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Magnetism: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) Paperback – 28 Jun 2012
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This quite amazing book covers practically everything there is to know about magnetism. Ten seconds after opening the book, having scanned the contents section, I knew I was going to read not only about the birth of magnetism as a branch of scientific study, but also about Maxwells equations, relativity, quantum magnetism and technology. Two pages into the book, and I knew that the book was written in a relaxed, engaging, easy-to-follow style, which the author maintains throughout. (Paul van Kampen, Dublin City University, Contemporary Science)
About the Author
Stephen J. Blundell is Professor of Physics at Oxford University and a Fellow of Mansfield College. He is actively researching the phenomena of magnetism and superconductivity and has published numerous research papers on these topics, as well as three books, Magnetism in Condensed Matter (OUP, 2001), Concepts in Thermal Physics (with K.M. Blundell) (OUP, 2006), and Superconductivity: A Very Short Introduction (OUP, 2009).
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This very short introduction aims to give a very comprehensive account of the phenomenon of magnetism. The book goes into the history of our understanding of magnetism, describes some significant discoveries, provides theoretical explanation of magnetism, and examines some of the most significant applications of magnetism today. Some of these applications have become so ubiquitous that we don't even think of them much any more - such as the magnetic memory that is the bases of all hard drives that are in use today. Others are a bit more obscure but no less fascinating. The book is written with a non-scientist in mind, although some degree of scientific literacy and appreciation of science will go a long way in making the most out of this material. Aside from a very short appendix, the book contains no equations and "scary" scientific graphs. There are a few neat diagrams though, that manage to explain concepts visually for those of us who like that kind of thing. Even if you are an experienced scientist, or even a physicist (like myself) you'll find a lot of useful and intriguing tidbits of information within this short volume. This is particularly true if you happen to teach some course that deals with magnetism.
The writing in this book is very lucid and engaging. It is definitely one of the better-written popular science books. I would definitely recommend it to anyone who wishes to broaden his or her understanding of science.
Magnetism has a deep association with electricity, relativity and quantum theory. Magnetic field appears in nature when a charge is moving with respect to the observer; magnetism is a purely relativistic effect. Magnetic properties of materials can be explained by quantum mechanics. Electrons either spin one way or the other; it is electron spin that produces magnetism.
Magnetism is vital in our maritime, industrial and information revolutions as well as magnetic navigation in animals. The fusion reactors would one day solve the Earth's energy crisis. The Earth's magnetic field has changed and even reversed over time!
"By giving us compasses it allowed us to navigate the world, by giving us motors, generators and turbines magnetism has given us plentiful power. It lies behind many of our electrical sensors, helps us in recording and playing music via microphones and loudspeakers and has transformed the way we store information" - Page 130.
This is an excellent read and completely approachable, starting from the origins of our investigation into magnetism from the humble bar magnet, all the way up to our magnetosphere protecting us from the Sun and back down to the spin on electrons - it encompasses all aspects of the subject. It is absolutely incredible how fundamentally our understanding of physics and the world has gained from magnetism. Highly recommended.
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