When Galileo lived in the 17th century, he was asked a lot of questions about how things worked. How do these questions today compare? What is our place in this huge world of things? In what way will spacetime come to an end, and how?
Mike Perricone, a science writer, has chosen the best physics books of the year, and two of them are on the New York Times’ “Most Notable Books of 2020.”
Until the End of Time: Mind, Matter, and Our Search for Meaning in an Evolving Universe, by Brian Greene
When Brian Greene (The Elegant Universe, The Fabric of the Cosmos, and The Hidden Reality) wrote this book, he set out on a huge project to find out where humanity fits in the universe. People come from laws that seem to be eternal, but they only last for a short time. Greene is a professor of physics and mathematics at Columbia University. He is also the co-founder of the World Science Festival, which brings people together to learn about science. (This book is on the Times’ list of the best books of 2020).
The End of Everything (Astrophysically Speaking), by Katie Mack
Physicist Katie Mack says that we already know how the Earth will end. She is an assistant professor of physics at North Carolina State University. Eventually, the sun will become a red giant, and it will swallow up the planets inside. Is there anything else we need to know about the universe itself? Mac makes predictions based on small changes to our incomplete knowledge of the universe. From the Big Crunch to the Big Rip, Mack talks about how the cosmic curtain could come down in very different ways. (This book is on the Times’ list of “Most Notable Books of 2020”)
Galileo and the Science Deniers, by Mario Livio
After 359 years, the Catholic Church finally agreed with Galileo Galilei: The Earth does move around the sun. The Italian astronomer didn’t just have to deal with people who didn’t believe in science in the early 17th century. They also had to deal with people who didn’t believe in religion. An astrophysicist named Mario Livio has written a book called “The Golden Ratio,” which talks about the mind and methods of modern science’s first leader.
The Dream Universe: How Fundamental Physics Lost its Way, by David Lindley
It was Galileo who said that our understanding of the world should be based on evidence, not just our own thoughts. This set the stage for all of science. An astrophysicist named David Lindley says that quantum physicists have moved away from Galileo’s vision by focusing on equations instead of observations. This book is about quantum physics. Lindley warns against science that isn’t based on things that can be measured.
The World According to Physics, by Jim Al-Khalili
Physicist and BBC commentator Jim Al-Khalili says that physics is the only way we can be sure to get to the “truth” about the world. All of our everyday experiences and technologies are based on science that goes from the quantum to the cosmological. Al-Khalili goes from the quantum to the cosmological when he talks about the science of matter, energy, space, and time.
Black Hole Survival Guide, by Janna Levin
Nothing can be said about black holes because they are nothing. In her book Black Hole Blues and Other Songs from Outer Space, Janna Levin, a professor of physics and astronomy at Barnard College of Columbia University, says: “There is nothing there. There is nothing there.” In Levin’s book, he asks the reader to imagine meeting one of these “beasts of nothingness.” Without them, our galaxy, our everything, would not be there. Images by Lia Halloran are shown in this text.
Shaken, Not Stirred! James Bond in the Spotlight of Physics, by Metin Tolan and Joachim Stolze
Physicist Sir Isaac Newton is closely linked to fictional spy James Bond, says Metin Tolan, a professor of experimental physics in Germany. According to this book, there are 27 films worth of 007’s high-flying adventures and amazing gadgets that can be explained (or disproved) by science. Newton’s three laws of motion are the first thing that can be used to do that. As for the book’s title question, “Shaken or stirred?” Tolan says that Daniel Craig’s Bond in Casino Royale asked, “Do I look like I give a damn?”
Stephen Hawking: A Memoir of Friendship and Physics, by Leonard Mlodinow
According to Leonard Mlodinow, the late Stephen Hawking worked with him and was a friend for more than 20 years. In this book, Mlodinow (The Grand Design and A Briefer History of Time, with Hawking; Feynman’s Rainbow, and many other books) shows Hawking as a man who is good at both physics and philosophy, as well as a wine and curry expert.
The Sun: A Very Short Introduction, by Philip Judge
As Philip Judge, a researcher in Boulder, Colorado, says, “We can easily forget that the sun is the source of almost all of the energy that we can easily use, from fossil fuels to wind and waves to solar panels.” His book, which is part of the Oxford University Press Very Short Introductions series, talks about what we know about our closest star and how it helps us live on Earth.
The Physics Book: Big Ideas Simply Explained (with Foreword by Jim Al-Khalili)
“Big Ideas” editors and illustrators from DK/Penguin Random House thoroughly and amusingly answer nearly 100 physics questions in this book. The book is broken into seven sections: measurement and motion; energy and matter; electricity and magnetism, sound, and light, the quantum world, nuclear and particle physics, relativity, and the universe. The Physics Book is a great way to learn about the subject.
A New Kind of Science By: Stephen Wolfram , 2002
Wolfram, who was born in 1959, is a well-known mathematician, physicist, computer scientist, and entrepreneur. He was born in London to a German-Jewish refugee family who moved to London after World War II. He graduated from Eton and went to St. John’s College, Oxford. Then he went to Caltech, where he got a PhD in particle physics in 1979, when he was just 20 years old. There, he worked with Richard Feynman (see #16 and 18 below). Most people think of Wolfram because he came up with the Wolfram programming language. However, his most important theoretical contribution has been his work on developing a new computational language based on cellular automata for the study of complex systems, which has been the most important. This is his main point: If physics wants to study complex systems, it needs to move away from traditional math and start using computation-based forms of math. This book is an effort to show and document this huge project. A paperback version of the book came out in 2019.