A vivid retelling of events that still shape our lives today.

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THE POPE OF PHYSICS

ENRICO FERMI AND THE BIRTH OF THE ATOMIC AGE

The first English-language biography of Nobel Prize–winning physicist Enrico Fermi (1901-1954), a highly respected figure in both of the author's families.

As Segrè (Physics and Astronomy/Univ. of Pennsylvania; Ordinary Geniuses: Max Delbruck, George Gamow, and the Origins of Genomics and Big Bang Cosmology, 2011, etc.) and Hoerlin (Steps of Courage: My Parents' Journey from Nazi Germany to America, 2011) note, the title “Pope of Physics” was jokingly bestowed on Fermi at the start of his career by his colleagues because he was able to use “the simplest of means [to] estimate the magnitude of any physical phenomena.” Segrè’s uncle, Emilio, was Fermi's first physics student in Rome, and the families maintained their friendship in the United States after they were forced to flee Mussolini’s increasingly anti-Semitic regime (the Segrè family and Fermi’s wife, Laura, were Jewish). The authors use this biography of Fermi's life—beginning with his university days, when he immersed himself in the new field of quantum physics, and culminating in his own groundbreaking accomplishments—to engagingly chronicle the major developments in nuclear physics that were the focus of his life's work. Fermi played a key role in a revolution in physics that set the stage for the development of semiconductors, transistors, computers, MRIs, and more. In 1925, he extended the exclusion principle formulated by Wolfgang Pauli—that no two electrons in an atom could have identical quantum numbers—to the broader field of statistical mechanics. His most significant discoveries, made in the 1940s after his move to America, involved the possibility of using slow neutrons to induce fission reactions and create a chain reaction. Fermi's scientific work arguably played a key role in the rapid conclusion of World War II and the shaping of the subsequent Cold War. While he advocated for further efforts at international control of nuclear weapons, he did not join the anti-nuclear movement.

A vivid retelling of events that still shape our lives today.

Pub Date: Oct. 18, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-62779-005-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Aug. 3, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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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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