The Story of Physics

‘There are even university level equations’ said the Resident IT Consultant. I’m ashamed to say that I wouldn’t recognise one of those if it came up and bit me, so will take his word for this. It could also be an indication he was moderately impressed by The Story of Physics, written by Anne Rooney.

As I was saying only yesterday, we have been living in the land of physics this last week. It’s exams time, and all that. (Not suggesting this book would stretch quite that far, but…) Anyway, TSoP is full of all those terms I was so unfamiliar with only a short time ago.

Like mechanics, which is not necessarily something that happens to your car. It even becomes maths at times. Thermodynamics. Relativity. All excellent stuff. And for the innocent bystander, this book can take them a lot closer to the real deal. According to Anne TSoP is primarily meant for adults, ‘for filling in those embarrassing gaps in knowledge and stumbling across fascinating nuggets.’ Fun reading, in other words. But she reckons teenagers will like the book, and that it can fill gaps left by GCSEs and even A-levels.

So, what I should really do, is keep it somewhere close, so that every now and then I can reach out and read a suitably sized chunk, slowly learning all sorts of things. Because while reading it all in one go like a novel is possible, it’s not to be recommended if you actually want to take facts in.

It started with the old Greeks. Maybe even earlier. I’m always amazed by what they knew so long ago. In fact, mechanics is what keeps buildings from falling to pieces. The stones keep each other in place. (So not mortar, then?)

TSoP has lots of pictures and interesting bits about all these learned men and women. There was the woman who gambled, using maths to help her win, and using her wins to fund her science. Sad stuff like being frozen to death by a Swedish Queen, or having French revolutionaries chop off your head. Marrying some cleverclogs, who can’t even go on honeymoon without doing science.

So many discoveries took a lot of hard work. Some came about by accident when they weren’t even looking.

The thing is, I recognise many of these people. So I must have come across them before. Then there are all those who have given their names to things we all know about; like Hertz and Ohm. A tremendous number of Nobel prize winners. And 4xGreat Uncle Faraday. (Not mine, I hasten to add.) He is all electric.

I’m doing my best to believe that Eddington was not actually David Tennant, but it’s hard. There is a picture of yesterday’s birthday child, Stephen Hawking, floating in zero gravity. I had no idea the atom bomb was first thought up by H G Wells in a novel. And did you know Terry Pratchett didn’t make up those elephants on top of the turtle?

You know how you often feel that if only someone would write a book that explains a certain something intelligently and concisely, then you’d buy it? Well, this is it, if your certain something happens to be physics. I will definitely try to become more knowledgeable with its help, although it would have been easier twenty years ago when my grey cells were more agile.

Who’d have thought I could become all enthusiastic about a book on physics?

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3 responses to “The Story of Physics

  1. Pingback: Higgs Force | Bookwitch

  2. Pingback: Higgs Force « Simply Maths

  3. Pingback: Bookwitch bites #114 | Bookwitch

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