From Planck’s Constant to the Decaying Proton
In a summer triumph I have finished a 420 page book on the history of 20th-Century physics.
“The Second Creation: Makers of the Revolution in the 20th-Century Physics,” by Robert P. Crease and Charles C. Mann (1986, Collier, New York, NY) is an awesome book in scope and topic. They handle the material beautifully, working deftly with the technical matter and the human color of the history. They write about Bohr’s figuring out the make up of the atom without forgetting to tell us that he was a talker and seemed to learn by speaking.
I am not a scientist—either amateur or student or professional—but I am a philosophy student and the link there is tight. Because of this I particularly enjoyed the portions on the theoretical physicists and the philosophy of science. And, though my field is elsewhere, I am not entirely ignorant of physics. I took a class in astrophysics and found it the most challenging and inspiring class I took Freshman or Sophomore year.
My philosophy professor at Hillsdale College told me that if he had been a better mathematician he would have seriously considered physics. I believe my situation is similar to his and, like him, I will continue to love physics from the philosophical armchair.
Time permitting I’m going to turn out some comments on the history of physics—things I found remarkable, conclusions I drew and deductions I deduced—in the near future. Hopefully I will even be able to work up a long piece on the topic.