Notebooks

Physics

03 Oct 1994 12:02

It is, after all, my profession...

See also: Atomism; Complexity; Dissipative Structures; Dynamical Systems and Chaos; Emergent Properties; Field Theory; Liquid Crystals; Math I Ought to Learn; the "New Physics"; Particle Physics; Pattern Formation; Physical Principles in Biology; Physics of Computation and Information;

  • Turbulence
      Recommended:
    • Fay Ajezenbverg-Selove, A Matter of Choices [Autobiography of a nuclear physicist, who happens to be the first woman to have gotten a Ph. D. in physics from Wisconsin.]
    • K. C. Cole, Sympathetic Vibrations [Recently republished as First You Build a Cloud]
    • The Feynman Lectures on Physics [I'm not sure it's possible to actually learn physics from them, but for elegance they can't be beat. There is no need to recommend his memoirs, Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman and What Do You Care What Other People Think, as discerning readers such as yourself read them long ago. The Character of Physical Law is also very fine.]
    • David Griffiths [The best physics textbooks I have ever seen.]
      • Introduction to Electrodynamics
      • Introduction to Elementary Particles
      • Introduction to Quantum Mechanics
    • Ian D. Lawrie, A Unified Grand Tour of Theoretical Physics [Review: Bon Voyage!]
    • Philip Morrison, Nothing Is Too Wonderful To Be True
    • Philip and Phylis Morrison
      • The Ring of Truth: An Inquiry into How We Know What We Know
      • and the Office of Charles and Ray Eames, Powers of Ten: A Book About the Relative Size of Things in the Universe and the Effect of Adding Another Zero [The film is not to be missed, either.]
    • Tony Rothman
      • Science à la Mode [The original title was supposed to be ...And the Bandwagon Rolled On --- it's a collection of essays, very sharp but mathematically undemanding, against some recent follies and fads in physics. The essay on entropy, in particular, repays attention.]
      • A Physicist on Madison Avenue [The title essay, about trying to bring elementary statistical hygenie to the marketing policy of Scientific American, is priceless.]
    • Stephen Toulmin, The Philosophy of Science [Really about physics. Rather incredibly for a philosopher, Toulmin succeeds very well in understanding and explaining how physicists think, by focusing in great detail on geometrical optics --- a shrewd choice, since it's mathematically about the most accessible part of physics.]
    • Trefil, From Atoms to Quarks
    • Steven Weinberg, Dreams of a Final Theory
    • Wilczek and Devine, Longing for the Harmonies [There's a certain style of thinking about physical problems that theoretical physicists acquire --- a fondness for symmetries and invariants --- and this book does a marvelous job of conveying the feel of this style without any explicit math. (I imagine it would help to be familiar with algebra.)]


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