An earnest examination that walks the tightrope between the scientific community and casual readers.

Entropy - God's Dice Game

A remarkably complex yet fascinating scientific exploration that illuminates a particularly thorny area of physics for laypersons and professionals alike.

What is entropy? It’s a measure of uncertainty, but how is it defined in nature? How does it relate to other things like corporate communications and social networking? These are all questions that some of the most brilliant minds of the 19th and 20th centuries have pondered. Whether or not readers who don’t wear lab coats will comprehend this latest foray into the inner workings of the physical world depends largely on a reader’s determination and ability to wade through hieroglyphic formulas that extend far beyond freshman physics. This isn’t StarTalk Live or even Cosmos, but rather an ambitious textbook that seeks to appeal to learned scientists without leaving the rest of us numskulls behind. Gently paced discussions about “symmetrical” and “asymmetrical” networks having profound implications for achievable concepts in air travel and online communication perhaps come closest to hitting the mark. Generous bios of entropy’s greatest thinkers, meanwhile, add a much-needed human element to the proceedings. Nevertheless, even overviews of such giants in the field as James Clerk Maxwell and Claud Elwood Shannon come dangerously close to becoming dry resumes rather than engaging biographies. Take, for instance, this crisply written revelation: “Today, Shannon’s insight is part of the design of virtually all storage systems that digitally process and transfer information from flash memories on through computer and telephone communication, to space vehicles.” Although a few of these intriguing biographical bits might appeal to a wider audience, readers searching for a deeper exploration of “black body radiation” and the Second Law of Thermodynamics might consider Ludwig Boltzmann’s personal struggles an intrusion.

An earnest examination that walks the tightrope between the scientific community and casual readers. 

Pub Date: July 10, 2013

ISBN: 978-1482687699

Page Count: 278

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Sept. 18, 2013

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THE GREAT BRIDGE

THE EPIC STORY OF THE BUILDING OF THE BROOKLYN BRIDGE

It took 14 years to build and it cost 15 million dollars and the lives of 20 workmen. Like the Atlantic cable and the Suez Canal it was a gigantic embodiment in steel and concrete of the Age of Enterprise. McCullough's outsized biography of the bridge attempts to capture in one majestic sweep the full glory of the achievement but the story sags mightily in the middle. True, the Roeblings, father and son who served successively as Chief Engineer, are cast in a heroic mold. True, too, the vital statistics of the bridge are formidable. But despite diligent efforts by the author the details of the construction work — from sinking the caissons, to underground blasting, stringing of cables and pouring of cement — will crush the determination of all but the most indomitable reader. To make matters worse, McCullough dutifully struggles through the administrative history of the Brooklyn Bridge Company which financed and contracted for the project with the help of the Tweed Machine and various Brooklyn bosses who profited handsomely amid continuous allegations of kickbacks and mismanagement of funds. He succeeds in evoking the venality and crass materialism of the epoch but once again the details — like the 3,515 miles of steel wire in each cable — are tiresome and ultimately entangling. Workmanlike and thorough though it is, McCullough's history of the bridge has more bulk than stature.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1972

ISBN: 0743217373

Page Count: 652

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 12, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1972

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An intriguing meditation on the nature of the universe and our attempts to understand it that should appeal to both...

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SEVEN BRIEF LESSONS ON PHYSICS

Italian theoretical physicist Rovelli (General Relativity: The Most Beautiful of Theories, 2015, etc.) shares his thoughts on the broader scientific and philosophical implications of the great revolution that has taken place over the past century.

These seven lessons, which first appeared as articles in the Sunday supplement of the Italian newspaper Sole 24 Ore, are addressed to readers with little knowledge of physics. In less than 100 pages, the author, who teaches physics in both France and the United States, cogently covers the great accomplishments of the past and the open questions still baffling physicists today. In the first lesson, he focuses on Einstein's theory of general relativity. He describes Einstein's recognition that gravity "is not diffused through space [but] is that space itself" as "a stroke of pure genius." In the second lesson, Rovelli deals with the puzzling features of quantum physics that challenge our picture of reality. In the remaining sections, the author introduces the constant fluctuations of atoms, the granular nature of space, and more. "It is hardly surprising that there are more things in heaven and earth, dear reader, than have been dreamed of in our philosophy—or in our physics,” he writes. Rovelli also discusses the issues raised in loop quantum gravity, a theory that he co-developed. These issues lead to his extraordinary claim that the passage of time is not fundamental but rather derived from the granular nature of space. The author suggests that there have been two separate pathways throughout human history: mythology and the accumulation of knowledge through observation. He believes that scientists today share the same curiosity about nature exhibited by early man.

An intriguing meditation on the nature of the universe and our attempts to understand it that should appeal to both scientists and general readers.

Pub Date: March 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-399-18441-3

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2015

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