ISBN13:978-1400079964 ISBN10: 1400079969 This edition has also been released as: ISBN13: 978-0385515061 ISBN10: 0385515065
Summary: Werner Heisenberg's ''uncertainty principle'' challenged centuries of scientific understanding, placed him in direct opposition to Albert Einstein, and put Niels Bohr in the middle of one of the most heated debates in scientific history. Heisenberg's theorem stated that there were physical limits to what we could know about sub-atomic particles; this ''uncertainty'' would have shocking implications. In a riveting account, David Lindley captures this critical episode and explains one
of the most important scientific discoveries in history, which has since transcended the boundaries of science and influenced everything from literary theory to television.
Summary: Werner Heisenberg's ''uncertainty principle'' challenged centuries of scientific understanding, placed him in direct opposition to Albert Einstein, and put Niels Bohr in the middle of one of the most heated debates in scientific history. Heisenberg's theorem stated that there were physical limits to what we could know about sub-atomic particles; this ''uncertainty'' would have shocking implications. In a riveting account, David Lindley captures this critical episode and explains one of the most important scientific discoveries in history, which has since transcended the boundaries of science and influenced everything from literary theory to television. ...show less
Edition/Copyright:07 Cover: Paperback Publisher:Alfrd A. Knopf, Inc. Year Published: 2007 International: No
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david lindley holds a Ph.D. in astrophysics and has been an editor atNature,Science, andScience News. He is the author ofThe End of Physics,Degrees Kelvin,Where Does the Weirdness Go?,andBoltzmann's Atom. He lives in Alexandria, Virginia.
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Chapter 1 IRRITABLE PARTICLES Robert Brown, son of a Scottish clergyman, was the archetypal selfmade scholar, sober, diligent, and careful to the point of fanaticism. Born in 1773, he trained in medicine at Edinburgh, then served for some years as a surgeon's assistant in a Fifeshire regiment. There he put his spare time to worthy use. Rising early, he taught himself German (nouns and their declensions before breakfast, his diary records, conjugation of auxiliary verbs afterward) so that he could master the considerable German literature on botany, his chosen subject. On a visit to London in 1798, the young Scotsman met and so impressed the great botanist Sir Joseph Banks, president of the Royal Society, that on Banks's recommendation he sailed three years later on a long voyage to Australia, returning in 1805 with close to four thousand exotic plant specimens neatly stowed on his ship. These he spent the next several years assiduously describing, classifying, and cataloging, serving meanwhile as Banks's librarian and personal assistant. Brown's remarkable Australian trove, along with Banks's own equally notable collection, became the heart of the botanical department of the British Museum, of which Brown became the first professional curator. He was, said a visitor to Banks's London house, ''awalking catalogueof every book in the world.'' Charles Darwin, before he was married, passed many a Sunday with the learned Robert Brown. In his autobiography Darwin describes a contradictory man, vastly knowledgeable but powerfully inclined to pedantry, generous in some ways, crabbed and suspicious in others. ''He seemed to me to be chiefly remarkable for the minuteness of his observations and their perfect accuracy. He never propounded to me any large scientific views in biology,'' Darwin writes. ''He poured out his knowledge to me in the most unreserved manner, yet was strangely jealous on some points.'' Brown was notorious, Darwin adds, for refusing to lend out specimens from his vast collection, even specimens that no one else possessed and which he knew he would never make any use of himself. It is ironic, then, that this dry, cautious man should be commemorated now mainly as the observer of a curious phenomenon, Brownian motion, that represented the capricious intrusion of randomness and unpredictability into the elegant mansion of Victorian science. It was indeed the very scrupulousness of Brown's observations that made the implications of Brownian motion so grave. In June 1827, Brown began a study of pollen grains fromClarkia pulchella, a wildflower, popular today with gardeners, that had been discovered in Idaho in 1806 by Meriwether Lewis but named by him for his coexplorer William Clark. Characteristically, he intended to scrutinize minutely the shape and size of pollen particles, hoping that this would shed light on their function and on the way they interacted with other parts of the plant to fulfill their reproductive role. Brown had acquired a microscope of recent and improved design. Its compound lenses largely banished the rainbowhued fringes of color that afflicted the borders of objects seen in more primitive instruments. Under Brown's eye the ghostly shapes of the pollen grains sprang clearly into view, their edges neatly delineated. Even so, the images were not perfect. The pollen grains wouldn't stay still. They moved about, jiggled endlessly this way and that; they shimmered and stuttered; they drifted with strange erratic grace across the microscope's field of view. This incessant motion complicated Brown's planned investigations, but it was not so very surprising. More than a century and a half earlier Antony van Leeuwenhoek, a draper from Delft, Hol
''Lindley brilliantly captures the personalities and the science surrounding the most revolutionary principle in modern physics. At stake are our deepest philosophical beliefs about reality. This book is so lucid that the issues are not merely understandable but truly thrilling.'' --Walter Isaacson, author of ''Benjamin Franklin: An American Life'' and ''Einstein: His Life and Universe ''In this always smart, and often beautiful, book, David Lindley illuminates some of the most intriguing theories in physics. The ideas themselves take their shape through the equally complicated lives and hopes of scientists determined to make sense of a seemingly impossible universe. In illuminating both--the elusive and elegant laws of physics, the scientists who struggled to decipher them--''Uncertainty'' rightfully reminds us that the most difficult puzzles in the world around us are solved by both our minds--and our hearts.'' --Deborah Blum, author of ''Ghost Hunters: William James and the Search for Scientific Proof of Life After Death'' ''Lindley's description of one of the most dramatic revolutions in scientific thinking is truly fascinating. The ideas, and the lives of the originators of these ideas, become masterfully intertwined.'' --Mario Livio, senior astrophysicist, Space Telescope Science Institute, and author of ''The Golden Ratio: The Story of Phi, the World's Most AstonishingNumber''
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