TAMING THE ATOM

THE EMERGENCE OF THE VISIBLE MICROWORLD

Take seriously that subtitle—for what this fascinating book is all about are devices and procedures that allow the imaging of even a single atom suspended in a tiny doughnut-shaped trap. Von Baeyer (Physics/College of William and Mary), who charmed lay and professional readers alike with his Rainbows, Snowflakes and Quarks (1984), takes his main title from the fox in Saint ExupÇry's The Little Prince, who described ``taming: as establishing bonds—a process that happens slowly and with patience.'' So it has been, von Baeyer contends, with the history of atomic theory from Democritus to Einstein down to the latter-day stars of quantum mechanics. He reminds us that no less a giant of physics than Ernst Mach stoutly denied the existence of atoms at the end of the 19th century. Now, while there are no doubters, there remain the paradoxes of quantum mechanics—such as wave- particle duality: In the ``Copenhagen'' interpretation, an electron is potentially either a wave or a particle and the act of measurement determines which. Einstein rejected that notion, arguing instead that there is an objective reality beyond acts of measurement. Von Baeyer sorts out the history and experiments behind the paradoxes to bring us up to date with new theories to resolve them—including the use of ingenious devices such as a ``quantum eraser'' sensitive to a photon extracted from a single atom. Other clever atom-taming devices in the author's marvelous catalog include an apparatus that can prevent the spontaneous emission of an atom; ``tuned'' lasers that can detect impurities in a sample down to a single atom; and the ``magic wrist''—a machine that ``feels'' the ``surface roughness of the atomic landscape.'' And all this told in that combination of depth of knowledge and eyewitness narrative that marks the best science writing. (Eight pages of color illustrations—not seen.)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-679-40039-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1992

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Analyzing his craft, a careful craftsman urges with Thoreauvian conviction that writers should simplify, simplify, simplify.

SEVERAL SHORT SENTENCES ABOUT WRITING

New York Times columnist and editorial board member delivers a slim book for aspiring writers, offering saws and sense, wisdom and waggery, biases and biting sarcasm.

Klinkenborg (Timothy; or, Notes of an Abject Reptile, 2006), who’s taught for decades, endeavors to keep things simple in his prose, and he urges other writers to do the same. (Note: He despises abuses of the word as, as he continually reminds readers.) In the early sections, the author ignores traditional paragraphing so that the text resembles a long free-verse poem. He urges readers to use short, clear sentences and to make sure each one is healthy before moving on; notes that it’s acceptable to start sentences with and and but; sees benefits in diagramming sentences; stresses that all writing is revision; periodically blasts the formulaic writing that many (most?) students learn in school; argues that knowing where you’re headed before you begin might be good for a vacation, but not for a piece of writing; and believes that writers must trust readers more, and trust themselves. Most of Klinkenborg’s advice is neither radical nor especially profound (“Turn to the poets. / Learn from them”), and the text suffers from a corrosive fallacy: that if his strategies work for him they will work for all. The final fifth of the text includes some passages from writers he admires (McPhee, Oates, Cheever) and some of his students’ awkward sentences, which he treats analytically but sometimes with a surprising sarcasm that veers near meanness. He includes examples of students’ dangling modifiers, malapropisms, errors of pronoun agreement, wordiness and other mistakes.

Analyzing his craft, a careful craftsman urges with Thoreauvian conviction that writers should simplify, simplify, simplify.

Pub Date: Aug. 7, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-307-26634-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2012

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MOMOFUKU MILK BAR

With this detailed, versatile cookbook, readers can finally make Momofuku Milk Bar’s inventive, decadent desserts at home, or see what they’ve been missing.

In this successor to the Momofuku cookbook, Momofuku Milk Bar’s pastry chef hands over the keys to the restaurant group’s snack-food–based treats, which have had people lining up outside the door of the Manhattan bakery since it opened. The James Beard Award–nominated Tosi spares no detail, providing origin stories for her popular cookies, pies and ice-cream flavors. The recipes are meticulously outlined, with added tips on how to experiment with their format. After “understanding how we laid out this cookbook…you will be one of us,” writes the author. Still, it’s a bit more sophisticated than the typical Betty Crocker fare. In addition to a healthy stock of pretzels, cornflakes and, of course, milk powder, some recipes require readers to have feuilletine and citric acid handy, to perfect the art of quenelling. Acolytes should invest in a scale, thanks to Tosi’s preference of grams (“freedom measurements,” as the friendlier cups and spoons are called, are provided, but heavily frowned upon)—though it’s hard to be too pretentious when one of your main ingredients is Fruity Pebbles. A refreshing, youthful cookbook that will have readers happily indulging in a rising pastry-chef star’s widely appealing treats.    

 

Pub Date: Oct. 25, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-307-72049-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Clarkson Potter

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2011

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