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The Evolution of Physics (Classic Reprint) Paperback – 30 Mar 2013


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Amazon.com: 45 reviews
93 of 95 people found the following review helpful
A great introduction to modern physics 20 May 2000
By henrique fleming - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This is an inspiring book. I know quite a bunch of people who decided to become physicists after reading it. Two interesting aspects should be mentioned. First, it was really written by Infeld, though thoroughly discussed, in a daily basis, with Einstein.(Infeld was a refugee under Einstein's protection, and thought he had to justify his temporary shelter at Princeton by writing something, which would also provide some income!). Another book by Infeld, "Quest", an autobiography, is the source of this and of many other interesting things about that period. Second, this book introduces very clearly a revolutionary contribution of Einstein's which is rarely recognized: a new method in physics which consists in obtaining knowledge from the comparison of observations of the same physical system obtained by two different observers. Though this had been done before (by Mach, for instance), it was Einstein who transformed it into a new tool for science. Physics was transformed by that, and quantum mechanics could then go even further, in the role given to the observer. This story is wonderfully told in this book.
61 of 61 people found the following review helpful
The horse's mouth 3 Jan. 2000
By Doug Vaughn - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
While it would seem likely that one should go to another source to explain what Einstein's work really means and how it came about, this extraordinary book, coauthored by Einstein and Leopold Infeld, is perhaps the most cogent and interesting account of the origin and implications of relativity theory ever written. It offers the general reader - even those of us not steeped in Physics and physical theory - a fascinating glimpse of one of the most significant intellectual leaps of the last century. Much more comprehensive and engaging than such relativity 'primers' as Russell's ABC's of Relativity, it is both a very stimulating and readable account.
Since Time Magazine recently selected Einstein as the Person of the Century, it seems timely to recommend this book as a fascinating introduction to the mind and work of someone who is normally thought to be beyond ordinary human comprehension. That he is an exceptional intellect is beyond question. What is remarkable is that he is able to communicate clearly to those of us less blessed with brillance. This is a wonderful book for any who have an active interest in how the universe works and how revolutionary new insights about the universe can be achieved with thought alone. An amazing book.
59 of 62 people found the following review helpful
Science, history, and a bit of philosophy 7 Aug. 2001
By Pumpkin King - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Physics can be difficult to learn when theories and formulae are thrown at you with no historical context. You begin learning about motion, and then electricity and magnetism, and it's almost impossible to see a coherent connection between the ideas. Many people have heard of relativity and quantum theory, but do not have even a general notion of what they aim to explain.
Like mathematics, you can learn physics without knowing about the people behind its development (though you will encounter many of their names in important expressions), but it never hurts to study how such ideas began, and how they came to be what they are today. Einstein and Infeld's book is aptly titled. They show how and why certain concepts came into being and what significance they hold. Beginning with "The Rise of the Mechanical View," they describe vectors, motion, forces, and energy. With "The Decline of the Mechanical View," they show how the behavior of electricity, magnetism, and light waves poses problems for the mechanical view.
The next two (and most interesting) sections explore field, relativity, and quanta, and how they have proved more accurate in describing physical phenomena than what was previously known. Einstein and Infeld describe everything with a minimum of mathematics so that anyone with an interest in the development of physics can understand the contents. Although such math is necessary for a precise understanding of physics, the aim of the authors, which they frequently repeat throughout, is to give the reader a broad understanding of the general underlying principles. They have succeeded in giving an account of where the human construction of physics started, what has been covered since then, and where it is heading. It is a simply written book, suitable for readers who don't know physics and want to learn, but also helpful for students of physics who want to see a broader picture of its evolution.
26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
Very good for many different readers 18 Sept. 2007
By John S. - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
As the authors state, ".. thought and ideas, not formulas, are the beginning of every physical theory". True to this statement, this book focuses on thoughts and ideas and does not use any formulas at all. This makes it good as an adjunct for standard texts that contain the formulas, but not as a substitute for such books. This book is divided into four sections: the rise of the mechanical view, the decline of the mechanical view, field and relativity, and quanta. It is thus about how the mechanical view of Newton evolved into the modern view of physics (relativity theory and quantum mechanics).

I would like to focus on how this book might be perceived for three different classes of readers.
(1) For those who have never taken a physics course (or did and tried to forget the experience as soon as possible) -- The lack of any mathematics may be comforting to this class of reader, but it will nonetheless not be an easy read for them. The basic concepts, such as inertia, may be difficult to grasp for those with no previous physics background, but the author's do a good job of describing things. (A task made more difficult without recourse to the shorthand of mathematics.) I would, however, recommend this book only to those who are motivated to go well beyond their comfort zone. However, if they focus on the concepts that are being described and are patient in following the lines of reasoning, they should be richly rewarded.
(2) For those who have taken physics courses, but do not have advanced degrees in physics -- I put myself in this group and I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I liked this book because it focuses on the why (the basic underlying theories of physics), rather than on the how (problem solving). In doing so, it provided a much better understanding of what is behind the equations than I found in physics texts. I got a very clear picture of the deficiencies of Newtonian mechanics and Maxwell's equations, and how this led to relativity theory. I found this very illuminating as it more clearly showed me Einstein's thought process. If found this even clearer than that presented in Einstein's book on relativity (prepared for a general readership). Of all the groups of readers, I think that people in this group will get the most from this book.
(3) For those with advanced degrees in physics - People in this group may have already been exposed to the concepts described here, but this book will still be very helpful in that it shows clearly Einstein's logic in developing relativity theory and the quantum theory of light. Much of this may be old hat to this group, but the book will still be of interest from a historical perspective.

I think that this book does an admirable job of appealing to and satisfying the needs of readers who approach the subject with diverse backgrounds.
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
Science as Human Creation 16 Oct. 2001
By Bruce I. Kodish - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This book provides a still useful account, from 'the horses' mouths', of what Alfred Korzybski called the Newtonian and non-Newtonian views in physics. As Korzybski noted, all human beings form a view of so-called 'reality'. Understanding how scientists do this can have value for the rest of us. In this excellent book, the authors emphasize general formulations and a non-mathematical approach: "Most of the fundamental ideas of science are essentially simple, and may, as a rule, be expressed in a language comprehensible to everyone" (29). The book includes chapters on "The Rise of the Mechanical View," "The Decline of the Mechanical View," "Field, Relativity," and "Quanta." Readers will be rewarded with clear explanations of some potentially forbidding notions. These are interspersed with useful comments on physico-mathematical method, theory and the goals of science. Einstein's and Infeld's discussion demonstrates their view that "Science is not just a collection of laws, a catalogue of unrelated facts. It is a creation of the human mind, with its freely invented ideas and concepts. Physical theories try to form a picture of reality and to establish its connection with the wide world of sense impressions. Thus the only justification for our mental structures is whether and in what way our theories form such a link" (310).
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