The Adventure of Physics - Vol. III: Light, Charges, and Brains
Conditions of Use
The book touches upon very many interesting topics, but it does not go into depth on many of them. This is in itself need not be a problem, but in read more
The book touches upon very many interesting topics, but it does not go into depth on many of them. This is in itself need not be a problem, but in this case the absence of depth on most topics is combined with too much technical depth on others, making up a very confusing eclectic jumble. The whole book takes a very introductory approach that may initially seem suitable for beginning physics students and even interested students from other disciplines, but even the most dedicated student would get lost almost immediately in the rambling style supplemented with a few advanced concepts and mathematics that are scattered in without being accessible from the knowledge presented.
The book is not inaccurate in the sense of there being individual facts of formulae wrong, apart from very few misprints, but it is totally wrong in its approach to its topics. It does not convey anywhere near an overview of the knowledge on a particular topic leaving the reader confused. There is also very little balance in topics that are in fact much more controversial than the text makes the reader believe, e.g. as regards ball lighting. Some of the more philosophical parts of the book draw conclusions that most scientists would call at best wonky but probably downright wrong.
The book does not accurately reflect the current state of knowledge in the subject area and hence it does not make very much sense to discuss its longevity. Many of the illustrations and examples are very modern compared to other textbooks, but that does not make it any more valid. The many video clips included are impressive, though some of those are likely to date quickly both in content and in format.
The lack of clarity in this book is not one of language but conceptual. The book puts together interesting morsels of knowledge without ever managing to weave it into a coherent whole. Short chunks of the text are suitable for various types of audience, but the book as a whole is largely inaccessible to anyone who does not already know the subject area very well.
The book is totally inconsistent intellectually; it discusses topics in a very rambling style, but then may suddenly go into an explanation that anyone who has not already got in depth knowledge of the topic will not be able to follow.
It is difficult to comment on the modularity of the book since every part of it suffers from the same problems of consistency already explained. The reader will not be able to follow the text, but cross-referencing within the book is only a very minor problem compared to the much larger problem of a potential student having to learn whole subject areas elsewhere before even attempting to understand this book.
The book rambles on rather then presents anything in an intellectually logical manner.
The book is nicely typeset, has mostly good pictures and graphs, and the included video clips are on the whole well made and interesting, though not always to the point. However, a significant issue for navigation is the intellectual jumble this book is in. Even though the book has chapter and section headings, these are very confusing and do not help the reader to find relevant information easily.
The book appears to have been written by a native speaker of German, which shows but is not a major distraction. However, readers will probably find the many untranslated quotes annoying.
This book could serve as an intellectual challenge and entertainment for experienced physicists, but it is totally unsuitable as a textbook. This is a shame considering the huge amount of effort that has gone into producing it.
Table of Contents
- Chapter 1: Liquid electricity, invisible fields and maximum speed
- Chapter 2: The description of electromagnetic field evolution
- Chapter 3: What is light?
- Chapter 4: Images and the eye - optics
- Chapter 5: Electromagnetic effects
- Chapter 6: Summary and limits of classical electrodynamics
- Chapter 7: The story of the brain
- Chapter 8: Thought and language
- Chapter 9: Concepts, lies and patterns of nature
- Chapter 10: Classical physics in a nutshell
About the Book
This book is written for anybody who is curious about nature and motion. Curiosity about how people, animals, things, images and space move leads to many adventures. This volume presents the adventures one encounters when exploring everything electric. The story ranges from the weighing of electric current to the use of magnetic fields to heal bone fractures and up to the understanding of the human brain.
In the structure of physics, shown in Figure 1, motion due to electricity is the most fascinating aspect of the starting point at the bottom. Indeed, almost everything around us is due to electric processes. The present introduction to electricity, magnetism, light and the brain is the third of a six-volume overview of physics that arose from a threefold aim that I have pursued since 1990: to present motion in a way that is simple, up to date and captivating.
In order to be simple, the text focuses on concepts, while keeping mathematics to the necessary minimum. Understanding the concepts of physics is given precedence over using formulae in calculations. The whole text is within the reach of an undergraduate.
In order to be up to date, the text is enriched by the many gems – both theoretical and empirical – that are scattered throughout the scientific literature.
In order to be captivating, the text tries to startle the reader as much as possible. Read- ing a book on general physics should be like going to a magic show. We watch, we are astonished, we do not believe our eyes, we think, and finally we understand the trick. When we look at nature, we often have the same experience. Indeed, every page presents at least one surprise or provocation for the reader to think about. Numerous interesting challenges are proposed.
The motto of the text, die Menschen stärken, die Sachen klären, a famous statement by Hartmut von Hentig on pedagogy, translates as: ‘To fortify people, to clarify things.’ Clar- ifying things – and adhering only to the truth – requires courage, as changing the habits of thought produces fear, often hidden by anger. But by overcoming our fears we grow in strength. And we experience intense and beautiful emotions. All great adventures in life allow this, and exploring motion is one of them. Enjoy it!
About the Contributors
Christoph Schiller, born in 1960, is European. Raised in Varese, he studied physics at the Universität Stuttgart and received his Ph.D. in physics at the Université Libre de Bruxelles, in the department of Ilya Prigogine. Christoph Schiller is an innovation manager. He is convinced that exploring and applying physics can provide as much pleasure as anything else in life - and he explains why in the present text. He started the Motion Mountain Textbook project in Yokohama in 1990, wrote most of the text in Eindhoven and is finishing it during his business trips.