HIDDEN ATTRACTION

THE MYSTERY AND HISTORY OF MAGNETISM

Using the story of magnetism as his framework, Verschuur (The Invisible Universe, 1986—not reviewed) discusses—from the vantage point of a committed propagandist for the scientific method—our historical journey from superstition to physics. Like a fusty old uncle who's nonetheless immensely learned and ultimately charming, Verschuur takes us by the hand and leads us from the almost alchemical experiments of the first true scientists, who explored the properties of lodestone, through the great pioneers of electricity (Faraday, Oerst, and Ampäre, whose Kantian belief in the unity of natural phenomena led to the fusion of electromagnetism) to a brief primer on supersymmetry and the Theory of Everything, as well as on his own work in detecting the magnetic fields of galaxies. Displaying both his prickly disdain for the superstitious and an enthusiastic, almost naive approach to his scientific heroes, Verschuur sprinkles his text with fascinating anecdotes and well-chosen illustrations. Thumbnail biographies of principal scientists cleverly demonstrate how their backgrounds influenced their work (for example, the Protestantism of Faraday insisted on direct experience of the Bible without a priestly interpreter; similarly, the scientist chose to dispense with earlier, eventually disproved, hypotheses about electricity and to begin with the direct experience of experimentation). Repetitive and often stylistically clichÇd (``to make a long story short''; ``the moral of the story is,'' etc.); still, an entertaining, informative history that doubles as a solid guide to the nature of magnetism and electricity. (Sixteen halftones, seven line drawings.)

Pub Date: April 1, 1993

ISBN: 0-19-506488-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1993

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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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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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