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

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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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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