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From Archimedes to Hawking: Laws of Science and the Great Minds Behind Them Hardcover – 24 Apr 2008


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 528 pages
  • Publisher: OUP USA (24 April 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195336119
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195336115
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 3.8 x 15.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 822,897 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Review

Listed in Mathematical Reviews"Pickover inspires a new generation of da Vincis to build unknown flying machines and create new Mona Lisas." -- Christian Science Monitor"The ploymathic Clifford Pickover discusses 'landmark laws of nature that were discovered over several centuries and whose ramifications have profoundly altered our everyday lives and understanding.'" -- Kendrick Frazier, Skeptical Inquirer"A perpetual idea machine, Clifford Pickover is one of the most creative, original thinkers in the world today." -- Journal of Recreational Mathematics"The incomparable Clifford Pickover has written another rich science narrative that t once informs and entertains. There is no one writing today with such an encyclopedic knowledge of all things scientific, and Archimedes to Hawking covers the gamut of what is arguably the most important topic in all of science - the laws of nature. Are they discovered or invented? Do they correspond to things out in the world or only to thoughts inside our heads? These and numerous other tantalizing questions are answered as Pickover takes us through a brief history of nearly everything in the universe (and the universe itself)." -- Michael Shermer, Skeptic"A ride through the history of world-changing scientific ideas. Pickover pays homage to the great minds who have laid bare the mathematical machinery whirring just beneath the skin of reality. An impressively researched tour de force." --Marcus Chown, author of The Quantum Zoo"Clifford Pickover has brilliantly succeeded in a monumental task. He has explained, in his usual lucid style, some forty of the greatest laws of physics, and sketched the lives and often eccentric personalities of the geniuses who discovered them. Pickover's pages reflect his vast knowledge of physics and his firm conviction that mathematics has an awesome external reality." --Martin Gardner, author of The Colossal Book of Mathematics

About the Author

Clifford A. Pickover is the author of forty books on such topics as computers and creativity, art, mathematics, black holes, human behavior and intelligence, time travel, alien life, religion, medical mysteries, and science fiction. Pickover is a prolific inventor with over forty patents, is the associate editor for several journals, and puzzle contributor to magazines geared to children and adults. He lives outside New York City.

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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Paul Moskowitz on 11 April 2008
Format: Hardcover
This is Dr. Pickover's first scientific book since his "A Beginner's Guide to Immortality" and "The Mobius Strip" writings of 2006. After over a year of pursuing science fiction, the author has provided us with a work that was worth waiting for. This is his best yet.

Archimedes to Hawking is no dry listing of scientific laws. Yes, it does have the important laws of science and the runners-up which Pickover generously calls the "Great Contenders." The reason that the book runs to five hundred pages is that Pickover describes the lives and works of the lawgivers. These are not just people who showed up. Their biographies show that they worked at it. "Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration."

Although the illustrations appear to be more for decoration than explanation, some are quite stunning. I particularly liked Bode's Virgo and Hooke's Flea, even if they have nothing to do with the laws named for those two. More illustrations like those would have been nice.

The author's approach is interesting. The laws are arranged chronologically. Archimedes is the first, but we have to skip almost two millennia to the Renaissance to find the next. The Industrial Revolution then brings the bulk of the science. There is very little past the turn of the twentieth century. Only three of the scientists named in this collection are still alive. Perhaps we have stopped naming scientific laws after people because we regard the laws of nature more as discovery than personal invention, or maybe it is that we are so expectant of future refinements that we now distrust the concept of the immutable law.

The geography of the lawgivers is mostly European. The bulk of the laws are attributed to French, English, and German physicists and chemists.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Mr. S. A. Senaratne on 9 May 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"Laws of science and the Great Minds Behind them. Archimedes to Hawkins" by a Clifford A.Pickover. It must be great I thought and with 500 pages. Note the phrases - "laws of science", "great minds" etc. Much of the laws mentioned can be read in any upper secondary / highschool science book. If you buy this book to understand science better, then you will be disappointed. About one third of the book, is about science and the rest is about the scientists past history, of their families and so on. There are 4 drawings or illustrations in the whole book. They are - the Archimedes screw, frontpage of a book of Daniel Bernoulli's Hydrodynamica ( publised in 1738), Keplers model of the solar system and a drawing of a flee by Robert Hooke. God help us, why on earth should we have a reproduced drawing of a front page of a book and of a large drawing of a flee which has nothing to do with the substance he talks about? On Archimedes, there are 10 pages, including the drawing that takes quarter of the page. There are anecdotes about how Hooke and Newton disliked each other or another scientist was bullied as a child and stories of their families or family life. Much of the science is devoted to scientists of the early past and not much at all to recent giants like Einstein, Hawkins, although HAWKIN'S name is displayed in the front cover (maybe to attract - and it is misleading). Hawkins and most of the recent great scientists are mentioned in passing or only a half a page is devoted to them. That could well be because this man is not a scientist (it is said that he is a prolific inventor) and has difficulty in understanding more complex scientific ideas, let alone explaining them. He himself says that the "equation based entries were chosen in consultation with scientific colleagues".Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
interesting book.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 24 reviews
85 of 85 people found the following review helpful
From Archimedes to Hawking and Everyone Between 1 April 2008
By Paul Moskowitz - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is Dr. Pickover's first scientific book since his A Beginner's Guide to Immortality and The Mobius Strip writings of 2006. After over a year of pursuing science fiction, the author has provided us with a work that was worth waiting for. This is his best yet.

Archimedes to Hawking is no dry listing of scientific laws. Yes, it does have the important laws of science and the runners-up which Pickover generously calls the "Great Contenders." The reason that the book runs to five hundred pages is that Pickover describes the lives and works of the lawgivers. These are not just people who showed up. Their biographies show that they worked at it. "Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration."

Although the illustrations appear to be more for decoration than explanation, some are quite stunning. I particularly liked Bode's Virgo and Hooke's Flea, even if they have nothing to do with the laws named for those two. More illustrations like those would have been nice.

The author's approach is interesting. The laws are arranged chronologically. Archimedes is the first, but we have to skip almost two millennia to the Renaissance to find the next. The Industrial Revolution then brings the bulk of the science. There is very little past the turn of the twentieth century. Only three of the scientists named in this collection are still alive. Perhaps we have stopped naming scientific laws after people because we regard the laws of nature more as discovery than personal invention, or maybe it is that we are so expectant of future refinements that we now distrust the concept of the immutable law.

The geography of the lawgivers is mostly European. The bulk of the laws are attributed to French, English, and German physicists and chemists. Americans are fourth in number, but only if you include the runner-up category.

Although Pickover is not a physicist by training, he shows that he understands the thought process of the physicist. He shows their quest for understanding of the principles of the universe, the search for the beauty and symmetry of nature.

Even more, Pickover has learned to think like a physicist. Pickover gives a rational explanation for his inclusion of works in the great laws and the runner-up categories. Many people may be surprised to find that Maxwell's Equations do not have a chapter of their own but share the Faraday chapter, while relatively obscure works are included, even one of the runners-up that includes my name. Pickover explains that the individual laws that make up Maxwell's Equations were developed by other people: Ampere, Faraday, Gauss. For a book like this it is necessary to make choices. The author explains his reasoning in a convincing manner. You may argue with his choices, but I think that if he errs, it is mostly on the side of inclusion, not exclusion.

I do not think that you have to be a physicist or chemist to appreciate this book, but some formal science training may help you to appreciate the simplicity and beauty of the equations. I see this book becoming a standard reference work for those who study the physical sciences or the history of science. Or you may just like it for the joy of the science and the history.
37 of 37 people found the following review helpful
Another great work from Pickover 1 April 2008
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Cliff Pickover's newest book is both significant and unique. The blend of factual data and biographically interesting stories of the scientists lends itself to being appealing to a wide variety of readers. No other book that I'm aware of covers both a wide range of scientific laws in addition to covering the back story behind how those laws were developed. Michael Guillen's Five Equations That Changed the World is similar in both interest and in target audience, but the Pickover book is covers many more laws and people. Jennifer Bothamley's Dictionary of Theories, in contrast, has a much wider scope (and including non-scientific theories), but the special interest of the back story is absent, again distinguishing the Pickover book as distinctly different.

Archimedes to Hawking can be enjoyed by everyone with a curious mind: why DO we name some physical laws after people and some not? how did these geniuses live, and what prompted them to do the work in their fields? how did they stumble upon a brilliant concept, and what struggles did they go through to prove it? All written with Cliff's unique and entertaining style.

In all, it's a brilliant book that I would recommend to anyone. I plan on recommending that my science teachers have their students buy the book for summer reading for our high school science courses.
20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
The human side of science 4 April 2008
By Dennis Gordon - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Science is often erroneously, I think, seen as "cold and austere like sculpture" as Bertrand Russell once described the field of mathematics. But, the story told by Pickover of some of the great laws of science and the lawgivers who gave us these laws is much different from that. It is a story of incredible human passion, of people like Michael Faraday who described electricity as "the soul of the universe", the modestly educated Pierre Curie who won a Nobel Prize in physics, and Robert Hooke who invented the hygrometer to measure humidity after observing that the hairs of the beard of a goat would bend when wet and straighten out when dry. Other figures endured bizarre afflictions, strange religious beliefs, harsh criticism from rivals, and even simultaneous discoveries of their own work by others. Yet, they triumphed and continued in what Murray Gell-Mann described as "the most persistent and greatest adventure in human history, this search to understand the universe."

Pickover describes the laws, the lawgivers, and the nature of scientific laws in a brisk and lively pace, and peppers the book with loads of color and black and white illustrations. And, since you will doubtlessly want to learn more, there is a generous supply of references, both in print and on the internet. Science is dull and dry - nah, don't believe it. It's full of life and human drama when Pickover tells the story!

Dennis W. Gordon
Madison, Wisconsin
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
A Fascinating Read 19 May 2008
By wen313 - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This was the first book by Cliff Pickover that I've read and it's made me want to read more. I'm giving this book five stars because it was so well-written and interesting, and the subject matter was presented with such creativity it was a fun read for someone like me, who does not have a background in science or mathematics. I admit to briefly skimming over the physical laws, but I devoured the biographical sections on each of the lawgivers and found their lives truly fascinating. I also appreciated the "Further Reading" and "Conversation Starters" in each chapter. The author noting current events in the world at the time each lawgiver was alive was very cool, an excellent touch, for it provided perspective on the big picture and made their accomplishments all the more remarkable (if that's possible). Often while I was reading this book I thought of my teachers in high school and wished they'd had some of Pickover's storytelling skills, because knowing about the lives of lawgivers would have been a great motivator. For that reason I think teachers would find this book valuable, but it's also a book for everybody, and I'd recommend it to anyone who is interested in the quirky, remarkable people who changed the way the world thinks.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
A must addition to your personal library 4 Aug. 2008
By Robert Busko - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
For anyone with an interest in astronomy, astrophysics, or just a passing interest in modern science and it's history, Archimedes to Hawking, by Clifford Pickover is a must addition to your personal library. Clifford Pickover, while not being a scientist himself, manages to take the reader by the hand and lead them through two-thousand years of study, testing, trial-by-error, and in some cases depression and alienation. In the end, I was touched by man's ability to adapt his beliefs to match the "known" world around him.

One of the insights that happened to me personally as I read about Kepler's search for the Laws of Planetary Motion was profoundly moving. As I read this part of the book (I didn't necessarily take them in order) I was moved when I realized that what I was reading in the matter of an evening was the work of a life time of searching, study, sacrifice, and in some cases knowledge that came only with the near ruin of their personal lives, Kepler included. That thought sent shivers through me.

Pickover does a masterful job in presenting, sometimes very difficult material and concepts in a manner that makes it easy for the non-scientist. Though I've been an amateur astronomer for more than 30 years, the fact is that I'm not a scientist, but I had no difficulty with the material in Archimedes to Hawking. The other point to be made is the completeness of the coverage of the material, Pickover doesn't miss much, at least to this laymans mind. The chapters are compact and the explanations are wonderful.

Whether you read Archimedes to Hawking chronologically or whether you do as I did and read the chapters according to your interests doesn't matter. The book will keep you coming back for more.

Great illustrations!

I highly recommend this must volume.

Peace always.
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