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on 18 July 2017
The Very Short Introductions are a major educational resource. There are presently over 500 small books covering a very wide range of subjects. Although short, the Introductions are substantial in content. Everyone would benefit from reading these books to broaden their knowledge and understanding in diverse areas of life. Perseverance with some subjects may be required but be prepared to be surprised, enlightened and enriched.
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on 19 December 2009
This book has recently been reviewed in the CERN courier and even IEEE Spectrum. I totally agree with those raving reviews and would recommend this slim volume as the number one read for an introduction to this important topic. Many scientists are met, and anecdotes abound, while never straying far from the historical progression of discovery, with a sound grounding in the science, made understandable by analogies and clear wording. A resounding success in the series. Yes as usual in the VSI there are typos etc but this book is just great. Must buy for an intro into this field.
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The twentieth century was replete with profound new discoveries in Physics that radically reshaped the way we think about the world around us. In a nutshell, we can think of these conceptual breakthroughs in terms of two simple slogans: "small is different" and "more is different." "Small is different" refers to the fact that when we look at the world at the very smallest scale the usual laws of everyday Physics start to break down. We are unable to determine position of objects with any finite certainty, objects seem to be able to be at two possible locations at a same time, and properties of objects don't vary smoothly but come in terms of discrete values. The realm of the very smallest is investigated in the parts of Physics that we call Quantum Mechanics (see for instance Quantum Theory: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions)) and Particle Physics (see for instance Particle Physics: A Very Short Introduction. When we think of modern Physics, this is usually what we first have in mind. However, another important conceptual line of investigation is encapsulated in the other phrase, "more is different." This refers to the fact that many times, a whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and under certain conditions it is impossible to understand the behavior of a system of particles just by understanding the properties of individual particles. In fact, in some cases the notion of individual particle itself becomes suspect. Quantum mechanics itself has already hinted at some of this, but the branch of Physics that are deals with this approach to the world around us the most is called "Solid State Physics" or "Condensed Matter Physics." This is an area of vast and important active research, both theoretical and experimental, but it has never quite gotten the public recognition that it warrants. For instance Jim Bardeen, the only person to have won the Nobel Prize in Physics twice, is hardly a household name. This very short introduction is a good starting point to get acquainted with one phenomenon that the Condensed Matter Physics deals with, and that is the phenomenon of Superconductivity.

Superconductivity is the property of certain materials that endows them with perfect conductivity at very low temperatures. Since the temperatures at which it manifests itself are extremely low, until the early part of twentieth century it was a completely unknown phenomenon. The first chapter or so of this book deal with the search for the very low temperatures, and the significant milestones along that way. We are then shown how the search for these low temperatures lead to the discovery of some very interesting properties of metals at those extreme regimes, among which was superconductivity. The first part of the twentieth century was spent at discovery and better characterization of superconducting materials, primarily metals, but a theoretical understanding of superconductivity proved much more elusive. A breakthrough happened in 1950s, when aforementioned John Bardeen with a couple of his collaborators came up with a theory of "regular" superconductivity, i.e. the kind of superconductivity that was known to exist up through 1980s. And then, in 1980s superconductivity was discovered in all sorts of unexpected places, and many of the materials that it was discovered in were not even metals. The theory of this so-called high-temperature superconductivity has to this day eluded researchers.

What makes superconductivity so important to study is the fact that it is the ultimate many-body phenomenon: superconductivity cannot be reduced to conduction of individual electrons, but all of the electrons in a material must be taken into the account at once, together with their interaction with the rest of the material. This is what makes understanding superconductivity intrinsically difficult.

The book concludes with several applications of superconductivity and prospects for future research and discovery. This is a very well written book that makes a very difficult subject accessible to the general audience.
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on 30 May 2011
Blundell is superb once again. You really enjoy reading the issues, stories and anecdotes related with superconductivity as well as the people have been involved in its discovery and development.
It gives a very good account on the topic without any need for complicated details and equations. I think that when one is studying a certain topic in physics, this kind of background (historical context, anecdotes and important implications, how and why things happened as they did) should be worked out too, specially during the undergraduate studies in order to keep the motivation. The format results into a bit too small, but the content is really worthy :)
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on 28 October 2012
This book is good, but if you want maths galore then read Einstein Bose Condensation by Snoke. I do not think for a first time reader the second book mentioned is a good idea and you are better with this short introduction to this complex subject, to start with.
You do not always need the maths, pictures and diagrams are just as good.Look at Einstein with his thought experiments to understand relativity, which is relationship and reflection, no maths needed in the introduction of these difficult subjects.
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on 31 March 2016
Having heavily criticized the author's other book I must say this was surprisingly good. I understand superconductivity well now, and the book leaves no nagging questions about it's central themes, unlike 'Magnetism: A Very Short Introduction'. However, some tangential details like why do gases cool when expanded (when basic thermodynamics would lead you to guess the opposite was true) could have been explained as I don't really know that much of physics. 4 stars if such details were added.
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on 22 July 2016
This is not a book for a student of physics who wants a thorough understanding of superconductivity. It doesn't even try to be such a book. (There is not an equation in sight!)

It covers the history of the discovery of superconductivity and subsequent research into the topic, the personalities involved, and the physics. The physics is covered in a qualitative way that will make sense to a layman, but this is not a textbook. The book is well written and a pleasure to read.
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on 6 July 2010
This books is larely a history of cold temperature physics. While some of the physics of superconductivity is covered, this is a single section of the book. The large use of often bizzare analogies is a bit confusing at times (electrons are a swarm of bees, then electrons are a choir or a room of incomprehenisble noise). However i do know more about superconductivity than i previously did, so 3 stars.
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on 8 December 2012
This is another quality book in the "A Very Short Introduction" series of books. It manages to go into detail about the Physics of Superconductivity and it's discovery without overcomplicating things too much. Credit must go to the author where it is due.
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on 26 September 2010
This is a very readable and exciting story about how knowledge of superconductivity developed, and about the people who made the discoveries. A nice non-mathematical explanation gives some insight of how quantum mechanics causes superconductivity.
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