Isaac Newton was a complex man. Every student learns of (but few master) the laws bearing his name that govern the motion of objects from bullets to planets. Many know that the same great mind invented calculus along the way toward his Principia Mathematica.
Jan Hendrik Schön published some of the most exciting and ground-breaking physics of the past decade. He published it in the most prestigious specialty journals such as Physical Review Letters, Nature and Science. He won several important prizes and was being nominated for more of them when a problem came to light. The problem was that Schön had no data to substantiate his discoveries .
While quantum mechanics has been able to answer many practical questions about the structure and bonding of atoms, molecules, nuclei, and even subatomic particles, it still does not adequately yield its own ultimate meaning.
I bought "The Archimedes Codex" (the cloth cover edition, no less) because of the recommendation of Dick Pagni in the Summer Reading article in July, 2008. The book is available in paper beginning next month (January), but it is the kind of book that you might want to keep permanently in your library.
The Presidential campaign to this point has been waged so devoid of issues that one might think that there is nothing to discuss other than lipstick and the number of houses the candidates own. Beyond such trivialities as foreign policy, health care, immigration and the war(s), there a few minor issues that have something to do with science.
The July 2008 isue of Physics Today has a special focus: "Energy Today and Tomorrow". It features three articles of interest to chemists and physicists, "Grand Challenges in Basic Energy Sciences" by Graham R. Fleming and Mark A. Ratner, "Energy Efficiency and the Built Environment" by Leon Glicksman, and this one by Thomas Murphy Jr.
How likely is it that an asteroid or a comet of significant size will impact the earth, and what would be the consequences? It is now widely accepted that the dinosaurs were wiped out by such an event, and recent research suggests that previous estimates of the number of asteroid impacts may have been much too low.
Lists of "the best" movies, books, sports stars, American Idols, etc. etc. are often intriguing and controversial. Science has its own lists, be they Nobelists or most-cited publications. Just a little while ago (could it really have been November, 2005?) Philip Ball's list of "elegant" chemistry experiments was my choice of the month.
When asked by one of our students about the significance of Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543) and his revolutionary (pun intended) theory of the solar system, most of us would recite the folkloric tale. A brilliant astronomer, dissatisfied with the inaccuracies of Ptolemy, devised a completely new model for the solar system.
This little book is a gem. I have to admit that most of the students who have completed my first physical chemistry semester, which is all about thermodynamics, would benefit from reading this wonderful explanation of the central place that these topics play in every aspect of life.