Bryan Lowder of Slate reports on newly released book titles and the world of publishing in "The Book Reader.
The prospect of reading about advanced physics can be daunting. But with big ideas like the Higgs Boson particle and quantum computing appearing in the news increasingly often, now is a great time to revisit a subject you may not have thought much about since high school. This week, our books cover more than three centuries of development in physics, tackling some complicated questions with clarity and humor along the way.
Sometimes, to understand the present, you need to go back to the beginning. That's just what math professor Colin Pask has done in "Magnificent Principia," out in September from Prometheus.
The Principia was Sir Isaac Newton's great treatise on motion and gravity. First published in 1687, it’s the text that contains those famous "three laws," in addition a great deal of other groundbreaking work in the area of science known as mechanics. Pask revives this classic, guiding experts and laypeople alike on an enlightening tour through Newton's masterpiece and, as a consequence, the invention of the scientific method as we know it today.
Fast forward 300 years, and that same method is on the mind of Jim Baggott, whose book "Farewell to Reality" is out this month from Pegasus. After an engaging discussion of what constitutes "truth" in science and a brisk journey through the development of contemporary physics, Baggott turns to popular, but as yet untested, theoretical concepts like string theory and supersymmetry, arguing convincingly that these ideas are more mathematical fantasy than scientific fact.
For more far-out titles, check out the Slate Book Review at slate.com/books.