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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Phenomenal Look at Why Ordinary Things Are Truly Extraordinary
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,...
Published on 12 Sep 2010 by Paul Halpern

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30 of 33 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Very good in parts
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...
Published on 16 Mar 2010 by Ransen Owen


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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Phenomenal Look at Why Ordinary Things Are Truly Extraordinary, 12 Sep 2010
By 
Paul Halpern "Physicist and Writer" (Philadelphia, PA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
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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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A science book that held my interest, 29 Dec 2010
By 
Dr. Keith A. Moseley (UK) - See all my reviews
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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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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars brain pain, 10 Mar 2012
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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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A crescendo, 31 Mar 2011
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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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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb adventure through physics for the lay science person, 21 Feb 2011
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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30 of 33 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Very good in parts, 16 Mar 2010
By 
Ransen Owen (Italy) - See all my reviews
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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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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A bit contrived and not well explained, 1 Dec 2010
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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly Recommended, 1 Dec 2010
By 
RH (North Yorkshire) - See all my reviews
If you know anyone who has the slightest interest in Physics or someone you feel doesn't and should have, this book is for them. Once again Marcus Chown has made Physics come alive as he links modern Physics topics to everyday experience and includes fascinating biographical details of the Physicists involved. It is an essential read, especially for the youngster at school embarking on an A Level course; nothing will give a better overview of what should be in store and more importantly, how logical and accessible is the scientific method. I was so impressed with this book that I immediately ordered four more copies as gifts...
We Need to Talk About Kelvin: What everyday things tell us about the universe
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28 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Mystery of Starlight, 4 Dec 2009
By 
H. Callaghan "Alice in Wonderland" (London, UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
The Sun could be made of bananas, and it wouldn't make a sod of difference to us. Though that said, it would make for tasty but rather scorched banana bread. It's not that the Sun is on fire because it's made of flammable stuff. The Sun is on fire because there is such a lot of it. The crushing force of gravity increases pressure and correspondingly heat within its contents, producing the mind-numbingly melty temperatures within.

This is one of the many surprising assertions made in We Need To Talk About Kelvin by Marcus Chown, which I mentioned receiving and enjoying last week, so I was consequently thrilled when I heard he'd be interested in guest blogging here on December 11th! YAY! So, I've read the book, and experienced no less than three Eureka moments.

Such as: Stuff is made up mostly of nothing but energy. According to Chown, if all the space were removed from atoms, the entire human race could be fit into the space of a single sugar cube. It's actually highly mysterious that I don't plummet straight through the seat on the Tube and to gory death on the tracks below, book in hand, as tiny electric forces are basically the only things holding me up. For the record, this is not a great thing to think whilst one is sitting on the Tube reading.

Which brings me neatly around to the book, of course. We Need To Talk About Kelvin, jacketed with what seems to be aggressive non-threateningness, is a book about relating everyday phenomena, such as starlight, your reflection in a window, the fact that aliens haven't enslaved everybody yet - into powerful illustrations of quantum mechanics at work in the world. It's peppered with fascinating anecdotes about the scientists involved in the work of proving these things, from Galileo to scientists whose work is only just being published now.

Possibly the most impressive thing, to me personally, was the discussion on quantum probability. I've read some extremely good books on the subject while doing my Mephistophela (and increasingly Sleepwalker) research - Quantum: A Guide For The Perplexed by Jim Al-Khalili and Brown's Minds, Machines, and the Multiverse: The Quest For The Quantum Computer, amongst others, but to me personally, Chown's recounting of the phenomenon was the clearest.

One hesitates to write things like, "We live in an age where..." It's just so portentous. You could imagine it being said by Mr. Voice in a movie trailer. In fact, it almost certainly has been. But the fact of the matter is that the incessant daily scramble to stay on top of mundane things blinds us to the fact that we are all participants in an ongoing elaborate miracle - that the universe is a juggling trick where all the balls are in the air at exactly the same time, and science is a series of constantly opening doors leading to ever more astonishing worlds where our idea of "true" and "normal" meets the quantum idea of "true" and "normal" and they immediately get into a huge fist fight. As it happens, on a clear day, you really can see forever. And that's pretty amazing.

Sometimes you just reminding.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read, 23 July 2013
A well written book which is fun to read and makes some complex topics of physics and science easy to understand. Highly recommended.
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