Showing posts with label Reviews. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Reviews. Show all posts

Feynman's What Do You Care What Other People Think?

richard feynman book autobiography what do you care what other people think review

Anyone who wants to gain valuable insights on learning, teaching and investigating should pick up Feynman's last major work What do you care what other people think? that was prepared as Richard Feynman struggled with a rare form of cancer from which he died in 1988.

The title of the book is taken from a question which Arline Greenbaum, the love of Feynman's life, often put to him when he was preoccupied with the opinions of his colleagues about his work. Just like entrepreneur Steve Jobs famously said: Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice.

Richard Feynman was a Nobel Prize winning American physicist whose life was a combination of his intellect, curiosity, humor and a willingness to jump into an adventure. What made Feynman the man that he was? What was the role of his parents in shaping his character? What of his love life?

All those personal details have been covered in the book, and more. There is a lengthy discussion as to how Feynman exposed NASA's poor organizational culture and decision-making processes that led to the Challenger disaster in 1986. Although technical in nature this part of the book is an interesting story in itself.

Feynman realized quickly that The Rogers Commission set up by the government was trying to protect NASA and not seek the real truth behind the fatal accident. During the investigation, Feynman's health worsens due to the cancer but he still manages to reveal the truth in a heroic fashion.

You should give it a read to know what caused the tragic disaster that cost 7 people their lives and a nation's people lose faith in their space program (for a while). Feynman's reveal forced NASA to set up the Office of Safety, Reliability and Quality Assurance to address safety concerns better.

challenger disaster richard feynman what do you care what other people think

Coming back to the less technical and more personal part of the book. Feynman talks about his childhood and relationship with his father. His dad Melville Feynman who never himself had the opportunity to make a career in science, encouraged both his son and daughter Joan (nine years younger than Richard) to take up science. She went on to become a distinguished astrophysicist herself.

This is the part that will inspire you the most. Feynman's dad taught him how to think (not what to think) and how to teach, something that you can take advantage of in your life. Feynman's mom Lucille gave him the unique sense of humor we love him for. One story goes like this: When Richard was named the smartest man in the world by Omni magazine, his mom quipped, 'If that is the world's smartest man God help us!'

Yet that is still not the best part of the book. The best part is when Richard starts talking about Arline. One of the greatest physicists of the 20th century could not control his tears upon reminiscing of the time he spent with the love of his life. He wrote in a letter to his deceased wife: 'You dead are so much better than anyone else alive'. Thus, it is not only a romantic tale but also of personal loss.

In summary, this is the book of learnings Feynman gained from his father, mother and lover. What self-help books cannot do this will as it feels more personal. Lastly, this is also a book on science. No matter the authority in question it is duty of a scientist to dig out the truth. What do you care what other people think? an attitude Feynman carries to his death and you should too in your adventures in life.

Why You Should Read Physics of The Impossible

michio kaku physics of the impossible science book review

Do you happen to be a Doctor Who or a Star Trek fan? Have you ever wondered how force field, time travel, teleportation or invisibility could become a reality without breaking the laws of physics? If yes, then this book by Michio Kaku is a must for you!

Physics of the impossible discusses technologies of tomorrow by introducing topics of fundamental physics to the reader, such as relativity, uncertainty principle and how LASER works, etc. This book will help one grasp how physics is applied to the advancement of human civilization.

The guiding philosophy of the book is: If, in principle, something is possible, then it can be achieved. Like going to the moon was possible but only an engineering problem. In similar way, futuristic tech may only be an engineering solution away.

One can divide technology into three different classes of impossibilities, meaning how unlikely they are going to be, given our current understanding of physics.

  • Class I impossibilities are "technologies that are impossible today, but that do not violate the known laws of physics."
  • Class II impossibilities are “technologies that sit at the very edge of our understanding of the physical world."
  • Class III impossibilities are “technologies that violate the known laws of physics but their development would mean a crucial shift in our understanding of physics!"

The author of the book is renowned American theoretical physicist Michio Kaku who is known for his contributions to the string field theory. Physics of the impossible is primarily aimed for aspiring physicists, that is, undergraduate and graduate students; but engineers will also enjoy it maximum.

Why did Kaku decide to write a whole 350-pages book predicting the technology of tomorrow? Because, he's am ardent science fiction fan and strongly believes that what is impossible today, might be commonplace tomorrow.

For example: William Thomson Kelvin, a mathematical physicist and creator of the Kelvin scale had declared that “heavier than air” flying machines would be impossible.

Ernest Rutherford, the physicist who discovered nucleus of an atom and won the Nobel Prize always thought the idea of atom bomb was impossible and compared it to moonshine (a crazy thought).

Such technologies were considered impossible because the basic laws of physics and science were not understood as well at the time as they'd subsequently be.

Michio Kaku has shown in the book, with numerous examples, how scientists and technicians around the world are trying to realize technology of tomorrow...today...in their own individual laboratories.

There is also something for history fans in the book. Historical development of telepathy and artificial intelligence has been described in a manner that makes you want to keep on reading on. It gives you a sense of fulfilment to have learned what all has been done.

And as you unravel the secret of alien technologies (which you might only have seen on TV shows and movies so far) you will be inspired to join forces with scientists and engineers to harness the true power of nature.

The book Physics of the impossible will surely renew your confidence in the endless possibilities of physics. The phrase, "one of a kind" is well suited for such a book because not only it entertains you but also teaches a multitude of things about how science works.

Why You Should Read The Order of Time

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The nature of time has always been a source of mystery for scientists and philosophers. There is no concise answer to the question, What is time? On one hand, time is a physical quantity that can be measured, say, by the movement of the Sun.

On the other hand, time may be described as the measure of entropy, what distinguishes the past from the future, as entropy tends to increase with time giving it a particular direction.

This 250-pages book by renowned Italian physicist Carlo Rovelli discusses the various aspects of time and is probably the most succinct book ever written on the nature of time.

That feeling of growing old, the distinction between the past and the future, is there a universal time, what may be the origin of time, is it possible to travel in time, or to exist outside of it, what would a world without time be like; questions of such nature have been answered in the book, The Order of Time.

Carlo Rovelli is the founder of loop quantum gravity, which competes with string theory as a candidate for the theory of everything. In his book, Rovelli has charmingly simplified his work in order to explain to us ordinary folks what time is.

Rovelli has derived inspiration from anecdotes in his own life that elicit a bonding with the author; and thus Irish Times wrote: Physics has found its poet in Carlo Rovelli. It almost feels like Carlo is narrating an epic poem that he composed out of complex, theoretical physics.

The language used throughout the book is layperson friendly, subject matter is complimented by witty illustrations; all of this put together weave a beautiful picture of time in the manner such that you cannot put the book down but keep on reading on.

By the end, you may even wish to greet Carlo Rovelli in person and probably give him a warm grateful hug, because this is not just an ordinary physics book, his writing is like storytelling; there are ups and downs throughout the book, and much like in life it will make you cry on some pages and smile on other.

According to Ian Thomson from Observer, "Not since Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time has there been so genial an integration of physics and philosophy." Which is exactly the point but the difference though is that, while A Brief History of Time was a general guide to the universe with only one chapter dedicated to time, this book on the contrary is the complete package.

Benedict Cumberbatch, who is famous for having played characters like Sherlock, Doctor Strange, Hawking and Khan Noonien Singh, has recorded the audio version of the book in his iconic baritone voice. He said, "Time is something we think we know about instinctively; Rovelli shows how profoundly strange it really is!"

carlo rovelli the order of time benedict cumberbatch physics book
Source: Penguin

Carlo Rovelli has filled the gap of wanting to learn about time with his ground-breaking book. There are a great number of popular science books in the market but The order of time really stands out as it's likely the only book to teach about time in this much detail and friendliness.

Rovelli argues, that time is like an onion with many layers. To understand time, we must patiently uncover each layer one by one, so each chapter is devoted to that. When all the layers are gradually understood, the concept of time will no longer be the mystery that it is. But regardless of whether or not you are into physics, this book should definitely be on your list.

Why You Should Read The Magic of Reality

Richard Dawkins The magic of reality book review best science book

All science is either physics or stamp collecting. Physics students tend to be ignorant of other sciences like geology, biology and chemistry. If there is one book that serves as a gentle reminder of this fact then The Magic of Reality by Richard Dawkins is it.

Richard Dawkins is a renowned English evolutionary biologist, former esteemed professor at Oxford University and a popular science writer whose books may come off as controversial to many. But his book The Magic of Reality is the perfect introduction to science, for everyone.

Richard has made science so simple and fun to read, through stories well told and analogies plucked from day to day life. Whether it be astronomy, biology, geology, physics or chemistry, all the major sciences have been covered in his book and with so much detail that it is commendable.

The opening chapter to The Magic of Reality is the most important section in the book as it explains the three kinds of magic we know of but often fail to distinguish between.

The first magic is that we do not yet understand, that we refer to as supernatural or mystery. The second magic is seen on stage or illusion in one word. The third kind is the magic of reality (straight from the title of the book) or what we know for sure is true – natural.

Throughout the book, Richard Dawkins has narrated popular myths from ancient history. Tales through which our ancestors, in their naivety, mistook the seemingly natural phenomena as mystical or supernatural.

Myths from Japan, India, the Middle East, from the Americas and from Africa that later turned out to be science of reality. Dawkins shows that what we didn't have explanation for, we put it up to the unknown, or God in some cases, which is not the way of science. Science is the pursuit of knowledge, not giving up out of ignorance.

For example, there is a creation story from Central Africa in which the great God Bumba felt a terrible pain in his stomach, due to which, he vomitted the sun, the moon and the stars. The ocean water dried up with the heat and so there was land. But still ailing, Bumba vomited once more, this time bringing forth some animals, the leopard, the eagle, the crocodile, the fish, the tortoise, and then some men.

After each made-up story, genuine facts are revealed comprehensively. Richard Dawkins and other biologists like him know that there was no first human. Even other animals did not just pop up out of the blue as in the story. Dawkins explains this extensively in beautiful fashion.

Dawkins has also shown in the book how life is interconnected through sciences, how is it evolved over many many stages, slowly but surely. Strong evidences are laid out for the readers, including but not limited to, how similar human DNA is to those of chimps, cats, cattle and mice.

Consider another popular myth, that the rainbow was a bridge between the heavens and the earth. The great gods would use the bridge of the colorful rainbow to descend and to ascend.

In words of Richard Feynman, American physicist and Nobel laureate: "God was always invented to explain mystery. God is always invented to explain those things that you do not yet understand."

Dawkins has eloquently described the reasons why rainbows form, why they are vibrant in color, how to find a rainbow at what angle and so on. In fact, there is an entire chapter dedicated to rainbow in the book.

Similar stories have been told about night and day, about changing of seasons and eclipses, etc. from a time when we did not still possess the tools necessary to comprehend nature in the scientific way. Through questions, guided by logic and reason, verified with experiment.

Towards the end of the book, Richard Dawkins has pinpointed that despite making numerous advances in science and technology, there's plenty of people who reject some myths selectively but on the other hand, accept other "more beloved" myths.

For example, people reject frogs turning into princes, they also reject the story of Bumba, and other such creation stories; but they accept those of a prophet who turned water into wine or that the universe was created by four-headed God upon a lotus.

No surprise that Dawkins ends the book this way as he is an outspoken atheist and advocate of rational thinking. Hence he has criticized the foundations of organized religion in the book towards the end and this time more gently.

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The whole point of the book is that truth is even more beautiful than popular fantasy. Next to the magic of reality, the other two magics, although to some extent entertaining to see or hear, become cheap by comparison.

Dawkins says: The magic of reality is, in one word, wonderful. Wonderful and real. Wonderful because real. Read The Magic of Reality if you wish to have a new perspective on the sciences and gain a thorough understanding of everyday natural phenomena.
The Magic of Reality was praised by the New Scientist calling the book a "triumph". Bill Gates said, "engaging book offering compelling answers to big questions, from how the universe formed to what causes earthquakes." The magic of reality makes vastness of science less daunting and accessible to everyone.

Why You Should Read A Brief History of Time

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For a man who was given just a few years to live in his twenties, not only did Stephen Hawking beat the odds but also revolutionized physics for next half a century. Let us see what makes his book A brief history of time special and why you should read it.

The cover quite nicely summarizes the book: This book marries a child's wonder to a genius's intellect. The introduction to A brief history of time is written by an equally famous scientist, American astronomer Carl Sagan, who declares Hawking a worthy successor to Newton and Dirac.

Hawking wrote the book for non-specialist readers who have no prior knowledge of physics or astronomy. He clearly possessed a natural teacher's gifts: easy good-natured humour and the ability to illustrate the complexities of physics with well thought out analogies.

As the book progresses, Hawking takes on the role of a narrator, unfolding the stories of man's struggle for knowledge and wisdom.

Hawking briefly touches upon the important contributions made by Copernicus, Kepler and Galileo that debunked the 2000-year-old accepted world views of Aristotelian science.

The consequences were not in their favour as Copernicus was mysteriously put to death for his daring questioning and Galileo imprisoned for life for his very stubborn resistance against the church.
The first scientific movement was crushed by the figures of authority but it paved a way for later scientists like Newton and Huygens. Hence, the famous saying attributed to Newton: If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.

Throughout the book, Hawking has discussed various integrations in physics as they happened: Newton's laws that explained celestial mechanics, Maxwell's equations unifying the phenomena of electricity and magnetism, Einstein's energy-mass equivalence, wave-particle duality and so on.

Hawking has touched upon his collaboration with mathematician Roger Penrose with whom he worked on deriving a set of results in general relativity which attempt to answer the question of when gravitation produces singularities. With this, Hawking earned his PhD in 1965.

Two chapters are devoted to black holes, Hawking's specialization. In 1970, a young physicist named Jacob Bekenstein made a proposal that the surface area of a black hole's event horizon might be the measure of its entropy.
But if an object has entropy, it must also have a temperature, and if it has temperature, then it must radiate energy. Since the whole point of black hole is that nothing gets out of it, not even light, the idea seemed absurd at first.

While initially Hawking set out to prove Bekenstein wrong, to his surprise, he found that Bekenstein was correct. In doing so, Hawking brought together relativity and quantum mechanics and discovered the formula of black hole radiation.

In the book, there is also a discussion on time in which Hawking argues that intelligent life could not exist in the contracting phase of the universe, that is, when time is running backwards. Only the expanding universe is suitable for the humans to exist, as it contains a strong thermodynamic arrow.

For example: in order to live and function properly, we must consume food – an ordered form of energy and convert it into heat – the disordered form of energy. That clearly points to a thermodynamic arrow of time moving forwards.
All in all, A Brief History of Time is a masterpiece that makes sense because it sold more than 10 million copies and got translated into 30 languages. It is the single best book on physics and astronomy covering a large number of topics on science and philosophy.

a brief history of time review book by stephen hawking

In his conclusion to the book, Hawking says: "If we find the answer to why we and the universe exist, it would be the ultimate triumph of human reason, for then we would know the mind of God."

The last line irked his academic colleagues and confused critics since Hawking was known for being an outspoken atheist. Hawking later explained in an interview that he had used the word God only as a metaphor.
This book infuses our questioning and thinking with a spiritual aspect: why there is something rather than nothing? Does the universe need a supernatural creator or is it governed by natural laws? Can time run backwards? How do we know what's true and what's not true?

In A brief history of time, Stephen Hawking tries to unveil answers to questions of such intriguing nature that add to the beauty and mystery of science. His book is not only a source of great learning but also a messenger of science to the wider public.
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