THE UNEXPECTED VlSTA by James S. Trefil

THE UNEXPECTED VlSTA

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

There is still a need and a place, Trefil pleasantly reminds us, for popular physics writing that isn't all Uncertainty Principle and subatomic zoo. The Univ. of Virginia physicist, who can hold his own in such realms (From Quarks to Atoms), here shows his competence at explaining the more mundane aspects of matter: What is temperature and how do you measure it? Why isn't copper magnetic? Even, why is the sky blue? In a series of question-asking chapters, Trefil moves from the ordinary--past observations, early instrument-makers, old or flawed theories--to a contemporary and often larger frame of reference. A discussion of magnetism, for example, proceeds from natural magnets and electromagnetism to the fact that reversals in the earth's magnetic field, frozen into the magma that upwelled from mid-ocean ridges, now provide major evidence for seafloor spreading and continental drift. That chapter also concludes with the current search for the magnetic ""moonpole"" that would complete the symmetry between electricity and magnetism. Trefil deals early on with mechanics and thermodynamics. He discusses special and general relativity and introduces the dual nature of electrons as waves and particles. As the book moves to its close, Trefil again takes the ordinary--how a refrigerator works, why light bulbs provide heat and light--as foils for discussions of the fate-of-the-universe and superconductivity. Vistas neatly wrought, then, and for a wide audience.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1983
Publisher: Scribners