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The Prism and the Pendulum
The Ten Most Beautiful Experiments in Science
Written by Robert Crease

The Prism and the Pendulum
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Category: Science - Experiments & Projects; Nature - Ecosystems & Habitats - General; Science - Environmental Science
Imprint: Random House Trade Paperbacks
Format: Trade Paperback
Pub Date: October 2004
Price: $16.00
Can. Price: $18.00
ISBN: 978-0-8129-7062-3 (0-8129-7062-4)
Pages: 272
Also available as an eBook.



 
Is science beautiful? Yes, argues acclaimed philosopher and historian of science Robert P. Crease in this engaging exploration of history’s most beautiful experiments. The result is an engrossing journey through nearly 2,500 years of scientific innovation. Along the way, he encounters the personalities and creative thinking of some of the field’s most interesting figures.

Crease explores the first measurement of the earth’s circumference, accomplished in the third century B.C. by Eratosthenes using sticks, shadows, and simple geometry. He visits Foucault’s mesmerizing pendulum, a cannonball suspended from the dome of the Panthéon in Paris that allows us to see the rotation of the earth on its axis. He looks at Galileo—the only scientist with two experiments in the top ten—brilliantly drawing on his musical training to measure the speed of falling bodies. And he travels to the quantum world, in the most beautiful experiment of all.

Crease explains why these ten experiments exert such a powerful hold on our imaginations. From the ancient world to cutting-edge physics, these ten exhilarating moments reveal something fundamental about the world, pulling man out of confusion and revealing nature’s elegance. The Prism and the Pendulum explores, head on, the beauty and wonder of science.

“Science and scientists are so often seen as cold and emotionless, but they are passionately drawn to beauty and truth, no less intensely than artists or poets. One can open this book anywhere and get a sense of this special passion--each chapter has its own special feel and delectations, and all of them bring out that beauty, for scientists, is no less important than truth, and that one can be ravished by an experiment no less than by a work of art.”
--Oliver Sacks



ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 
Robert P. Crease is a professor in the Department of Philosophy at Stony Brook University in New York, and historian at Brookhaven National Laboratory. He writes a monthly column, “Critical Point,” for Physics World magazine. His books include Making Physics: A Biography of Brookhaven National Laboratory; The Play of Nature: Experimentation as Performance; The Second Creation: Makers of the Revolution in Twentieth-Century Physics (with Charles C. Mann); and—with Robert Serber—Peace & War: Reminiscences of a Life on the Frontiers of Science. Crease’s translations include American Philosophy of Technology: The Empirical Turn. He lectures widely, and his articles and reviews have appeared in The Atlantic Monthly, The New York Times Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, Smithsonian, and elsewhere. He lives in New York City.





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