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on 25 August 2007
Learning is a bit like climbing a mountain. Every step is a little bit harder than the last but the view gets better all the time.

In this excellent book, the author takes us through fifty of the most important laws of physics, by way of a series of short and entertaining essays. Beginning with the fundamental laws of heat, motion and energy - those we learn at school and brush up against in the trials of everyday life - we gently ascend through to more recent advances in understanding -bits of the picture that fall well outside the realms of everyday experience: the sub-atomic world of waves and particles: the forces, such as dark energy, that are at work within (and outside?) our expanding universe. Amongst the highlights are an extremely lucid explanation of Einstein's theories of General Relativity and Special Relativity.

Not only does the book demonstrate and celebrate how humankind has slowly begun to unravel the mysteries of life but, for the average reader, it helps us shuffle a few steps up that mountain of learning.

For me, one of the real triumphs of the book is the way that the author shows how even the fundamental laws fit in to the broader picture. For instance, I don't remember my college lecturer explaining how the Second Law of Thermodynamics could determine the ultimate fate of the universe. He should of done - how often do physics students ask the question, "Why do we need to know this?" Well, this book might have the answer and step by step, inch by inch (or should that be nanometre by nanometre) you will be ascending a bit of that mountain I talked about before. I even found myself going back to re-read some of the essays, so clear is the progression between them.

If, like me, you have an interest in science and physics but are by no means a great intellect, this book is a great place to gain a better insight into the way everything sticks together and stays together. Or doesn't, as the case may be !
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on 7 September 2016
There are a series of books from this author and publisher who have failed the public. Basically, the contents don't describe the title to a degree that reflects anything relating to the loosest definition of 'accuracy'. Full of ambiguities, contradictions and assumptions the author and her publisher do a great disservice to science. Had the book been edited in the most cursory fashion by a person who knew the least thing about physics and it could never have been published in this form. For a much better account (not difficult given the above) try Michael Brooks' 'The Big Questions Physics' (ISBN 978-1-84916-146-6). It will restore your sanity after Baker's attempt to deprive you of it.
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on 28 February 2009
I had bought this book after having read the previous three Amazon reviews so should have been prepared. The book has a steady and ultimately illuminating theme of bringing all the theories together, and from this perspective it does so well if the reader perseveres. However, although the summaries are good I felt that the explanations are often far from clear (so disappointing that at times I felt that the equations would have added some clarity), and the editing is unsatisfactory so that I would question whether most readers would stick it out. This is a shame as dipping in and out of the book will lose its message of coherence and development of the ideas in physics.
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on 25 July 2009
I picked this book up after completing a 6 month course in chemistry as part of a qualification to become a science teacher. Before I start teacher training I will be undergoing a month of physics learning, this book was a preemptive move to get some basics under my belt. I found it incredibly clear and structured in the right way; from the basic concepts of Newtonian physics and moving into discoveries that challenged and progressed these physics, eventually moving into quantum physics. The latter being dealt with in a very understandable manner. This book features useful captions on the scientists that came up with certain rules/concepts, as well as time lines on each page to chronologically place these discoveries.
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on 30 December 2011
I found this book an excellent Introduction into the world of Physics, I am 16 and have a keen interest in physics. This book gave me the perfect introduction into the physical science mainly because it left out most of the mathematics and reasoning behind many of the problems and presented us with a short four page essay on each topic explaining what it is and its principals and history are without having to be a mathematician to understand it. After having read the book I decided to pick up "Why Does E=MC^2" by Brian Cox and Jeff Forshaw and I understood it much better having read this first, I also noticed that this book does include the mathematics and reasoning behind the ideas and it takes around 40 pages to make a valid point and I feel that had this book included this it would have been considerably larger and much harder to read. Excellent book, highly recommended to anyone with no serious experience in physics.
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on 13 November 2007
I really wanted to like this book, and for the most part I do. There is a need for a book that can cover the basic physics and theories about the world around us in an interesting and engaging way. This book is pretty good at that. However, I think it is flawed because there are some glaring errors, and this will not help those who didn't understand these things at school, whether because they were not interested or because the teacher wasn't up to it (they can have bad days too).

Two examples are these:

1. In the Introduction on page 3 it reads "Our mobile 'phones connect us via invisible electromagnetic threads to satellites orbiting overhead". Normal mobile 'phones do not do this. Only satellite 'phones do this, and they are relatively expensive and bulky.

2. In Newton's Laws of Motion on page 9 it reads "Acceleration is a change of speed over some time". Whilst this is true, acceleration is really a change of velocity over time, and velocity is a vector and has a component of both speed and direction. So acceleration can be a change in speed or direction (or both) over some time.

These examples may seem pedantic, but it is an important distinction. Perhaps this book tries to avoid anything tricky by dumbing down. Anyway, I still like the book. But it could be better.
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on 13 June 2009
From Brownian motion to black holes, from dark matter to antimatter, 50 key key physics topics are presented here in the same 4-page format as other Quercus titles in the series, with quotes, mini biographies and other side panels livening up each essay. The timeline along the bottom is useful in showing when certain ideas (neutron stars, anti-particles, etc) were predicted to exist, and then when they were actually detected - information which, beyond being a validation of the individual ideas, also serves as an interesting tribute to the scientific method itself.

Given how difficult it is to condense certain scientific ideas into 4 pages, it's not surprising that some explanations are more successful than others. There are a few places where topics feel uncomfortably shoe-horned in to fit within the page limit (superconductivity for instance), whereas others - like the Bernoulli equation - seem spread out a little too thinly. All-in-all though, it's really not so bad. Despite the few 'flaws' that other reviewers identified, there remains a wealth of useful information here, with some good and occasionally excellent explanations. This should be interesting and useful to anyone seeking a general introductory (or refresher) guide to physics.
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on 24 February 2010
A very handy small book with about four pages on each subject. They range from Newton's laws of motion to the behaviour of gases, electricity, light, and eventually on to quantum physics and atomic physics. The explanations are almost all understandable. Insets tell the reader about the scientists most connected with the subject, and a chronology of the subject's discovery and big events is provided. Diagrams are added from time to time to further clarify items. A book to dip into whenever one has a few spare moments.
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on 27 December 2007
Such a good idea, but so disappointing.

In spite of reading the comments from the earlier reviewer who considered it 'flawed', I bought 2 copies as presents. When I read some of the essays I had to agree, and think the two examples quoted in that review were relatively minor in comparison to other distortions. I found the introductory summary for each topic very acceptable but would not rely on any of the detail.

To me, it reads as if the author's original script has been over-enthusiastically edited by someone with less than a complete grasp of the topics, resulting in a disappointing level of mis-information and contradictions.
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VINE VOICEon 27 November 2009
This book covers 50 key concepts in physics building chronologically from the ideas of forces, planetary motion and gravity, the nature of waves and light, through quantum mechanics and the latest ideas in particle physics and the nature of the universe. Each chapter is about 4 pages only, but covers ideas concisely and in a relatively understandable manner. The purpose is to give the non-specialist an insight into the topics covered. Naturally the coverage of some topics is brief and can only really scratch the surface, but it does evoke a sense of wonder and certainly encourages the reader to explore topics of special interest in more depth. I do agree with some reviewers that certain topics could do with further detail and diagrams, and I did find the explanations in a few chapters not totally transparent, but this is probably as much due to me as much as the explanation itself! I found the chapter on Schrodinger's cat particularly well done. The final chapters concerning cosmology certainly made me realise how little we really know of the universe. Oh, and I'm sure quantum mechanics is just made up.......! Despite some criticisms, it was still a thoroughly good trip through the world of physics
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