SYMPATHETIC VIBRATIONS: Reflections on Physics as a Way of Life by K. C. Cole
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SYMPATHETIC VIBRATIONS: Reflections on Physics as a Way of Life

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It seems that each generation must learn anew how subtle are the distinctions between art and science; both are creative activities, concerned with beauty, truth, elegance, and simplicity. Science writer and Discover columnist Cole is an enthusiastic expositor of these themes. She has been closely associated with The Exploratorium, a San Francisco science museum whose director is Frank Oppenheimer, J. Robert's younger physicist-brother. Among other distinctions, the museum uses contemporary art and sculpture to illustrate such principles as reflection, symmetry, and complementarity, as well as to appeal to the visitor aesthetically. Cole builds on these bridges between art and science in this collection of pieces, also quoting extensively from interviews or writings of masters past and present: Richard Feynman (who scores the current quark jargon); Oppenheimer, Victor Weisskopf, Bohr, SchrÖdinger, Heisenberg (who when asked once to describe space said it was blue and birds flew in it). Sometimes Cole's enthusiasm gets a bit gushy and breathless; sometimes she becomes a bit teacherly, falling into the kind of how-science-is-done exposition that Horace Freeland Judson adopted in his didactic The Search for Solutions (e.g., in explaining how physicists use and discard models). Overall, the book's purpose seems to be to explain to the naive reader how physics relates to the physical world, and how physicists are the same complex blend of brilliance and contradiction as other creative individuals: an old story to sophisticated readers but a message that bears repeating.

Pub Date: Oct. 30th, 1984
Publisher: Morrow