Revolutions in twentieth-century physics

Prof. David J. Griffiths

By William Abernathy ’88

Whatever before surprises physics delivers in the 21st century, the 20th is going to be one tough act to follow. At the revolve of the last century, physics was in hazard of ending up being an intellectual backwater: our watchoccupational world appeared clearly governed by long-established Newtonian principles. Promising young scientists were counsebrought about stop the technique, as so few explorations continued to be to be made. Then, in 1905, an unrecognized Swiss patent clerk published a document entitled “Zur Elektrodynamik bewegter Körper” (On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies). Better recognized as the concept of unique relativity, it pretty a lot readjusted every little thing. Physics went nonstraight.


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Prof. David Griffiths’ new book, Revolutions in Twentieth-Century Physics, perdevelops double duty as a layman’s physics text and also as an intellectual background of the century that many essentially altered humankind’s knowledge of the universe. Deceptively slim, however powertotally expository, this book offers a review of the mind-bending discoveries of 20th-century physics in just five chapters. alwaei.comies of a certain vintage will certainly acknowledge the initially of these chapters as a brief refresher of the foundational Newtonian physics of Nat. Sci. 110, with Griffiths whisking the reader previous a selective survey of classical physics, from simple mechanics to wave dynamics. With physics (circa 1900) under your belt, Griffiths draws his machete and hacks a four-chapter trail into the 20th-century’s 4 good physics revolutions: relativity, quantum mechanics, ppost physics, and cosmology. 

Griffiths seeks to present these concepts’ beauty, strangeness, and curious symmetries without penning a shallow, “gee-whiz” physics review. Presenting the gist of these recondite topics without demanding as well much of a lay reader is a breakable balancing act, and for the a lot of component, he gets it best (though an answer guide would certainly at times be welcome). Griffiths has regulated to collection aside the the majority of fearsome aspect of progressed physics—the advanced math—with a book that demands just arithmetic and also algebraic knowledge. While the frequently counterintuitive discoveries of 20th century physics had to be demonstrated with hairy math and intricate experiments, as soon as proven, the majority of have the right to be expressed in ordinary algebra. Griffiths’ tone is gentle and also conversational, and he’s refreshingly relaxed around shrugging his shoulders and also admitting once he doesn’t have actually answers. Typically, it’s because no one does.

For readers through the math chops to seek these principles even more deeply, Griffiths has actually already written highly pertained to and widely embraced introductory textpublications on quantum mechanics, electrodynamics, and also elementary pwrite-ups. For the remainder of us, Revolutions in Twentieth-Century Physics will prove a helpful and also instructive field guide. 


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