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30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Snacking on Equations
This book brings together world-class scientists, and gets each of them to write an essay on a great equation of modern science. If you are a scientist yourself, then this really is a pick-and-mix gem of a book. All of the essays can be read in isolation, and many are truly excellent - BoB May's account of the breakthrough which resulted in the birth of chaos theory is...
Published on 19 July 2002

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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Poor in parts, awful in others, rarely any good
This book started out really badly. The foreword was a boring, pretentious piece that attempted to compare science to poetry, and succeeded only in boring the pants off me. I'd be the first to agree that science can be beautiful, but this foreword wouldn't have convinced me if I hadn't already known.

I ended up skipping the latter half of it and going on to the...
Published on 14 Feb 2010 by Yossu


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30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Snacking on Equations, 19 July 2002
By A Customer
This book brings together world-class scientists, and gets each of them to write an essay on a great equation of modern science. If you are a scientist yourself, then this really is a pick-and-mix gem of a book. All of the essays can be read in isolation, and many are truly excellent - BoB May's account of the breakthrough which resulted in the birth of chaos theory is about the best introduction to the subject that anyone could write. Also, Oliver Morton's account of the Drake equation - which estimates the number of intelligent life forms in the galaxy - is fascinating, not least because of the unexpected subtelties which are revealed. But, although the amount of maths is almost zero, not all of the essays are accessible to everyone without a scientific background. In general, I would say that a complete non-scientist might enjoy three or four of the essays, a pre-university science student about half a dozen - and someone with a science degree would enjoy virtually all of the twelve.
If you have an interest in science, it is truly amazing to see how some of these really simple equations went on to provide insights into some of the deepest scientific questions known to mankind. And it is equally fascinating to see how some of our greatest minds were steered towards their historic discovery. Definitely a must-have!
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Balancing Nature, 7 July 2003
By 
J. Cronin "dudara" (Ireland) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: It Must be Beautiful: Great Equations of Modern Science (Paperback)
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.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It is!, 28 Feb 2003
By 
Palle E T Jorgensen "Palle Jorgensen" (Iowa City, Iowa United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
The quantities on the two side of each of the equations in the book, are from science, or from life. The equations result from scientific experiments or from pure theory. Planck's equation signaled the start of atomic physics, and Einstein's E=m c^2 , the continuation. Dirac's equation reveals the secrets of the electron. All the equations predict physical reality; and yet they are strikingly simple to state, perhaps not to fully understand.-- They *are* beautiful! . Really! They are also fundamental discoveries that affect us all. Schrodinger's equation [along with the equivalt formulation of Heisenberg] puts quantum theory on a solid footing, and started wave mechanics. Shannon's equations initiated the age of information technology. And there are more: relativity, astronomy, dynamics, chemestry... The book consists of chapters written by authorities in the field, Roger Penrose, Steven Weinberg..., but no [or at least very little] knowledge of science is assumed on the part of the reader. Highly recommended!
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well worth the read - some excellent contributors !, 25 July 2003
By 
Keith Appleyard "kapple999" (Brighton, UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
At first I was disappointed – the most beautiful equation in the world, e^i.pi = -1, was missing! As I read the book, I looked back at the title : great equations of Modern Science, not of Modern Mathematics. And indeed that is what the book is.
However I do have a few criticisms :
I knew by reputation only 2 of the 12 authors – who were the other people? Long after I had searched out their biographies on the web, I found them at the front of the book – but before the title page rather than after – how strange to put them there, or not at the back of the book ?
I didn’t think the Drake equation was that ‘great’ – and in Oliver Morton’s chapter he places the Arecibo Radio Telescope in Costa Rica when in fact its in Puerto Rico.
In the opening chapter, Graham Farmelo briefly alludes to ‘British Astronomers announcing their results’ without explaining what it was they were looking for and what they found? Only in the later chapters by Peter Galison & Roger Penrose respectively do they take pains to explain that Sir Arthur Eddington measured the bending of starlight during an eclipse.
I was confused in the chapter on Schrodingers Wave Equation – it didn’t describe the form I was familiar with. Then in the notes at the end of the book Arthur Miller explained the more general form - and confessed that the ‘time’ element had been ignored – rather a strange omission in my opinion.
Shannons Equations & the Logistic Map were both new to me – and very interesting they were.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Poor in parts, awful in others, rarely any good, 14 Feb 2010
This review is from: It Must be Beautiful: Great Equations of Modern Science (Paperback)
This book started out really badly. The foreword was a boring, pretentious piece that attempted to compare science to poetry, and succeeded only in boring the pants off me. I'd be the first to agree that science can be beautiful, but this foreword wouldn't have convinced me if I hadn't already known.

I ended up skipping the latter half of it and going on to the first essay. I was a little worried when I saw that it was written by the same person, and even more so when the first few pages were scattered with the same tenuous analogy to poetry.

Thankfully, the author dropped that line and concentrated on giving a history of the Planck-Einstein equation. This turned out to be very readable (after the first few pages), and very interesting.

Sadly, few of the following essays reached the same level of interest. Most were either too long, or too full of the author telling you how clever he is for discovering something. There were one or two exceptions, but for the most part, anyone interested in the subject of each essay would have known pretty much everything written, and anyone without that knowledge would have struggled to follow it.

All in all, this was one of the most disappointing general science books I've read in a long time. I wouldn't recommend it to anyone, and only finished it because I hate leaving books part read.

I would have given this book two stars, but there were a couple of essays that would have been worth reading on their own, so I decided not to be so hard and give it three. I'm still not sure it deserves that.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great book, 13 Dec 2013
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This review is from: It Must be Beautiful: Great Equations of Modern Science (Paperback)
Great book; profound in places yet easy to read. Good spread of themes; makes you want to read more of the same.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Just what I needed., 6 July 2013
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This review is from: It Must be Beautiful: Great Equations of Modern Science (Paperback)
Getting these "specialist" books is vital and this was as I hoped. I will be using this again and again. Thanks
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5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, 22 Sep 2012
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Worth buying for Roger Penrose's essay on General Relativity alone - thirty pages that helped an enthusiastic amateur like me more than many hundreds of pages of popular science books that I've read over the years.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A different take on science writing, 20 Mar 2010
This review is from: It Must be Beautiful: Great Equations of Modern Science (Paperback)
These bite-sized essays are just enough to inform and challenge without intimidating the non-expert reader, thanks in part to the authors' habit of looking at the key players involved and to an extent the social context of their work, rather than only focusing on the science. I suspect this had the effect of softening what might otherwise have been a rollercoaster ride into some seriously complex ideas. Nevertheless I was left at the close of the book with a satisfied feeling that I had negotiated some 'proper' science and come out of it a more knowledgeable person. Naturally, I had to follow the instructions for mapping chaos on Excel. It works.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars hmm could be better, 9 Mar 2012
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This review is from: It Must be Beautiful: Great Equations of Modern Science (Paperback)
Being a potential physics student for uni (with an offer from Oxford Uni) this year, I decided to continue to expand my knowledge of science.
Given that this book is a compilation of essays based of specific equations which 'shaped modern science'

The essays give generally gives a brief history of the equations development and all
but some of the just don't give the ideas in enough detail and give you vague ideas of how these equations are used in modern science.
the authors of the essays assumes you would know certain things but the truth of the matter is that the average person wouldn't have a clue what they're talking about. Like i stated earlier, i am a potential physics undergraduate, so i must be studying A level phyiscs, yet the explanations still leave me baffled and frustrated with the content.

yes they do give you the general idea what the equations are used for and what is so important about them
but personally i have read better books and have learnt a lot more from other books
I would say the book has a lot of words but doesn't teach you in enough detail, you can force yourself through the book (like i did) and i dont think you'd be satisfied unless you've already learnt these topics in degree level detail and want to refresh your mind of the content.

maybe its just me
but I found it pretty dry and dull which made it hard to go though AND I barely learnt anything
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It Must be Beautiful: Great Equations of Modern Science
It Must be Beautiful: Great Equations of Modern Science by Graham Farmelo (Paperback - 6 Feb 2003)
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