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Marcus Chown

We Need to Talk about Kelvin

In We Need to Talk about Kelvin: What everyday things tell us about the universe Marcus Chown links some of the important discoveries of modern science to things which are directly observable in the world around us.

The book introduces the reader to quantum theory and the atomic nature of matter, to the processes going on in the centre of stars, andd to the origin of the universe. To me, though, the central premise of the book seemed flawed. You can't deduce most of modern science from a few simple observations,. For instance, in the first chapter Chown deduces the quantum nature of matter from the ability to see your reflection in a pane of glass - but this is a consequence of the wave nature of light, and its quantum nature needs totally different observations. It's wrong to suggest to novice readers that if they were a bit better at following the arguments presented then they'd get a clear view of the nature of the universe. And some of the facts that are 'deduced' such as the anthropic arguments, or the intrinsically random nature of the universe, are still being hotly debated.

On the other hand, the book does provide an accessible route to many important parts of science, and if you take the 'deductions' with a pinch of salt then you may well get a lot out of reading it. I wouldn't see it as a winner of the 2010 Royal society prize though. info
ISBN: 0571244025
Salesrank: 8550216
Published: 2009 FABER AND FABER LTD.
Amazon price $10.00
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Hardcover 208 pages  
ISBN: 0571244017
Salesrank: 801802
Weight:0.79 lbs
Published: 2009 Faber & Faber
Marketplace:New from £11.00:Used from £0.01
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ISBN: 0571244017
Salesrank: 1061905
Weight:0.79 lbs
Published: Faber & Faber
Amazon price CDN$ 60.89
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Product Description
Taking a cue from William Blake, Marcus Chown, cosmology consultant for New Scientist, shows how we can 'see a world in a grain of sand'. In this book he chooses familiar features of the mundane world - your reflection in a window, the heat of the sun on your face, how a cause always precedes an effect - and draws on cutting-edge science to explain how they reveal profound truths about the ultimate nature of reality. Short-listed for the 2010 Royal Society Science Book Prize. Slightly off-mint.