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review 2018-07-09 07:14
Lost in Math by Sabine Hossenfelder
Lost in Math: How Beauty Leads Physics Astray - Sabine Hossenfelder

TITLE:  Lost in Math:  How Beauty Leads Physics Astray

 

AUTHOR:  Sabine Hossenfelder

 

PUBLICATION DATE:  12 June 2018

 

FORMAT:  ARC ebook

 

ISBN-13:  9780465094257

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NOTE: I received an Advanced Readers Copy of this book from NetGalley. This review is my honest opinion of the book.

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Book Description:

"Most physicists think of beauty as the royal road to discovery; a leading critic shows it is instead the road to nowhere.
Whether pondering black holes or predicting discoveries at CERN, physicists believe the best theories are beautiful, natural, and elegant, and this standard separates popular theories from disposable ones. This is why, Sabine Hossenfelder argues, we have not seen a major breakthrough in the foundations of physics for more than four decades. The belief in beauty has become so dogmatic that it now conflicts with scientific objectivity: observation has been unable to confirm mindboggling theories, like supersymmetry or grand unification, invented by physicists based on aesthetic criteria. Worse, these "too good to not be true" theories are actually untestable and they have left the field in a cul-de-sac. To escape, physicists must rethink their methods. Only by embracing reality as it is can science discover the truth.
"

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Lost in Math is the story of how aesthetic judgement drives contemporary research; how theoretical physicists produce ideas that are "highly controversial and yet exceedingly popular, speculative yet intriguing, pretty yet useless"; and how these theories are untestable but the physicist believes them to be too good not to be true.  

In the past, scientists observed the world around them and performed experiments.  Then they developed theories to explain these observations.  These theories would then be tested against addition observations and experiments.  These days, theoretical physicists (especially in particle physics) concoct theories that are only supported by beautiful mathematics, and which can never be confirmed by experiments or which are unlikely (due to cost and difficulty) to be examined experminentally.

In an effort to find out what went wrong with theoretical physics, Hossenfelder interviews several physicists and takes a look at the current popular physics theories.  The author makes a convincing case that this reliance on the beauty/maths-only criteria to determine which theories to study and promote has resulted in a lack of progress in certain physics fields.  In the author's own words, "in the end the only way to find out which theory is correct is to check whether it describes nature; non-empirical theory assessment will not do it".  

The writing style of this book is conversational and accessible (for the most part - just pretend the physics is Star Trek physics), and the topic covered is important not only for physicists.  I did find the physics explanations somewhat baffling but then most of the physicists interviewed state that no-one understands quantum physic.  However, this book is a book about how physicists work, not about the physics itself, so it didn't matter much.  I found this book to be interesting and informative.

 

 

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review 2018-04-07 18:26
Furry Logic by Matin Durrani & Liz Kalaugher
Furry Logic: The Physics of Animal Life - Matin Durrani,Liz Kalaugher

TITLE:  Furry Logic: The Physics of Animal Life

 

AUTHOR:  Matin Durrani & Liz Kalaugher

 

DATE PUBLISHED:  2017

 

FORMAT:  Paperback

 

ISBN-13:  978-1-4729-1411-8

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Furry Logic is an interesting book that takes a look at the physics concepts used by a  large variety of animal life for survival.  The writing style is informal, chatty and whitty. Some of the puns and jokes were just awful, but most led to snickers or laughs, so I can't complain about them too much.  While the authors do not go into a great deal of depth with their scientific explanations, the explanations are comprehensive enough to understand the concept.  This is a fun, fast paced, fascinating and informative book, especially for the non-physicist and non-biologist.  This book is divided into 6 chapters that show how animals make use of physics in terms of heat, forces, fluids, sound, electricity, magnetis and light.  

 

The book covers such topics as flight, how cats drink, heat detection in snakes, the Komodo Dragon's bite, the electric field of flowers and how they attract bees, the sounds of peacocks and how elephants detect sound through the ground, how some animals use polarized light or magnetic fields to determine direction, how electric eels produce their electricity, how pondskaters skate on water, how geckos walk on ceilings, how the Harlequin Mantis Shrimp punches through crap shells (and aquarium tanks), how well mosquitos fly in the rain, why dogs shake themselves dry, why giant squid have such large eyes, and many more. 

 

The book includes a section of colour photographs and has a few illustrations to explain concepts spread throughout the book.  Unfortunately, the book did not contain a list of references or a bibliography, which is a bit strange for a science book!

 

 

Furry Logic Website

 

Internet Review and Excerpts

 

 

OTHER BOOKS

 

-Storm in a Teacup: The Physics of Everyday Life by Helen Czerski

-Restless Creatures: The Story of Life in Ten Movements by Matt Wilkinson

-The Gecko’s Foot: How Scientists are Taking a Leaf from Nature's Book by Peter Forbes

-What a Fish Knows: The Inner Lives of Our Underwater Cousins by Jonathan Balcombe

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review 2018-03-26 10:23
GRAPHENE by Les Johnson & Joseph E. Meany
Graphene: The Superstrong, Superthin, and Superversatile Material That Will Revolutionize the World - Les Johnson,Joseph E. Meany

TITLE:  Graphene: The Superstrong, Superthin, and Superversatile Material That Will Revolutionize the World

 

AUTHOR:  Les Johnson  & Joseph E. Meany 

 

DATE PUBLISHED:  2018

 

FORMAT:  Paperback

 

ISBN-13:  9781633883253

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Graphene by Johnson and Meany provides an extensive, and interesting, overview of a potential new material that could revolutionise daily life. This substance is graphene: a flat, two-dimensional, carbon-based molecule with a single sheet measuring only one atom thick.

This book is divided into sections that cover the history of graphene discovery/ development; its unique physical and electrical properties; the problems in large-scale manufacture of the substance for commerical use; its variety of potential uses that would transform everyday life; and the unknown potential health risks of graphene. The potential uses of graphene include enhancing and increasing the efficiency of solar panels, batteries, electrical conduction, computers, medical equipment and other electronic items; additions to paint and concrete to provide additional strength and waterproofing; its uses in "smart" clothing etc.

This book is particularly dense in science, with a bit of history, economics and humour thrown in. The science however is nothing more complicated than what one would come across in a highschool science class i.e. electrons and atoms are mentioned. The book is written in an accessible style that was a joy to read.

 

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review 2018-01-15 06:55
The Science of Everyday Life by Len Fisher
The Science of Everyday Life: An Entertaining and Enlightening Examination of Everything We Do and Everything We See - Len Fisher

In this book, Len Fisher discusses the science of "everyday life", covering such topics as:  dunking cookies in coffee; boiling eggs; the physics of tools; adding up supermarket bulls; the physics of boomerang throwing; ball catching in baseball; foam; taste and aroma; and the physics of sex.  The book includes a few equations

While the book is enlightening it is not particularly entertaining.  I found the text in general to be somewhat long winded and the author discussions about his own experiments to be tedious.  I was also not particularly interested in most of the topics covered in this book.  Storm in a Teacup by Helen Czerski, is in my opinion, a more entertaining and interesting books that covers many more topics than this book.

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review 2018-01-10 06:21
Storm in a Teacup by Helen Czerski
Storm in a Teacup: The Physics of Everyday Life - Helen Czerski

TITLE:  Storm in a Teacup:  The Physics of Everyday Life

 

AUTHOR:  Helen Czerski

 

DATE PUBLISHED:  2016

 

FORMAT:  Paperback

 

ISBN-13:  978-1-784-16075-3

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In the author's own words: 

"this book is about linking the little things we see every day with the big world we live in.  It's a romp through the physical world, showing how playing with things like popcorn, coffee stains and refrigerator magnets can shed light on Scott's expeditions, medical tests and solving out future energy needs."

 

This book is definitely a "romp" through the physical world, managing to be entertaining, energetic, accessible and educational at the same time, without bogging the reader down with too much formal detail, lengthy explanations or equations.  

 

Czerski begins each chapter with something small and familiar that we will have seen many times but may never have thought about, and uses it to explain the relevant fascinating physics phenomenon.  By the end of each chapter, the reader will see the same patterns explaining some of the most important science and technology of our time. This book provides a good deal of basic general knowledge and shows how physics laws we observe on Earth are applicable universally.  

 

Czerski has a chatty, informal style of writing interspersed with personal anecdotes she usually uses to make a relevant point (which I didn't find as annoying as the ubiquitous author interviews and fashion commentary found in other books).  Each chapter covers a theme or physics law (e.g. waves, electromagnetism, surface tension, gravity) and then discusses several useful, common or interesting real-world applications in bite-sized chunks to demonstrate the concept - everything from popcorn, fluorescent scorpions, floating eggs, toast, sloshing tea, bubbles, mail rockets, elephant trunks, steam locomotives, candles, ocean and air currents to Sputnik, the Hubble Telescope, and wi-fi etc.  I found her inclusion of experiments that anyone can do at home (e.g. all the egg experiments, the raisins in the fizzy bottle, pH indicator cabbage and the toast experiment) to be a nice addition to a general physics popular science book.

 

Czerski has an infectious passion for physics.  While her explanations aren't terribly detailed; they are accessible, entertaining, understandable, not overly simplified, and extremely fascinating.  The examples she chooses are also different - I doubt readers will look at their toasters, tea or eggs in quite the same way again! 

I found Storm in a Teacup made for an enjoyable reading experience, providing information that was new to me about how and why ordinary "stuff", and ultimately, the world works. 

 

Other books:

 

-Science and the City by Laurie Winkless

-Atoms Under the Floorboards by Christ Woodford

-Zoom by Bob Berman

-The Quantum Age by Brian Clegg

-Structures or Why Things Don't Fall Down by J.E. Gordon

-Rhythms of Life by Russell Foster & Leon Kreitzman

 

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