Seeking Ultimates: An Intuitive Guide to Physics, Second Edition takes us on a journey that explores the limits of our scientific knowledge, emphasizing the gaps that are left. The book starts with everyday concepts such as temperature, and proceeds to energy, the Periodic Table, and then to more advanced ideas. The author examines the nature of time and entropy, chaos, quantum theory, cosmology, and some aspects of mathematics, confirming that our understanding is necessarily incomplete. Using references to historical figures in science as well as thought-provoking illustrations, Seeking Ultimates encourages you to consider your scientific knowledge in a new light. You will be able to reassess your belief in "truths" as presented (such as mathematical theorems) and to reconsider philosophical issues of theology and happiness. A comprehensive glossary explains in clear language the technical terms so that nonscientists can enjoy the text.
Table of Contents
Introduction. There is no free lunch. Temperature and energy: science for the environment. Painting by numbers - elements and particles: science as prediction. Why you cannot unscramble an egg. Time and entropy: science and the unity of knowledge. How the butterfly caused the tornado - chaos and life: science as synthesis. Now you see it, now you don't - quantum theory: science and the invention of concepts. The galactic highway - cosmology: science as history. Weirdness or purity - mathematics: science as numbers. The last question: does God exist? Love of my life: science as human activity. References. Glossary. Index.
Peter T Landsberg is Emeritus Professor of Physics at the University of Southampton, UK. He is well known for his research into semiconductor theory and has published widely. His earlier publications include Enigma of Time, also published by Institute of Physics Publishing.
"I heartily recommend this book. For those familiar with the subjects treated, it is good bedtime reading. For the interested nonspecialist, it offers an understanding of what physics is all about. This book is not only illuminating but also entertaining. It is embellished throughout by illustrations, examples of correspondence between scientists, and anecdotes. Each chapter is given a hero: Pascal, Rumford, Mendeleev, Boltzmann, Darwin, Planck, Einstein, Eddington. These serve to show how important a love of science for its own sake is to genuine progress in understanding … If you have not been waiting for this book, you should have been, and if you have not read it yet, you should."
-American Journal of Physics 68 (10), October 2000
"I recommend the volume strongly for technical professionals at all levels."
-Jag J. Singh, NASA Langley Research Center, Virginia, USA
"I recommend it as a well-written treatise of the state of modern physics."
-B.C. Sanders, Macquarie University
"Landsberg makes a persuasive case that cosmological theories are models and should be treated as such, and he shows that very interesting questions and issues do emerge when we juxtapose the various cosmological models as live possibilities."
-Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics, 33
"… those already knowledgeable in physics will enjoy a sparkly treatment of many things that they already know, and may be able to learn some things that they did not know before."
-Hasok Chang, Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics, 33
"This book has remarkable breadth, dealing with physics as a human activity of wide interest and summarizing much of what we know about physics and its broader implications … Landsberg's exploration of the limits of scientific knowledge, written for a general audience, is interesting. He points to the gaps in our knowledge and asks what we can learn from them."
-William E. Evenson, History of Physics Newsletter, Vol. VIII, No. 3
"Landsberg is a charismatic Professor Emeritus at Southampton University in the UK, and has an impressive command of the subjects presented in his book. Through prose, anecdotes, and imaginative illustrations, his personality shines through and adds to the text a lively cadence. Seeking Ultimates is filled with anecdotes that serve to enlighten while at the same time providing a sense of perspective to those responsible for shaping the course of modern physics. Landsberg's approach will be illuminating for the scientist as well, and for that reason this book is highly recommended to the technical community as a whole."
-R. Scheps, Progress in Quantum Electronics, 28 (2004) 247-248
"… it is splendid to see the whole field of physics presented in one short volume by an author knowledgeable about it all. What makes it particularly attractive is that the historical background is described showing the persons and events through which we came to our current understanding. And all this done without mathematics! … thinking is certainly required, but in a pleasurable … way."
-Sir Hermann Bondi, Cambridge University, UK