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Gavin Pretor-Pinney

The wavewatcher's companion

Waves are all about us, so much so that often we won't notice them. In The wavewatcher's companion Gavin Pretor-Pinney points out some of the many examples of waves around us.

The book starts with the different types waves on the sea, and this is followed by chapters on sound and electromagnetic waves. Not all waves are moving and sinusoidal, the author also describes standing waves, and shock waves such as that formed when an an aircraft breaks the sound barrier. There can be waves in flocks of birds or crowds - the Mexican wave. The tides also count as a form of waves. The author describes interference of waves and takes a brief foray into quantum theory. The final chapter describes his experiences of surfing in Hawaii.

This book is longlisted for the 2011 Royal Society Science book prize, but I wouldn't expect it to get any further. The author seems to shy away from anything that looks too scientific, for instance I would have expected a discussion of the nonexistence of the luminiferous aether in the chapter on electromagnetic waves. In a sense the ubiquity of waves means that we just get the selection of examples the author wants to talk about, and it isn't a particularly scientific selection. That said, its a well written book, full of interesting facts, with plenty of humour, and its non-technical nature opens it up to a wide readership.

Amazon.com info
Hardcover
ISBN: 0747589763
Salesrank: 2444151
Weight:1.06 lbs
Published: 2010 Bloomsbury
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Amazon.co.uk info
Paperback 336 pages  
ISBN: 1408809761
Salesrank: 58792
Weight:0.53 lbs
Published: 2011 Bloomsbury Paperbacks
Amazon price £14.94
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Amazon.ca info
Paperback 336 pages  
ISBN: 1408809761
Salesrank: 452981
Weight:0.53 lbs
Published: 2011 Bloomsbury Paperbacks
Amazon price CDN$ 4.64
Marketplace:New from CDN$ 4.64:Used from CDN$ 2.78
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Product Description
One bright February afternoon on a beach in Cornwall, Gavin Pretor-Pinney took a break from cloudspotting and started watching the waves rolling into shore. Mesmerised, he wondered where they had come from, and decided to find out. He soon realised that waves don't just appear on the ocean, they are everywhere around us, and our lives depend on them. From the rippling beats of our hearts, to the movement of food through our digestive tracts and of signals across our brains, waves are the transport systems of our bodies. Everything we see and hear reaches us via light and sound waves, and our information age is reliant on the microwaves and infrared waves used by the telephone and internet infrastructure. From shockwaves unleashed by explosions to torsional waves that cause suspension bridges to collapse, from sonar waves that allow submarines to 'see' with sound to Mexican waves that sweep through stadium crowds...there were waves, it seemed, wherever Gavin looked. But what, he wondered, could they all have in common with ones we splash around in on holiday? By the time he made the ultimate surfer's pilgrimage to Hawaii, Gavin had become a world-class wavewatcher, although he was still rubbish at surfing. And, while this fascinating, funny book may not teach you how to ride the waves, it will show you how to tune into the shapes, colours and forms of life's many undulations.