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Jennifer Ouellette

Black Bodies and Quantum Cats

Physics is sometimes thought to be a subject which is remote from everyday life, only to be followed by experts. In this book, based on a monthly column in APS news, Jennifer Ouellette shows that this is not the case. The book takes various episodes in the history of physics and describes them in terms which the non-technical reader will understand. - with plenty of references to modern novels and films providing metaphors for the underlying physics. Thus Jurassic Park is used in the explanation of Chaos Theory and Blade Runner in the discussion of Artificial Intelligence. Its a well written book and although the chapters are in chronological order they are independent of each other so its perfectly suited to dipping into whan you feel like a bit of light reading.

On the other hand I don't feel that the book is likely to inspire many people to take up physics - its has more of the flavour of interesting facts about inventions rather than discussion of the physical principles. Also some people might not be that keen on a series of historical anecdotes. But I found plenty to keep my interest, and I felt that Ouelette does well to deal with diverse areas of physics but still maintain the chronological thread - from Leonardo da Vinci in 1509 to the state of string theory in 2003 - without it seeming forced.

Product Description
Physics, once known as "natural philosophy," is the most basic science, explaining the world we live in, from the largest scale down to the very, very, very smallest, and our understanding of it has changed over many centuries. In Black Bodies and Quantum Cats, science writer Jennifer Ouellette traces key developments in the field, setting descriptions of the fundamentals of physics in their historical context as well as against a broad cultural backdrop. Newton’s laws are illustrated via the film Addams Family Values, while Back to the Future demonstrates the finer points of special relativity. Poe’s "The Purloined Letter" serves to illuminate the mysterious nature of neutrinos, and Jeanette Winterson’s novel Gut Symmetries provides an elegant metaphorical framework for string theory. An enchanting and edifying read, Black Bodies and Quantum Cats shows that physics is not an arcane field of study but a profoundly human endeavor—and a fundamental part of our everyday world.