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on 13 February 2012
Berlinski offers a vague but valuable first insight into Newton's own sense of self-awareness concerning his science and its potential. The purpose of theoretical physics and its relativity to life itself are questions which often bubble to the surface of this intelligent but short examination of Newton as mathematical philosopher whilst also introducing the reader more concisely to the practical nature of Newton's developed theories. Calculus, light, optics, gravity and significant laws of mathematics (Principia Mathematica) are covered, but for my own liking, not quite adequately enough - often the maths remaining only a mere sketch. Berlinski evidences that Newton is a thinking titan, not only of his own age, but also for the industrial and technological ages which followed Newton's own lifetime. It's an easy read and the biographical content adequately shows Newton to be a somewhat flawed if difficult figure, withdrawn and brooding, as he struggles to succeed in melding his physics to an advocated science that, at its heart, remains biblically fundamental. At the very least we are provided with a notional Newton who offers tomorrow a wide reaching and inclusive account of how and why the world functions as it does. I'll read more Berlinski.
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David Berlinski has created a marvelous intellectual history focusing on the progression of Newton's epic breakthrough thinking. He does this in a way that is totally accessible to those who are phobic about mathematics. The explanations are achieved through a skillful combination of simple sentences, symbols, pictures, and diagrams. The presentation is so effective that most readers will find their understanding of important mathematical and scientific principles greatly improved. This is a great book!
Newton was a seminal thinker in the areas of mathematics (developing calculus), physics (with his propositions about gravity and motion), and optics (with his conceptualization of light as being comprised of particles moving in parallel). He also did much work in theology and alchemy, which are recounted here.
A key challenge for David Berlinski was presented by Newton's reticence. He was not a very social person, and wrote almost nothing about how he developed his ideas. Berlinksi does a magnificent job of locating and sharing hints and clues about the bases of these intuitive leaps. This result is enhanced by considering the continuing themes in Newton's thinking, and assuming a connection to his intuition. I suspect that Berlinski is right in connecting the dots that way, but we will never know for sure.
The centerpiece of our story turns out to be the tangent to a curve. From that humble beginning, most of our modern understanding of how physical motion takes place follows.
I also enjoyed better understanding how Newton's thinking was aided by the careful observations and conclusions of Kepler.
If the history of science were always this entertaining, this subject would be one of the most popular majors in colleges.
As Berlinksi tells us in the beginning his purpose in the book is "to offer a sense of the man without specifying in details his . . . activities." This allows us to see the other sides of Newton, but without spending too much time on them. Newton was not perfect. We get glimpses of places where he wasted his time, such as his unsuccessful experiments with alchemy. We also see his flirtations and infatuations. Beyond that, we see what could enrage him, and how he took his revenge. This fleshing out of the whole man makes the scientific history all the more compelling.
If you liked David Berlinski's book, The Birth of the Algorithm, you will probably like this one even better. The asides are much more contained and relevant here.
For those who want a little more math with their scientific history, Berlinski has provided supplementary materials that are quite entertaining.
After you have finished enjoying this wonderful romp, I suggest that you think about where everyday events are unexplained in your life. For example, why do the people you meet with act the way they do? Why is progress slow in many areas, and rapid in others? By looking for connections, you, too, may isolate fundamental principles that can expand our own appreciation as a species of how we achieve understanding. The mysteries of how to improve thinking are still mostly unsolved, and many are relatively unexplored. Perhaps you can be the Newton of this important "last frontier" of self-limiting progress for humans.
Think about it!
0Comment| 5 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
David Berlinski has created a marvelous intellectual history focusing on the progression of Newton's epic breakthrough thinking. He does this in a way that is totally accessible to those who are phobic about mathematics. The explanations are achieved through a skillful combination of simple sentences, symbols, pictures, and diagrams. The presentation is so effective that most readers will find their understanding of important mathematical and scientific principles greatly improved. This is a great book!
Newton was a seminal thinker in the areas of mathematics (developing calculus), physics (with his propositions about gravity and motion), and optics (with his conceptualization of light as being comprised of particles moving in parallel). He also did much work in theology and alchemy, which are recounted here.
A key challenge for David Berlinski was presented by Newton's reticence. He was not a very social person, and wrote almost nothing about how he developed his ideas. Berlinksi does a magnificent job of locating and sharing hints and clues about the bases of these intuitive leaps. This result is enhanced by considering the continuing themes in Newton's thinking, and assuming a connection to his intuition. I suspect that Berlinski is right in connecting the dots that way, but we will never know for sure.
The centerpiece of our story turns out to be the tangent to a curve. From that humble beginning, most of our modern understanding of how physical motion takes place follows.
I also enjoyed better understanding how Newton's thinking was aided by the careful observations and conclusions of Kepler.
If the history of science were always this entertaining, this subject would be one of the most popular majors in colleges.
As Berlinksi tells us in the beginning his purpose in the book is "to offer a sense of the man without specifying in details his . . . activities." This allows us to see the other sides of Newton, but without spending too much time on them. Newton was not perfect. We get glimpses of places where he wasted his time, such as his unsuccessful experiments with alchemy. We also see his flirtations and infatuations. Beyond that, we see what could enrage him, and how he took his revenge. This fleshing out of the whole man makes the scientific history all the more compelling.
If you liked David Berlinski's book, The Birth of the Algorithm, you will probably like this one even better. The asides are much more contained and relevant here.
For those who want a little more math with their scientific history, Berlinski has provided supplementary materials that are quite entertaining.
After you have finished enjoying this wonderful romp, I suggest that you think about where everyday events are unexplained in your life. For example, why do the people you meet with act the way they do? Why is progress slow in many areas, and rapid in others? By looking for connections, you, too, may isolate fundamental principles that can expand our own appreciation as a species of how we achieve understanding. The mysteries of how to improve thinking are still mostly unsolved, and many are relatively unexplored. Perhaps you can be the Newton of this important "last frontier" of self-limiting progress for humans.
Think about it!
0Comment| 5 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse



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