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AVAILABLE REVIEWS

 
Software Reviews

Efofex

Efofex is a Western Australian Company that produces a number of software packages for Maths & Science Teachers.  I am currently using the software and would definitely recommend it to any teacher who needs powerful, easy-to-use software to draw maths or science diagrams and graphs, write equations, including complex chemical equations, draw molecular structures or use statistics.  These packages connect seamlessly with Microsoft Word and are capable of saving the results of your work in multiple formats.  Excellent training videos are available at the website.  Comprehensive manuals are supplied with each package.

The other interesting aspect to consider is their Empower Program for students with special needs (see under Products on their Homepage).  Totally unexpectedly FX Equation, and to a lesser extent FX Chem, turned out to be extremely empowering tools for students who find writing mathematics and science difficult. They provide their products free of charge to these students and have had some fantastic results including a couple of students who have graduated as engineers in spite of suffering from significant disabilities. It is also useful for students with dysgraphia.

Have a look at the website at the link below.

http://efofex.com/index.php

I have supplied below the text on their "About Us" page.  (Note: I have no financial connection with Efofex.  I recommend their software because it is extremely good.)

"In 1989, a group of mathematics and science teachers wanting to computerise their work, began designing software. The software was born out of the teachers' needs rather than a programmer's specification. The result is software that closely matches teachers' expectations and the idea has proved popular around the world. One of the most common comments we hear is that "This must have been written by a teacher!"

Our products produce publication quality graphics for mathematics and science teachers and their students.

Our mission is to make the job easy for teachers and students.

Our street address is:

1/25 The Avenue
Crawley WA 6009
Australia

Our postal address is:

PO Box 189
Claremont WA 6910
Australia

Email: info@efofex.com

Voicemail:    Australia 08 9200 5044    International +61 8 9200 5044
Fax:    Australia 08 9200 5674    International +61 8 9200 5674

Our ABN is 49 009 428 380."

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Book Reviews

 

 

The Future of the Mind: The Scientific Quest to Understand, Enhance, and Empower the Mind by Michio Kaku (ISBN 9780385530828) hardcover edition published by Doubleday Books, New York, 2014.

 

Comments from Book Depository: NOW A #1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER. Compelling?. Kaku thinks with great breadth, and the vistas he presents us are worth the trip. The New York Times Book Review: The New York Times best-selling author of PHYSICS OF THE IMPOSSIBLE, PHYSICS OF THE FUTURE and HYPERSPACE tackles the most fascinating and complex object in the known universe: the human brain. For the first time in history, the secrets of the living brain are being revealed by a battery of high tech brain scans devised by physicists. Now what was once solely the province of science fiction has become a startling reality. Recording memories, telepathy, videotaping our dreams, mind control, avatars, and telekinesis are not only possible; they already exist. THE FUTURE OF THE MIND gives us an authoritative and compelling look at the astonishing research being done in top laboratories around the world, all based on the latest advancements in neuroscience and physics. One day we might have a "smart pill" that can enhance our cognition; be able to upload our brain to a computer, neuron for neuron; send thoughts and emotions around the world on a "brain-net"; control computers and robots with our mind; push the very limits of immortality; and perhaps even send our consciousness across the universe. Dr. Kaku takes us on a grand tour of what the future might hold, giving us not only a solid sense of how the brain functions but also how these technologies will change our daily lives. He even presents a radically new way to think about "consciousness" and applies it to provide fresh insight into mental illness, artificial intelligence and alien consciousness. With Dr. Kaku's deep understanding of modern science and keen eye for future developments, THE FUTURE OF THE MIND is a scientific tour de force--an extraordinary, mind-boggling exploration of the frontiers of neuroscience.

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The Simpsons and Their Mathematical Secrets by Simon Singh (ISBN 9781408843734) paperback edition published by Bloomsbury Publishing PLC, London, 2013.

 

Comments from Book Depository: Some have seen philosophy embedded in episodes of The Simpsons; others have detected elements of psychology and religion. Simon Singh, bestselling author of Fermat's Last Theorem, The Code Book and The Big Bang, instead makes the compelling case that what The Simpsons' writers are most passionate about is mathematics. He reveals how the writers have drip-fed morsels of number theory into the series over the last twenty-five years; indeed, there are so many mathematical references in The Simpsons, and in its sister program, Futurama, that they could form the basis of an entire university course. Using specific episodes as jumping off points - from 'Bart the Genius' to 'Treehouse of Horror VI' - Simon Singh brings to life the most intriguing and meaningful mathematical concepts, ranging from pi and the paradox of infinity to the origins of numbers and the most profound outstanding problems that haunt today's generation of mathematicians. In the process, he introduces us to The Simpsons' brilliant writing team - the likes of Ken Keeler, Al Jean, Jeff Westbrook, and Stewart Burns - who are not only comedy geniuses, but who also hold advanced degrees in mathematics. This eye-opening book will give anyone who reads it an entirely new mathematical insight into the most successful show in television history.

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Physics of the Future: How Science Will Shape Human Destiny and Our Daily Lives by the Year 2100 by Michio Kaku (ISBN 9780307473332) paperback edition published by Random House USA Inc, New York, 2012.

 

Comments from Book Depository: Space elevators. Internet-enabled contact lenses. Cars that fly by floating on magnetic fields. This is the stuff of science fiction--it's also daily life in the year 2100. Renowned theoretical physicist Michio Kaku details the developments in computer technology, artificial intelligence, medicine, space travel, and more, that are poised to happen over the next hundred years. He also considers how these inventions will affect the world economy, addressing the key questions: Who will have jobs? Which nations will prosper? Kaku interviews three hundred of the world's top scientists--working in their labs on astonishing prototypes. He also takes into account the rigorous scientific principles that regulate how quickly, how safely, and how far technologies can advance. In "Physics of the Future", Kaku forecasts a century of earthshaking advances in technology that could make even the last centuries' leaps and bounds seem insignificant.

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Bigger or Better?: Australia's Population Debate by Ian Lowe (Physicist) (ISBN 9780702239090) paperback edition published by University of Queensland Press, St Lucia, 2012.

 

Comments from Book Depository: A comprehensive and detailed analysis of the controversial debate about Australia's population numbers, this book clarifies the subject and addresses the many misconceptions. It provides an historic account of Australia's population growth and a study of official data while examining the components of that growth in detail, including birth rates and immigration as well as the more recent trend of an aging population. In addition, this thorough account also discusses the motives of the interested parties, both those who promote population growth and those who argue against it.

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Merchants of Doubt by Associate Professor Naomi OreskesDr Erik M Conway (ISBN 9781608193943) paperback edition published by Bloomsbury Publishing PLC, New York, 2011.

 

Comments from Book Depository: "Merchants of Doubt should finally put to rest the question of whether the science of climate change is settled. It is, and we ignore this message at our peril." - Elizabeth Kolbert "Brilliantly reported and written with brutal clarity." - Huffington Post "Merchants of Doubt" was one of the most talked-about climate change books of recent years, for reasons easy to understand: It tells the controversial story of how a loose-knit group of high-level scientists and scientific advisers, with deep connections in politics and industry, ran effective campaigns to mislead the public and deny well-established scientific knowledge over four decades. The same individuals who claim the science of global warming is "not settled" have also denied the truth about studies linking smoking to lung cancer, coal smoke to acid rain, and CFCs to the ozone hole. "Doubt is our product," wrote one tobacco executive. These "experts" supplied it.

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In Pursuit of the Unknown - 17 Equations That Changed The World by Ian Stewart (ISBN 9780465085989) paperback edition published by The Perseus Books Group - Basic Books, New York, 2013.

 

Comments from Book Depository: Most people are familiar with history's great equations: Newton's Law of Gravity, for instance, or Einstein's theory of relativity. But the way these mathematical breakthroughs have contributed to human progress is seldom appreciated. In "In Pursuit of the Unknown", celebrated mathematician Ian Stewart untangles the roots of our most important mathematical statements to show that equations have long been a driving force behind nearly every aspect of our lives. Using seventeen of our most crucial equations--including the Wave Equation that allowed engineers to measure a building's response to earthquakes, saving countless lives, and the Black-Scholes model, used by bankers to track the price of financial derivatives over time--Stewart illustrates that many of the advances we now take for granted were made possible by mathematical discoveries. An approachable, lively, and informative guide to the mathematical building blocks of modern life, In Pursuit of the Unknown is a penetrating exploration of how we have also used equations to make sense of, and in turn influence, our world.

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Knocking on Heaven's Door by Lisa Randall (ISBN 9781847920690) hardcover edition published by Vintage - The Bodley Head Ltd, London, 2011.

 

Comments from Book Depository: "Science has a battle for hearts and minds on its hands... How good it feels to have Lisa Randall's unusual blend of top flight science, clarity, and charm on our side" -- Richard Dawkins, Author Of The God Delusion "Many books call to mind superlatives, but this one has them all. Lisa Randall's lucid explanations of concepts at the frontiers of physics - including her own dazzling ideas - are highly illuminating, and her hearty defense of reason and science is a welcome contribution to the contemporary world of ideas. Read this book today to understand the science of tomorrow" -- Steven Pinker, Harvard College Professor And Author Of How The Mind Works "I didn't think it was possible to write a complex, detailed look at the world of physics that the non-scientist could understand, but then Lisa Randall wrote this amazing, insightful and engaging book and proved me wrong" -- Carlton Cuse, Award-Winning Writer Of Television Series Lost "Written with dry wit and ice-cool clarity...Knocking on Heaven's Door is a book that anyone at all interested in science must read. This is surely the science book of the year" -- Christopher Potter Sunday Times "Lisa Randall does a great job of explaining to the non-physicist the basic scientific approaches of modern physics and what the latest experiments might reveal. This is a must read to appreciate what is coming in our future" -- J. Craig Venter

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Dis Information and other Wikkid myths by Dr Karl Kruszelnicki (ISBN 0732280605) paperback edition published by Harper Collins, Sydney, 2005.

This is an excellent read.  In typical exciting, down-to-earth and informative style, Dr Karl clears up many a common myth and entertains all the way.  Ever wondered what happens to all those bullets you often see fired into the air in jubilation?  Can piranhas strip a human body to the bone in seconds flat?  Can you re-start a flatlined heart?  Lie detectors, the legendary beauty of Cleopatra, the history of the electric chair, the physics of torpedos, the reasons for the seasons, asteroids and comets, the benefits of megadoses of vitamins, myths of Titanic proportions, the great cash crash of 1929, your survival chances in the vacuum of space and many, many more topics are addressed.  At 247 pages, once you start reading this book, you'll finish it in one sitting.  Then, days later, you'll come back and read most of it again.

Do yourself a favour.  Get this book & enjoy.

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Evolving Cosmos by Govert Schilling (ISBN 0521833256) hardback edition published by Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2004.

This is an excellent and very up to date book on cosmic evolution.  The Dutch science journalist Govert Schilling takes the reader on a whirlwind journey through time.  He describes the evolution of the cosmos, from the beginning of space and time fourteen billion years ago, to the creation of the Earth and humankind.  The book ends with a glance into the distant future of the universe.  The book is a combination of compelling text and breathtaking photographs.  The text is exciting to read and easily understandable.  Any person interested in science will find this book an absolute delight to read and experience.  This book is a real masterpiece.

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Fermat's Last Theorem by Simon Singh (ISBN 1841157910) paperback edition published by Fourth Estate, London in 2002.

This is a truly marvellous book.  Fermat's Last Theorem is a mathematical conundrum created in France in the 17th Century.  The proof of the theorem has eluded multitudes of brilliant mathematicians from that time right up until 1993 when mathematician Andrew Wiles finally solved the problem.

In presenting the story of the formulation of the theorem and the ensuing attempts to prove it, the book provides enthralling insights into the nature and history of mathematics itself and entertaining descriptions of many of the interesting characters who have added so much to our mathematical knowledge and understanding across the years.  Singh's enthusiastic telling of this story captures the interest of the reader from page 1 and holds it throughout.  His lucid and riveting storytelling style makes this book a very enjoyable read.

Definitely worth a look.

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Galileo's Commandment edited by Edmund Blair Bolles (ISBN 0349112460) published by Abacus, London in 2000.

As it says on the front cover, this is "an anthology of great science writing".  The editor has selected science literature from many authors - from Herodotus' natural history of the Nile Valley around 444BC, to Galileo's descriptions of what he saw through his telescopes, to Lavoisier's preface to "The Elements of Chemistry", to the writings of Charles Darwin, Marie Curie, Albert Einstein, Carl Sagan and many, many others.  It is both fascinating and enlightening to read the thoughts of the many scientists included in this collection.

"The aim behind this collection", says Bolles in his introduction, "is to show readers that science writing can be great writing in precisely the same sense that other genres are great: it has something important to say; it says it by presenting readers with unique imaginations; and readers in turn are inspired to think in ways, that by themselves, they never could."  He wants readers to see "that science writing can be fresh, pleasurable and not at all like cold toast".  I believe that he has succeeded in his aim.  While the writings chosen reveal much about the nature of scientific method and progress in science, at the same time they reveal the very human nature of science, from the painstaking, meticulous struggles of some to the creative thinking and flashes of brilliance of others.  There is a genuine human warmth, energy and excitement present in many of the writings that draw the reader in and motivate the reader to delve further into the topic under study.

I would certainly recommend this book to any person, scientist or non-scientist.  There is something here for everyone!

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Our Cosmic Habitat by Martin Rees (ISBN 0297829017) published by Weidenfeld & Nicholson, London in 2002.

Sir Martin Rees is Royal Society Research Professor at Cambridge University.  His central thesis in this book is that our universe is just part of a vast "multiverse" or ensemble of universes.  He discusses the possibility that our cosmic habitat is a very special, perhaps unique universe in which the prevailing laws of physics allowed life to emerge.

Rees examines the credibility of the Big Bang Theory and what we know of the beginning of the universe, briefly discusses black holes and their effect on time, considers possible futures for the universe, comments on the latest attempts to attain a unified theory of the cosmos and microworld and describes why he believes in the multiverse concept.

Any person with an interest in astronomy or cosmology would find this book very entertaining and informative.  It provides good revision and extension material for any student studying new HSC Syllabus Topics 8.4 The Cosmic Engine or 9.7 Astrophysics.  It is available in the College Library.

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Our Final Century by Martin Rees (ISBN 0434008095) published by William Heinemann, London in 2003.

Sir Martin Rees is Royal Society Research Professor at Cambridge University.  In this, his latest book, he explores the downside of unpredictable science and runaway technology.  He addresses the hazards of error, terror and environmental catastrophe - some familiar, others less so - emphasizing the great difficulty of countering these risks.  The theme is not new - many novels and movies have been based on the same theme - think of "The Matrix" and the "Terminator" series of movies.  This book however presents an up to date consideration of what are very real possibilities and dangers.

Rees is concerned that before too long, maybe within twenty years at the outside, bio and cyber technologies will become so powerful that even one fanatic or social misfit could trigger a worldwide disaster of previously unimagined scale.  He worries that catastrophes could arise simply from technical misadventure - mistakes do happen, even in the most well-regulated organizations.  There are even fears that certain high energy experiments in particle accelerators may one day trigger some cataclysmic unraveling of the fabric of the universe, bringing everything to an untimely end.

How should society guard against being unknowingly exposed by scientists to a not-quite-zero chance of an event with an almost infinite downside?  What safeguards need to be put in place?  If the human race is to survive this new century says Rees, it is time to make some difficult decisions about the future of science.

Written in Rees' easy-to-read, authoritative and entertaining style, this book is well worth the read.

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Parallel Worlds by Michio Kaku (ISBN 0713997281) published by Penguin Allen Lane, London in 2005

Michio Kaku is a leading theoretical Physicist and one of the founders of String Theory, widely regarded as the strongest candidate for a Theory of Everything.  Kaku is also an excellent author.  "Parallel Worlds" tells the story of the latest scientific theories of the nature of creation and tells it in a lucid, entertaining, down to earth style.

Using the latest astronomical data, Kaku outlines the current views of the Big Bang, theories of everything and our cosmic future.  He takes us on an exciting, thought provoking tour of such concepts as Dimensional Portals, Time Travel, Parallel Quantum Universes and aspects of String and M Theory.  He considers the possibility of escaping from our universe into another.  He discusses some thoughts on the meaning of life, the universe and everything.

Throughout the book Kaku includes interesting anecdotes to illustrate a host of points.  Tales of philosophical battles between Bohr and Einstein; stories illustrating the paradoxes of time travel; and so on.  For instance, imagine using a time machine to go back into the past and actually become your own father.  Mind boggling!!!

This is a very informative and entertaining read.  Extremely good!  It would be a good addition to any school library.

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Physics Meets Philosophy at the Planck Scale: Contemporary Theories in Quantum Gravity by Craig Callender & Nick Huggett (ISBN 0521664454) published by Cambridge University Press in 2001.

It says on the back cover: "The greatest challenge in fundamental physics attempts to reconcile quantum mechanics and general relativity in a theory of "quantum gravity." The project suggests a profound revision of the notions of space, time and matter. It has become a key topic of debate and collaboration between physicists and philosophers. This volume collects classic and original contributions from leading experts in both fields for a provocative discussion of the issues. It contains accessible introductions to the main and less-well-known known approaches to quantum gravity. It includes exciting topics such as the fate of spacetime in various theories, the so-called "problem of time" in canonical quantum gravity, black hole thermodynamics, and the relationship between the interpretation of quantum theory and quantum gravity. This book will be essential reading for anyone interested in the profound implications of trying to marry the two most important theories in physics."

This book is well worth a read for anyone interested in developments in the field of quantum gravity.  Probably most appropriate for undergraduate students in Physics and/or Philosophy and graduate students.

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Science A History 1543-2001 by John Gribbin (ISBN 0713997311) published by Penguin, London in 2002.

I cannot speak highly enough of this book.  It is an excellent read.  Although the title may sound a little dry, for anyone interested in the history of science, this is a "must read"!

John Gribbin is currently Visiting Fellow in Astronomy at the University of Sussex.  He is an accomplished astrophysicist as well as a very respected author of many books on Science.  In this book Gribbin tells the story of the people who made science from the Renaissance to the present day.  He shows that although we tend to think of science in terms of a few unique geniuses, more often than not it involves relatively ordinary people building step by step on the progress of previous generations.  Gribbin gives us a unique insight into the minds and hearts of the scientists without whom our lives would be unrecognizable.

There is one error.  In the section discussing the Michelson-Morley Experiment, Gribbin writes : "Always the answer was the same - no interference between the two beams".  In fact, there was always interference between the two beams of light in the interferometer.  The crux of the experiment is that when the whole apparatus was rotated through 90 degrees there was no change in the interference pattern observed on the screen.

Still, this book is a masterpiece.  It is an epic tale that animates the history of science.  It informs, excites and inspires the reader.  You are left in awe at the creative genius that lies within the human soul and with a real sense of science as perhaps the greatest achievement of the human mind.  Every teacher of science should read this magnificent book.  It would be a great addition to any school library.

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The Elegant Universe by Brian Greene (ISBN 009928992X) published by Vintage, London in 2000.

Brian Greene is Professor of Physics and Mathematics at Columbia University and Cornell University.  He is one of the world's leading experts on "Superstring Theory", one of the main contenders for a quantum theory of gravity.

In trying to fathom what happened in the first 10-43 of a second of the Big Bang (the Planck time), physicists reach a point at which the equations of General Relativity break down.  At that time the universe was only about 10-35 metres in diameter (the Planck length).  On such short distance scales as these, we encounter a fundamental incompatibility between General Relativity and Quantum Mechanics.  Basically, the central feature of Quantum Mechanics, the uncertainty principle, conflicts directly with the central feature of General Relativity, the smooth geometrical model of spacetime. The notion of a smooth spatial geometry is destroyed by violent fluctuations of the quantum world on short distance scales.

Greene firstly provides an excellent and very readable account of the main features of the Theory of General Relativity and the Theory of Quantum Mechanics, without delving into the associated mathematics.  He then explains clearly, the reasons for the incompatibility between these two theories on very short distance scales. These first five chapters are probably readable by anyone with an interest in Physics.  Greene uses many good analogies to get his points across.

In the remaining ten chapters, Greene presents an exciting account of Superstring Theory that provides the reader with a very clear picture of the main features of the theory and of the work being done to build this theory into a successful quantum theory of gravity.  Along the way we are introduced to the concept of a 10 or 11 dimensional universe, where the fabric of space tears and repairs itself, and all matter is generated by the vibrations of microscopically tiny loops of energy.  We also see how Superstring Theory successfully overcomes the incompatibility between General Relativity & Quantum Mechanics.  Exciting!  Mind-blowing!  Beautiful!  But be warned - much of the material beyond chapter 6 requires a great deal of concentration to read and understand, even for someone with a solid background in Physics.

Give it a go anyway!  It is available in the College Library.

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The Night Sky - A Guide to Observing the Sun, Moon and planets by Steve Massey (ISBN 1 74110 083 6) published by New Holland, Sydney in 2003.

This is an excellent guide for the beginning astronomer.  Written in a very easy-to-read style, this book provides:

  • advice on how to locate the planets and other celestial bodies
  • insightful chapters on the Sun, Moon and each of the planets, with details of what you can see through a small telescope
  • an in-depth guide to tools for observing, covering different types of telescopes and accessories
  • information on how to photograph or video celestial events
  • an introduction to the history of astronomy
  • over 160 stunning photographs and illustrations.

If you are just starting out in practical astronomy, this is definitely a worthwhile purchase.

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The Road To Reality - A Complete Guide to the Laws of the Universe by Roger Penrose (ISBN 0224044478) published by Jonathan Cape, London in 2004.

Weighing in at 1094 pages, this is a heavy book - both physically and cognitively.  The book provides a comprehensive account of the physical universe and the essentials of its underlying mathematical theory.  Professor Penrose describes with clarity our present understanding of the universe.  He conveys a feeling for its deep beauty and philosophical implications, as well as its intricate logical interconnections.

In the book we learn about the roles of the different kinds of numbers in Physics; the ideas - and magic - of calculus and of modern geometry; notions of infinity; relativity theory; the foundations and controversies of quantum mechanics; the standard model of particle physics; cosmology; the Big Bang; Black Holes; the profound challenge of the second law of thermodynamics; string and M Theory; loop quantum gravity; fashions in science; and new directions.

Roger Penrose is Emeritus Rouse Ball Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford.  He has received a number of prizes and awards, including the 1988 Wolf Prize for Physics, which he shared with Stephen Hawking for their joint contribution to our understanding of the universe.

This book is awesome in its scope.  Inspite of claims to the contrary by the author, you will need a degree in Physics or Mathematics to read this work from cover to cover.  As one reviewer from Amazon.com wrote of this book: "The number of people in the world who can understand everything in it could probably take a taxi together to Penrose's next lecture."  For most people, this book will serve as an extremely authoritative reference on matters concerning the nature of the universe.  It would be a good addition to any school or university library.

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Three Roads To Quantum Gravity by Lee Smolin (ISBN 0297643010) published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London in 2000.

Lee Smolin is currently Professor of Physics at the Centre for Gravitational Physics and Geometry at Pennsylvania State University and a leading contributor to the search for a unification of Quantum Theory, Cosmology and Relativity.

One of the greatest challenges in modern Physics is the quest to successfully unify Einstein's Theory of General Relativity with the Quantum Theory into what has become know as the Quantum Theory of Gravity. This book is an extremely valuable, up to date report on progress towards this goal at the beginning of the 21st Century.  With elegance, simplicity and clarity, Smolin describes  the three main "roads" along which most progress has been made - Black Hole Thermodynamics, String Theory and Loop Quantum Gravity.

The work that has been done in these three fields of research, and others that Smolin describes, is inspirational and the insights that have been gained are very exciting.  The reader is presented with new insights into the nature of space and time.  For instance, space could well be  discrete rather than continuous on the Planck scale (10-35 metre).  So just as there is a smallest unit of matter that can exist, there could well be a smallest volume of space that can exist.  The reader is introduced to the "holographic principle" which may very well be the fundamental principle of Quantum Gravity.  Towards the end of the book Smolin addresses the question of who or what chose the laws of nature.

Throughout the book Smolin conveys the human nature of scientific research - the frustrations, worries and disappointments, as well as the joy and excitement of discovery.  He stresses that research at this level has to be a community activity taking full advantage of the talents and abilities of all those involved in the struggle.  He highlights the importance of communication between mathematicians and physicists.

As one reads this book one experiences a sense of awe at the innate beauty and mystery of the universe created by our God and at the nobility and ingenuity of the God-given human intellect as it strives to understand the universe.

I would recommend this book to any person interested in the nature of space and time and in our growing scientific understanding of these two fundamental concepts.

(Also note that the material on pages 99-100 of this book can be used in relation to the Stage 6 Physics Syllabus Statement 9.4.2 Column 3 Dot Point 2 - Einstein's contribution to Quantum Theory etc.)

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The Grip of Gravity by Prabhakar Gondhalekar (ISBN 0521803160) published by Cambridge University Press in 2001.

This is a very readable account of the development of our understanding of the force of gravity over the last two thousand years.  It includes revealing biographical sketches of many of the scientists who added to our understanding and illuminating digressions on the political and cultural background of the times in which various discoveries were made.

The book describes all aspects of gravity, including curved space-time, neutron stars, wormholes (and time travel), black holes, gravitational lenses and current developments in cosmology.  Einstein's Theory of General Relativity is examined as well as alternative theories.  In the final chapter there is a very good description of attempts to unify the four forces of nature, including a brief outline of Superstring Theory.

The book is written in a logical, easy to read, entertaining style.  The author's coverage of the topic is extremely thorough.  He also provides a list of suggested further readings.  This book is well worth a read for anyone interested in physical science and its historical development.

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Warped Passages - Unravelling the Universe's Hidden Dimensions by Lisa Randall (ISBN 0713996994) published by Penguin Allen Lane, London in 2005.

A fantastic book!  Lisa Randall is one of the world's leading theoretical Physicists and an expert on String Theory.  Her work has attracted enormous interest and is some of the best cited in all of science.  She was the first tenured woman in the Princeton Physics Department and the first tenured woman theorist at MIT and Harvard.

In the Preface and Acknowledgements section at the start of the book Randall states that she "envisioned a book that shares the excitement that I feel about my work without compromising the presentation of the science.  I hoped to convey the fascination of theoretical physics without simplifying the subject deceptively or presenting it as a collection of unchanging, finished monuments to be admired.  Physics is far more creative and fun than people generally recognize.  I wanted to share these aspects with people who hadn't necessarily arrived at this realization on their own."

Randall has certainly achieved what she envisioned.  This book is an excellent read.  In this brilliant and accessible account, Randall takes us into an incredible world of warped, hidden dimensions that underpin the universe we live in.  She describes how we might prove their existence.  She explores what they can tell us about our existence and looks at the questions that they they still leave open.

Giving an exhilarating overview of the major developments in physics over the last century, giving accessible accounts of subjects such as string theory, particle theory and brane theory and unweaving the current debates about relativity, quantum mechanics and gravity, this brilliant book demystifies the science and unravels the mysteries at the heart of our world.  A must read!!!  It would be an excellent addition to the science section of any school library.

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Last updated:

Robert Emery 2002 - view the Terms of Use of this site.