ISBN13:978-1400078196 ISBN10: 1400078199 This edition has also been released as: ISBN13: 978-0375423208 ISBN10: 0375423206
Summary: From the bestselling author of ''Einstein's Dreams ''comes this lyrical and insightful collection of science writing that delves into the mysteries of the scientific process and exposes its beauty and intrigue. In these brilliant essays Lightman explores the emotional life of science the power of imagination the creative moment and the alternate ways in which scientists and humanists think about the world. Along the way he provides in-depth portraits of some of the great geniuses of
our time including Albert Einstein Richard Feynman Edward Teller and astronomer Vera Rubin. Thoughtful beautifully written and wonderfully original ''A Sense of the Mysterious'' confirms Alan Lightman's unique position at the crossroads of science and art.
Summary: From the bestselling author of ''Einstein's Dreams ''comes this lyrical and insightful collection of science writing that delves into the mysteries of the scientific process and exposes its beauty and intrigue. In these brilliant essays Lightman explores the emotional life of science the power of imagination the creative moment and the alternate ways in which scientists and humanists think about the world. Along the way he provides in-depth portraits of some of the great geniuses of our time including Albert Einstein Richard Feynman Edward Teller and astronomer Vera Rubin. Thoughtful beautifully written and wonderfully original ''A Sense of the Mysterious'' confirms Alan Lightman's unique position at the crossroads of science and art. ...show less
Edition/Copyright:05 Cover: Paperback Publisher:Vintage Books Year Published: 2005 International: No
View Author Bio
Alan Lightman was born in Memphis Tennessee and educated at Princeton and at the California Institute of Technology where he received a Ph.D. in theoretical physics. An active research scientist in astronomy and physics for two decades he has also taught both subjects on the faculties of Harvard and MIT. Lightman's novels include Einstein's Dreams which was an international best seller; Good Benito; The Diagnosis which was a finalist for the National Book Award; and Reunion. His essays have appeared in The New York Review of Books The New York Times Nature The Atlantic Monthly and The New Yorker among other publications. He lives in Massachusetts where he is adjunct professor of humanities at MIT. Einstein's Dreams The Diagnosis and Reunion are available in paperback from Vintage Books.. From the Hardcover edition.
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Ever since I was a young boy my passions have been divided between science and art. I was fortunate to make a life in both as a physicist and a novelist and even to find creative sympathies between the two but I have had to live with a constant tension in myself and a continual rumbling in my gut. In childhood I wrote dozens of poems. I expressed in verse my questions about death my loneliness my admiration for a plum-colored sky my unrequited love for fourteen-year-old girls. Overdue books of poetry and stories littered my second-floor bedroom. Reading listening even thinking I was mesmerized by the sounds and the movement of words. Words could be sudden like jolt or slow like meandering. Words could be sharp or smooth cool silvery prickly to touch blaring like a trumpet call fluid pitter-pattered in rhythm. And by magic words could create scenes and emotions. When my grandfather died I buried my grief in writing a poem which I showed to my grandmother a month later. She cradled my face with her veined hands and said ''It's beautiful'' and then began weeping all over again. How could marks on a white sheet of paper contain such power and force? Between poems I did scientific experiments. These I conducted in the cramped little laboratory I had built out of a storage closet in my house. In my homemade alchemist's den I hoarded resistors and capacitors coils of wire of various thicknesses and grades batteries switches photoelectric cells magnets dangerous chemicals that I had secretly ordered from unsuspecting supply stores test tubes and Petri dishes lovely glass flasks Bunsen burners scales. I delighted in my equipment. I loved to build things. Around the age of thirteen I built a remote-control device that could activate the lights in various rooms of the house amazing my three younger brothers. With a thermostat a lightbulb and a padded cardboard box I contructed an incubator for the cell cultures in my biology experiments. After seeing the movie Frankenstein I built a spark-generating induction coil requiring tedious weeks upon weeks of winding a mile's length of wire around an iron core. In some of my scientific investigations I had a partner John my best high-school friend. John was a year older than I and as skinny as a strand of number-30 gauge wire. When he thought something ironic he would let out a high-pitched shrill laugh that sounded like a hyena's. John did not share my interest in poetry or the higher arts. For him all that was a sissyish waste of calories. John was all practicality. He wanted to seize life by the throat and pull out the answer. As it turned out he was a genius with his hands. Patching together odds and ends from his house he could build anything from scratch. John never saved the directions that came with new parts he never drew up detailed schematic diagrams and his wiring wandered drunkenly around the circuit board but he had the magic touch and when he would sit down cross-legged on the floor of his room and begin fiddling the transistors hummed. His inventions were not pretty but they worked often better than mine. Weekends John and I would lie around in his room or mine bored listening to Bob Dylan records occasionally thinking of things to excite our imaginations. Most of our friends filled their weekends with the company of girls who produced plenty of excitement but John and I were socially inept. So we listened to Dylan and read back issues of Popular Science. Lazily we perused diagrams for building wrought-iron furniture with rivets instead of welded joints circuits for fluorescent lamps and voice-activated tape recorders and one-man flying machines made from plastic bleach bottles. And we undertook our ritual expeditions to Clark and Fay's on Poplar Avenue the best-stocked supply store in Memphis. There we squandered w
''Splendidly illuminating... Imprinted with Lightman's scientific wonderment and poetic grace.'' San Francisco Chronicle ''Original. . . . Heartfelt. . . . Illuminating. . . . Lightman writes with his characteristic unmannered leanness. His style takes something from the scientists who 'want to hear that call of certain truth that clear note of a struck bell.''' St. Louis Post-Dispatch ''A fine introduction to the excitement and pleasures of science by a scientist who is a humanist in the noblest sense of the word.''Los Angeles Times ''This slender volume mixes insightful scientific biographies with revealing autobiographical accounts and leavens them both with clearly told physics lessons for lay readers.'' The Boston Globe ''Wonderfully perceptive. . . . Finely chiseled essays.'' Scientific American From the Trade Paperback edition.
View Table of Contents
A Sense of the Mysterious Words Metaphor in Science Inventions of the Mind The Contradictory Genius The One and Only Megaton Man Dark Matter A Scientist Dying Young Portrait of the Writer as a Young Scientist Prisoner of the Wired World Acknowledgments
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