented as it matured. Along the way, this book works to help us understand the broad strokes of that theory and invites us to ponder the beautifully strange results of over a century of research.
Manjit Kumar, the author, succeeds in arousing a desire to understand the meaning behind the theories of quantum physics, although I am predisposed to an interest in science. Instead of a comprehensive textbook, we discover physics in "Quantum" by tracing its initial discovery historically. Kumar presents a fair summary of many of the key developments of quantum physics, and watching the progression of these developments helps us get caught up in the flow and the thrill of their discovery, which in turn helps us to understand them as they are revealed.
Perhaps some of the weaknesses of Kumar's text will also reveal this strength. While Kumar provides interesting and compelling descriptions of a number of the thought experiments that these scientists used as reasoning devices, such as Einstein's box of light and Schrödinger's famous cat, as well as several of the often mysterious theories of quantum physics, such as the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, the conceptual origin of these theories is very murky. Kumar tells us who, when, and often where, but only hints at how these scientists derived their key ideas.
This may be asking too much of a book of this scope, but nonetheless a gaping mystery surrounds the creative process that actually led to many of these theories. It certainly would require far more mathematics than Kumar includes, and we simply may not know how a particular scientist connected the dots in many cases, but it might have made for a compelling appendix to allow the reader to try to dive deeply into one of these theories. (Even without such an appendix, this book is scientifically useful for the rich list of references that it includes, allowing for further study.) In addition to those theories that he does explain, Kumar tosses out several important theories without any motivation at all, including Einstein's famous equation linking energy and matter: E=mc². In the end, though, it may weigh for the book that after working through it, the reader hungers to understand the nature of reality even more deeply.
This book is about the process of science and the lives of scientists at least as much as it is about the particulars of quantum physics. It is impressive to see how these researchers worked in spite of the onslaught of two world wars, and deeply sad to note how they were still affected by those wars. Although Kumar is strictly formulaic in his summary of the lives of the scientists who feature prominently in this history, this book still successfully humanizes these scientists, whom we so often look at with a certain independent awe. We see how they competed fiercely with each other, struggled with understanding outstanding problems, doubted their own abilities, and successfully built on ideas from other scientists. To their deaths, Albert Einstein and Niels Bohr disagreed about the fundamental interpretation of quantum physics, and scientists (and civilians) still struggle with this question.
What does it mean that the functioning of the universe seems to hinge on observation at a core physical level? Whatever the answer, life goes on, or at least until it doesn't....more
Herein lie some lovely artwork and several beguiling tales, but nothing with too much meat on it. The tales provide some useful background for a numbeHerein lie some lovely artwork and several beguiling tales, but nothing with too much meat on it. The tales provide some useful background for a number of the fables in Fables, but, contrary to Willingham's insistence in the introduction, they are not deeply interesting apart from the larger corpus of Fables. Although the panels are splashed with bright color, the stories they illustrate continue in the same vein: dark and sad....more