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Top 10 Physics-related Books in 2009

December 26, 2009

Reviews editor at, Margaret Harris gives a list of her top 10 physics-related books for 2009. Some of them are intriguing to me.

10. The Physics of Rugby by Trevor Davis (Nottingham University Press).

Hmm.. if the book is about bicycle I might check it out.

Another interesting thing is how this book is received in different Amazon sites: three stars in US vs five stars in UK.

A similar book, also mentioned by the reviewer in Amazon US, is The Physics of Baseball by Robert K. Adair. The professor who taught me General Physics mentioned this book to us many years ago.

9. First Principles: The Crazy Business of Doing Serious Science by Howard Burton (Key Porter Books).

The book is about the process of scientific management.

“First Principles” means the most basic and fundamental propositions or assumptions that cannot be deduced from others. In physics, a first-principle (or ab initio) calculation starts directly at the established physics laws and doesn’t make assumptions such as model and fitting parameters.

8. Oliver Heaviside: Maverick Mastermind of Electricity by Basil Mahon (Institute of Engineering and Technology)

A bibliography about Oliver Heaviside. We all benefit from his vector formulation of Maxwell’s equations, in replace of Maxwell’s ponderous 20-variable ones. But except this, I know nothing about him.

7. Atomic: The First War of Physics and the Secret History of the Atom Bomb by Jim Baggott (Icon Books)

Receive pretty well in Amazon UK.

6. Lives in Science: How Institutions Affect Academic Careers by by Joseph C Hermanowicz (University of Chicago Press)

Not yet in Amazon UK.

Whoever wants a career as an academic physicist might  want to read this book. The conclusion is “academic physicists are a dissatisfied bunch, and the more elite their university, the more likely they are to be unhappy at the end of their careers.”

Tell me about it. 😐

5. 13 Things That Don’t Make Sense by Michael Brooks (Profile Books).

Lots of things just don’t make sense to me … but maybe we should define what sense we refer to.

4. Deciphering the Cosmic Number: The Strange Friendship of Wolfgang Pauli and Carl Jung by Arthur I Miller (W W Norton)

Carl Jung was “a Swiss psychiatrist, an influential thinker and the founder of analytical psychology (also known as Jungian psychology)” (from Wiki)

3. Perfect Rigor: A Genius and the Mathematical Breakthrough of the Century by Masha Gessen (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

“In 2006, an eccentric Russian mathematician named Grigori Perelman solved one of the world’s greatest intellectual puzzles. The Poincare conjecture is an extremely complex topological problem that had eluded the best minds for over a century. In 1998, the Clay Institute in Boston named it one of seven great unsolved mathematical problems, and promised a million dollars to anyone who could find a solution. Perelman will likely be awarded the prize this fall, and he will likely decline it. Fascinated by his story, journalist Masha Gessen was determined to find out why.”

This is interesting to me but I don’t know how truely we can get to know Perelman.

2. Plastic Fantastic: How the Biggest Fraud in Physics Shook the Scientific World by Eugenie Samuel Reich (Palgrave Macmillan).

When this fraud came out in 2002, I was very surprised that this could happen. So many brilliant scientists and top scientific journal editors were fooled by this young, to-be-superstar, physicist Jan Hendrik Schon. I had been wonder whether there’s a book about this. Definitely want to read this.

1. The Strangest Man: The Hidden Life of Paul Dirac, Quantum Genius by Graham Farmelo (Faber and Faber).

Mentioned this before. I already got this book but haven’t had time to read it yet.

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