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on 15 March 2017
I'm not sure who this book would be suitable for. Perhaps such books should be sub edited to make sure that they are intelligible.
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on 3 May 2017
Great read, explains simply how magnetism works.
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on 15 May 2017
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Magnetism is electricity's less appreciated twin. In our daily lives we only think of magnetism in the context of fridge magnets, magnetic clasps, or at most when considering the needle of the compass. However, magnetism is one of the most pervasive and useful natural phenomena, and in so many ways modern life would be unimaginable without it.

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.
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on 20 May 2013
This book demystifies magnetism and presents the development history leading up to unification of electricity and magnetism. It also covers applications of magnetism and the magnetic field of our Earth and Solar System.

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!
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The Very Short Introduction series are written by professors of the subject and are aimed at provoking cross-discipline intrigue in the reader that may incite further investigation and reading - and boy are they good at achieving exactly that; often they leave more questions than answers.

"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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on 22 May 2015
I found this book both inspiring and informative. An excellent read! Highly recommended.
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on 26 January 2015
The book covers a very wide range of topics, but completely omits any reference to magnetism in such non-ferrous mixtures. It also bypasses such magnetic curiosities such as neodymium. Here is where some practical rather than theoretical information would have been useful.
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I continue to be impressed with the “A Short Introduction” series. I marvel at the range of titles available, and would love to read about 90% of them. Alas, that appears much too ambitious, yet it recalls the first day of the summer school breaks of one’s youth, when it seemed that in the unlimited space of those three months all was possible. Even on subjects that I feel fairly knowledgeable about, I find the “A Short Introduction” series provides a useful structured summary, as well as much new information. In regards to the subject of Magnetism, my knowledge is limited to my school days of yore, with occasional updates from serious magazine articles.

Magnetism was known to the ancient Greeks, rather dimly, via a type of rock, composed of iron and oxygen, called Magnetite. A couple of millennium passed before the next comprehensive advance in mankind’s understanding of this phenomenon occurred when William Gilbert wrote his seminal treatise on the subject, in 1600. Among other advances, he realized that the earth itself was one giant magnet. The author, Stephen Blundell, identifies some of the mistakes that great thinkers like Gilbert made (and I find this done by other authors in this series). And that is jarringly different from most school textbooks that only identify what a great thinker did right. For example, with Gilbert, he correctly determined that it was the moon that caused the ocean tides... but felt it was due to magnetic forces. As Blundell says: “Gilbert thus fell into a familiar trap that has ensnared many a genius and mere mortal alike, namely that when you get a good idea you tend to see it applying to absolutely everything.”

A couple more centuries passed, and Hans Oersted, a Danish physicist determined that an electric current produced a magnetic field. It would be Michael Faraday who would realize the inverse: that a moving magnetic field produces an electric current, and with that realization the electric motor was born, which in their oversized form are the giant turbines at the base of the dams in the American West, as well as elsewhere. The author provides a good account of the advocacy of two men for the form that current would take in powering homes and factories: Nikola Tesla for alternating current (AC); and Thomas Edison, for direct current (DC). The latter is a very famous inventor, who was wrong on this issue. Tesla won the argument, but his name has been obscure for a century, only recently making a comeback as the name of an electric car.

It was James Clerk Maxwell, a Scottish genius, who would develop the complex equations that provided the theoretical basis for the unification of the electro-magnetic phenomenon. How fast is the speed of light? And how could that possibly be measured? The author explains how Leon Foucault made that determination in 1850. Blundell provides a chapter each on the impact of the theory of relativity and quantum mechanics on our understanding of the magnetic phenomenon. It would be Paul Dirac who would fuse the latter two theories via those difficult to understand equations, much as Maxwell had done earlier for electricity and magnetism.

Those often obtuse equations have yielded a plethora of practical results as Blundell reports. The truly exponential advances in the storage of information for one. I can remember when the magnetic discs that could be erased was offered in 1972 as a replacement for punch cards. How quickly I said: “Yes, please.” And now the Library of Congress can almost fit into your pocket. Many of the advances in the reproduction of sound, including music, are based on our better understanding of magnetism. And ditto that for the human body, via the MRI.

His penultimate chapter on magnetism and space conveniently segues into my current “Brief Introduction” read on Astrophysics. As with the other works in the series, this work rates 5-stars.
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on 7 January 2017
A great book thanks
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