This is a collection of essays on various topics, such as quantum physics, chaos theory and ecology. The star in each essay is an equation which the author deems to be beautiful. Beautiful in the sense that it encapsulates and defines it's subject matter. Beautiful in the sense that it has an elegance, even when defining a complex topic.
The opening essay in this book centres on Einstein's E=hf equation and the foundations for modern quantum mechanics. It's a fascinating read, illuminating a truly revolutionary period in physics. The story is well told, down to Einstein's reluctance to commit himself to a particle view of waves.
Other physics essays are included, one in particular documenting the conflict that arose between Heisenberg, Schrodinger and Born in formulating quantum mechanics. It adds a truly personal and dramatic spin to the story. Other topics such as the Yang-Mills equation, governing invariances and symmetry in fundamental particles, I found less interesting, probably because I never liked that topic anyway.
The essay on ozone depletion, and the very simple equations that describe it, is very captivating. It shows how simple equations describe a phenomena that we were reluctant to face for years. The essay on modelling animal populations shows how mathematics has given a preciseness of sorts and a template for describing events to biology and ecology that did not exist before.
Moreover, this collection as a whole, serves to convey the fact that all sciences have changed radically over the last 100 years or so. Progress has occurred at an incredible rate, and many changes to the scientifuc way of thinking have taken place. But we always hope that our method for describing events will contain an inherent beauty, because after all the world around us is beautiful.