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We Need to Talk About Kelvin: What everyday things tell us about the universe [Paperback]

Marcus Chown
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
RRP: 9.99
Price: 6.79 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over 10. Details
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Book Description

2 Sep 2010

Look around you. The reflection of your face in a window tells you that the universe is orchestrated by chance. The iron in a spot of blood on your finger tells you that somewhere out in space there is furnace at a temperature of 4.5 billion degrees. Your TV tells you that the universe had a beginning. In fact, your very existence tells you that this may not be the only universe but merely one among an infinity of others, stacked like the pages of a never-ending book.

Marcus Chown, author of Quantum Theory Cannot Hurt You, takes familiar features of the world we know and shows how they can be used to explain profound truths about the ultimate nature of reality. His new book will change the way you see the world: with Chown as your guide, cutting-edge science is made clear and meaningful by a falling leaf, or a rose, or a starry night sky...


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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber (2 Sep 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571244033
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571244034
  • Product Dimensions: 12.6 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 95,692 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

A new popular science book that should be bought for its clever title alone! -- The Independent, September 16, 2009

Chown writes with ease about some of the most brain-bending of concepts. -- BBC Focus Magazine, October 2009

An elegant pop-physics pick'n'mix. -- The Guardian, October 17, 2009

Chown makes cutting-edge science clear and meaningful. His new book will literally change the way you see the world. -- Bookhugger, October 2009

For entertainment value, and driving pace, Kelvin never lets the reader down. -- www.popularscience.co.uk, October 2009 --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Book Description

A hugely accessible and entertaining exploration of the science of the everyday world around us


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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
It is clear why this outstanding, highly-original book is shortlisted for the Royal Society Prize for Science Books. Marcus Chown has a marvellous gift for rendering cutting-edge science extremely accessible and entertaining. His latest work is a brilliant excursion through everyday life, showing what we might learn about the universe from things we see around us, including our own reflections in window glass, the variety of chemical elements, darkness at night and so forth. From simple phenomena, Chown transports readers on spectacular journeys through the realms of quantum physics, cosmology and other topics in modern science, explaining difficult concepts in a clear, methodical fashion. He weaves each tale with fascinating and humorous anecdotes about pivotal figures such as Fred Hoyle, Wolfgang Pauli and many other scientific luminaries, as well as literary references to Blake, Whitman, Poe and others. Highly recommended!

-Paul Halpern
Author, Collider: The Search for the World's Smallest Particles
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A science book that held my interest 29 Dec 2010
Format:Paperback
I have really enjoyed reading this book, which is saying something because I don't usually stick it out through popular science titles. No, I'm not an artist but a physics teacher!

Chown weaves a really interesting tale of how the everyday things we see, and take for granted, are a consequence of quantum behaviour. Into this he also threads biographical information about the great scientists who discovered the 'properties' of nature. He uses excellent mind-pictures of how particles interact and what distinguishes them from each other. Finally, I found a book that describes quantum spin in approachable (if not fully detailed) terms.

If this book was reprinted with diagrams, especially for some of the wave concepts, it would be unassailable (and worth 5 stars). However, minus diagrams, it sells at a very low price for such a good book. No, I did not drop off to sleep (see 1 star review) and yes I will be buying copies for my pupils.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars brain pain 10 Mar 2012
By scalrog
Format:Paperback
Fantastically interesting book,but be warned your brain will inflate and eventually burst trying to get to grips with the subject matter covered.(Not recommended for loo reading...it makes your legs go numb!)
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A crescendo 31 Mar 2011
By Josh
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
There's something great about this book. I thought it got off to a poor start though, to the extent that I didn't even finish the first chapter, "The Face in the Window", on my first sitting. It seemed to meander. I thought maybe it was aimed at others who perhaps hadn't read as much popular science as myself. But as I reached the end of that chapter it had built into a crescendo and the universe suddenly opened up before me (instantly, if you know what I'm talking about). It completely blew my socks off and my wife had to ask why I was looking out of the window, grinning from ear to ear. Chown had been gradually setting the whole thing up and brought it all together at the end. I wouldn't like to spoil the climax here, suffice to say that all that meandering is very deliberate and produces a head rush that I had missed in other titles that were perhaps a little more direct. A great read, best savoured a chapter at a time to let the ideas percolate.
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29 of 32 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Very good in parts 16 Mar 2010
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
There are good explanations of some of strangenesses of the physical world, though as with most books like this you get the idea that it really isn't telling you the real stuff. The real stuff is too complicated if you are not in the swim of modern physics.

I heard the author criticise Feynman because he said "If you think you understand qantum mechanics the you don't understand quantum mechanics." The author said this was not fair because anyone with a bit of application can understand quantum mechanics. The author had missed the whole point of Feynman's assertion. What he meant (I think) is that quantum mechanics is so strange that even those who are deep in its study know that their understanding is limited.

What this book CRIES OUT FOR is some diagrams. The author describes things which could easily be drawn, and which would make some parts much clearer.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
A wonderful, straight-forward introductory guide to physics. Marcus Chown has a wonderful way of explaining concepts that might reasonably be described as complicated in a very down-to-earth, logical fashion that's fun to read for complete non-scientists and physicists alike.

Beginning with an everyday observation, such as how light reflects off a window but you can still see through it, Chown delves step by step into the physical reasoning behind seemingly mundane situations. Even for those who understand the processes, it's an approach that is eminently readable - lay science fans will love the ease with which you can visualise complex quantum processes. For anyone who claims that physics is too difficult to understand, show them this book!
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A bit contrived and not well explained 1 Dec 2010
Format:Paperback
The premise of this book is that everyday observations tell us about fundamental principles in physics. Unfortunately the author doesn't always give satisfactory explanations for the phenomena he has chosen. He uses everyday phenomena as a launch pad to start explaining an aspect of physics. But once he's explained the physics he doesn't always relate it back to the initial example very well. The format also becomes a bit repetitive and seems contrived.

The book's strong point is the way the author takes you through the story of how physicists developed their ideas. But the explanations of these, admittedly tricky, concepts is sometimes a bit lacking and he occasionally makes logical leaps that are hard to follow. In his discussion of quantum physics the text becomes very dense and difficult. A few simple diagrams might have made the concepts easier to explain and understand.

All in all the book has some interesting bits, but it gives the impression of having been written in a hurry and is not well thought out.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A very good book
Bought to fill in some background reading about temperature, heat and the history of the development of the current theories.
Published 8 days ago by Derrick Steed
5.0 out of 5 stars Mindblowing and fascinating
I cannot say I understood everything but what I did understand amazed me about the birth, life and future death of our universe.
Published 8 days ago by JohnM
5.0 out of 5 stars great book, easy to access
This was a book recommended to me by my physics course tutor. It is easy to access and not to heavy. Its a good read if you have any interest in science or physics.
Published 22 days ago by Laurabexy
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant!
A really superb book. You must read it. It raised so many questions for me and tested the boundaries of my knowledge. Read more
Published 26 days ago by D. Hughes
2.0 out of 5 stars Catchy title but hard-going
I really wanted to like this book. The title is appealing and simplistic, giving the impression the subject matter will be easily understood. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Susan
5.0 out of 5 stars Chown succeeds in explaining how the Universe works
We Need to Talk About Kelvin is an excellent book, extremely interesting, informative, well written and demonstrating an enviable grasp of the research and publications of the... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Quercus
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book of its kind
I've read a few of these books now and this is amongst the best. I give it 4 stars as the odd diagram would have helped. Excellent book of its kind though.
Published 4 months ago by Mr. John Bradley
5.0 out of 5 stars Up to his usual standard.
Marcus Chown has yet to write a duff book. This is the third of his I've read, and they just get better.
Published 5 months ago by Mr. Christopher L Webb
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read
A well written book which is fun to read and makes some complex topics of physics and science easy to understand. Highly recommended.
Published 8 months ago by JB
5.0 out of 5 stars Don't let the catchy title put you off
This is the first Marcus Chown book I have read and would now actively seek out other titles by him. Read more
Published on 3 Jan 2012 by Eric Stephen
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