From Atoms to Galaxies: A Conceptual Physics Approach to Scientific Awareness, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

From Atoms to Galaxies

A Conceptual Physics Approach to Scientific Awareness, 1st Edition

By Sadri Hassani

CRC Press

753 pages | 342 B/W Illus.

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From Atoms to Galaxies: A Conceptual Physics Approach to Scientific Awareness teaches heightened scientific acuity as it educates students about the physical world and gives them answers to questions large and small. Written by Sadri Hassani, the author of several mathematical physics textbooks, this work covers the essentials of modern physics, in a way that is as thorough as it is compelling and accessible.

Some of you might want to know

. . . How did Galileo come to think about the first law of motion?

. . . Did Newton actually discover gravity by way of an apple and an accident?

Or maybe you have mulled over

. . . Is it possible for Santa Claus to deliver all his toys?

. . . Is it possible to prove that Elvis does not visit Graceland every midnight?

Or perhaps you’ve even wondered …

. . . If ancient Taoism really parallels modern physics?

. . . If psychoanalysis can actually be called a science?

. . . How it is that some philosophies of science may imply that a 650-year-old woman can give birth to a child?

No Advanced Mathematics Required

A primary textbook for undergraduate students not majoring in physics, From Atoms to Galaxies examines physical laws and their consequences from a conceptual perspective that requires no advanced mathematics. It explains quantum physics, relativity, nuclear and particle physics, gauge theory, quantum field theory, quarks and leptons, and cosmology. Encouraging students to subscribe to proven causation rather than dramatic speculation, the book:

  • Defines the often obscured difference between science and technology, discussing how this confusion taints both common culture and academic rigor
  • Explores the various philosophies of science, demonstrating how errors in our understanding of scientific principles can adversely impact scientific awareness
  • Exposes how pseudoscience and New Age mysticism advance unproven conjectures as dangerous alternatives to proven science

Based on courses taught by the author for over 15 years, this textbook has been developed to raise the scientific awareness of the untrained reader who lacks a technical or mathematical background. To accomplish this, the book lays the foundation of the laws that govern our universe in a nontechnical way, emphasizing topics that excite the mind, namely those taken from modern physics, and exposing the abuses made of them by the New Age gurus and other mystagogues. It outlines the methods developed by physicists for the scientific investigation of nature, and contrasts them with those developed by the outsiders who claim to be the owners of scientific methodology. Each chapter includes essays, which use the material developed in that chapter to debunk misconceptions, clarify the nature of science, and explore the history of physics as it relates to the development of ideas. Noting the damage incurred by confusing science and technology, the book strives to help the reader to emphatically demarcate the two, while clearly demonstrating that science is the only element capable of advancing technology.


… present[s] some of the most striking ideas behind physics but also give[s] students and the general public the opportunity of reflecting on the implications of these ideas and provide them with the tools to draw a distinction between scientific fact and nonsense. The book does indeed do what it says on the cover; it presents topics ranging from early Greek astronomy and Newtonian dynamics, passing by electromagnetism and thermodynamics and culminating with quantum theory, relativity and cosmology. … the CD included with the book has lengthier mathematical and numerical examples that supplement the textbook. … The book can be used as an introductory textbook which can work at different levels. I found that the ‘Food For Thought’ sections in the book can be successfully used with students to discuss the topics presented, and the margin annotations that appear all over the book are very helpful. At the end of each chapter there are answers to questions, a glossary, review questions as well as conceptual and numerical exercises. This should provide enough material for teachers or lecturers, both in science and humanities, to narrow the gap between the two cultures.

Contemporary Physics, Volume 52, Issue 3, 2011

Intellectually inspirational, comprehensively informational and tangibly consistent in title, substance and organization respectively. … The most distinguishing feature of this unique title is its originality in terms of addressing the scientific phenomena with pragmatic rigor and spirited vigour. … the book demonstratively stands out as one of the most friendly guides for recognising many interconnected strands of natural philosophy which help us understand science in general and physics in particular. … Last but not least, especially for students and instructors, like any other standard textbook the title throughout provides study help by writing and explaining formulas along with explanatory line-drawn figures, other exhibits, conceptual exercises, mathematical notes, numerical and other examples, glossaries, and review questions. … this title is recommended … [for] personal ownership and placement of multiple copies in the libraries respectively.

—Zia Khan, Reviews, Volume 11, Issue 2, 2010

I have been teaching introductory physics for non-science majors for a long time and have never been satisfied with the books on the market. Most of these texts are just watered-down versions of the general physics texts for science students. When I read through [these] three books, I really do get a sense that the authors have attempted to create book[s] that [are] somehow different from the normal algebra problem-based texts. I will be using Questioning the Universe: Concepts in Physics this fall for the science portion of a Science Fiction Learning Community. In the spring, I will be teaching a physics/art history hybrid course and will be using either Superstrings and Other Things:A Guide to Physics, Second Edition or From Atoms to Galaxies:A Conceptual Physics Approach to Scientific Awareness. … both are great books. … I really feel that for conceptual physics courses, CRC Press currently has the three strongest titles. I anticipate a fun teaching experience while using these texts and hope to use them again in the future.

—Steve Zides, Wofford College, Spartanburg, South Carolina, USA

Table of Contents


Science Kindles

The Beginning

Early Greek Astronomy

The Age of Measurement

The Geocentric Model

Wonder of Ancient Greece

End-of-Chapter Material

A Dark Interlude

Roman Civilization: ca BC–ca AD

Entertainment in the Roman Empire

Religion in the Roman Empire

Education in the Roman Empire

The Aftermath

A Lesson From the Past

End-of-Chapter Material

Science Rekindles

Renaissance and the Copernican Revolution

New Observations: 15 Centuries After Ptolemy

The Fall of the Spherical Dynasty

End-of-Chapter Material

From Heaven to Earth

The Ancient Physics

Galileo’s Study of Motion

Rectilinear Motion

End-of-Chapter Material

Epilogue: Underdetermination?

Lessons From Astronomy

Birth of Scientific Methodology


The Role of Mathematics


Kinematics: Describing Motion

Position, Displacement, and Distance


Velocity and Speed


End-of-Chapter Material

Dynamics: Cause of Motion

The First Law of Motion

The Second Law of Motion

The Third Law of Motion

End-of-Chapter Material

Further Topics on Motion

Work and Energy

Rigid Body Motion

Mechanics of Fluids

End-of-Chapter Material


The Universal Law of Gravitation


End-of-Chapter Material

Epilogue: Determinism

Newton’s Methodology

Determinism of Newtonian Physics




Mechanical Waves

Interference and Diffraction

Doppler Effect

End-of-Chapter Material


Modern Electrostatics

Electric Field

Electric Potential

Electric Charges in Motion

Electric Power Transmission

End-of-Chapter Material

Magnetism and Electricity

The Compass and the Lodestone

Magnetism from Electricity

Faraday’s Lines of Force

Electricity From Magnetism

End-of-Chapter Material

Electromagnetic Waves

Fields Are Primary

Maxwell Corrects the Fourth Equation

Maxwell Predicts Electromagnetic Waves

End-of-Chapter Material

Epilogue: Mind & Matter


Specificity and Idealization

Role of the Mind

Materiality of Fields

Support for Pure Research


Introduction to Probability

Basic Concepts

Distribution Plots

The Law of Large Numbers

End-of-Chapter Material

Statistical Mechanics

Ideal Gas Law

Most Probable Configuration


End-of-Chapter Material

Temperature and Heat


The First Law of Thermodynamics

The Second Law of Thermodynamics

End-of-Chapter Material

Epilogue: Whole & Parts

Specificity and Idealization


A Case for Fundamentalism

Thermodynamics and Social Imagery


Birth of Quantum Theory

Black Body Radiation

Quanta Are Born

Photoelectric Effect

End-of-Chapter Material

The Atoms

Modern Atomic Theory

Dissecting Atoms

Bohr Model of the H-Atom

End-of-Chapter Material

Quantum Theory I

Electrons as Waves

Quantum Mechanics

End-of-Chapter Material

Quantum Theory II

Quantum Tunneling

The Double-Slit Experiment

Angular Momentum and Spin

Quantum Measurement

Quantum Entanglement

Quantum Technology

End-of-Chapter Material

Epilogue: No Interpretation


Role of Fundamentalism


Induction Versus Deduction

No Interpretation for Quantum Theory


Birth of Relativity

Law of Addition of Velocities

Principles of STR

Relativity of Simultaneity

Relativity of Length

End-of-Chapter Material

Relativity of Time and Space

Time Dilation

Length Contraction

The Twin Paradox


End-of-Chapter Material

Spacetime Geometry


Events and Worldlines

Space Transformation

Spacetime Distance

Rules of Spacetime Geometry

Curved Worldlines

End-of-Chapter Material

E = mc2

Coordinate Velocity

Spacetime Velocity

Spacetime Momentum

Conservation of Momentum

End-of-Chapter Material

General Theory of Relativity

The Equivalence Principle

Consequences of Equivalence Principle

Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity

GTR and the Universe

End-of-Chapter Material

Epilogue: No Marketplace



Use/Creation of Mathematics

Induction Versus Deduction


On the Experimental Front

The Nucleon

Nuclear Reactions

The Emergence of Particle Physics

End-of-Chapter Material

On the Theoretical Front

Mathematical Prediction of Antimatter

Quantum Electrodynamics (QED)

End-of-Chapter Material

Classifying Particles and Forces

Spacetime Symmetry: Mathematical Poetry I



End-of-Chapter Material

The Standard Model

Gauge Theory: Mathematical Poetry III

Electroweak Interaction

Quantum Chromodynamics (QCD)

The Standard Model

Grand Unification

End-of-Chapter Material

New Age Physics

Sins of the Fathers

Union of Philosophy, Science, and Religion

Physics-Eastern Thought Parallelism

End-of-Chapter Material

Epilogue: The Eye of Physics

Modern Experimental Techniques

Modern Mathematical Techniques

An Endangered Species?

Continuity and Specificity of Physics


Physics of the Cosmos

The Friedmann Equation

Matter Dominance

Radiation Dominance

Expansion and Olbers’ Paradox

Echo of the Big Bang

End-of-Chapter Material

Early Universe

Content of the Early Universe

The Genesis as Told by Physics

End-of-Chapter Material

The Last Epoch

Cosmic Structure Formation

Problems With Standard Cosmology

Inflationary Cosmology

Birth of a Star

Death of a Star

End-of-Chapter Material

Epilogue: The Closing Dialogue


Misconceptions About Science


Technology: Application of Science

Science and Values

Characteristics of Science

Science Studies Matter

Materialistic Philosophy

Science Trusts Only Observation

Continuity of Science

Science Is Detached From the Scientist

Reductionism and Science

Commonality of Instrumentation


Science Versus Pseudoscience

Some Characteristics of Pseudoscience

Intelligent Design


A Project for the Reader


Answers to Selected Exercises



About the Author

Sadri Dean Hassani is a mathematical physicist with interests in theoretical elementary particle physics.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SCIENCE / Physics