A rewarding, expert biography of a giant of the golden age of physics.

THE LAST MAN WHO KNEW EVERYTHING

THE LIFE AND TIMES OF ENRICO FERMI, FATHER OF THE NUCLEAR AGE

A fine life of the scientist “who knew everything about physics, the study of matter, energy, time, and their relationship.”

Never a media darling like Einstein or Oppenheimer, Enrico Fermi (1901-1954) is now barely known to the public, but few scientists would deny that he was among the most brilliant physicists of his century. A lucid writer who has done his homework, Schwartz (NATO’s Nuclear Dilemma, 1983), whose father won a Nobel Prize in physics, delivers a thoroughly enjoyable, impressively researched account. The son of a middle-class Italian family, Fermi was a prodigy. As an adolescent, he absorbed textbooks in physics and mathematics and obtained perfect grades in those subjects in college. After graduation, he led a team that made Italy, formerly a backwater, a world-class center of physics. In the decade after 1925, Fermi described the weak interaction, one of the four fundamental forces of nature, and perfected neutron bombardment of the atomic nucleus, which produced artificial radioactivity and ultimately nuclear fission and the atomic bomb. After winning the Nobel Prize in physics in 1938, he left Mussolini’s Italy for the United States, where his research indicated that neutrons from uranium fission would lead to a chain reaction releasing enormous energy. Proving this required an actual chain reaction, which he accomplished in 1942 after building the first atomic reactor. He led a section of the Manhattan project, which produced the atomic bomb, and remained a dominant figure until his premature death at 53. Einstein only theorized; Ernest Lawrence only built machines and experimented; Fermi excelled at both besides being a superb teacher universally loved by students. Neither eccentric nor introspective, he kept no diary, so little is known of his inner life, but Schwartz has no qualms about speculating.

A rewarding, expert biography of a giant of the golden age of physics.

Pub Date: Dec. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-465-07292-7

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: Aug. 28, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2017

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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