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The Atom and the Apple:
Twelve Tales from Contemporary Physics
Sébastien Balibar

Book Description | Table of Contents
Chapter 1


"The Atom and the Apple is a delightful ramble through many areas of science as well as through the experiences, opinions, passions and frustrations of a leading research physicist. Unlike most books describing scientific ideas to the wider public, Sebastien Balibar does not attempt to present a systematic discourse on a single area of physics, but tries instead to convey a wide range of scientific concepts together with the excitement of research and a description of the environment in which the physicist works. It is a very refreshing read that will do much to bring an understanding of scientific culture to the reader. This book is certainly provocative and stimulating, and it frequently challenges political correctness. . . . The Atom and the Apple provides an accessible introduction to a wide range of physics topics: the Big Bang, superfluidity, chaos and turbulence, quantum computing and cryptography, the matter-antimatter asymmetry of the Universe and many more. At least as importantly, however, Balibar explains the framework that underpins scientific knowledge and research. Since attempts to solve the major challenges in this enjoyable book help to make an informed debate possible."--Chris Sachrajda, Times Higher Education Supplement

"This work is a translation of the French physicist's collection of short essays covering a wide range of topics, from background radiation in the universe to energy in the atom. Balibar explicates the physics of our natural world as much as he meditates on what we can expect from physics in the future. . . . Balibar's delightful essays are evocative of similar reflections in biology by the late scientist-author Lewis Thomas. They are not just a recounting of physical information, but also a reflection on our natural and created reality through the lens of quotidian life."--N. Sadanand, Choice

"[A] pleasantly personal view on some key scientific issues, life, the universe and everything."--Brian Clegg, Popular Science

Praise for the original French edition: "With this book, Balibar shows that physics research, even at the école Normale Superieure, is not enclosed by an ivory tower. Rather than transform the discipline into a kind of pure abstraction in which mathematics takes precedence over reality, this author resolutely inscribes physics into everyday life--in particular, his everyday life--as if to show that a scientist always sees the world through the instrument of his knowledge, or to convince readers that childhood questions bear investigation throughout one's entire life."--Le Monde

Praise for the original French edition: "Balibar has written...a beautiful book about working as a researcher, using simple explanations of facts based on experience, and questions that apply to everyone. His testimony is honest, fun, and important."--P. G. de Gennes, 1991 Nobel laureate in physics, La Recherche

"This book will not only spark reflection among teachers but also will provide many anecdotes to share with students."--Susan Behrens, NSTA Recommends

"The Atom and the Apple, the book of Sebastien Balibar, professor of physics at the Normal Superior School from Paris, is addressed to general readers and explores fascinating aspects of our world and demonstrates why the pursuit of scientific knowledge is well worth everyone's time, regardless of scientific background."--Lidia Elena Kozma, Zentralblatt MATH

"The Atom and the Apple is a wonderful example of how physical science can be explained to lay readers in a captivating discourse that, far from lowering the quality of the information conveyed by oversimplifying its contents, keeps up rigorous standards of scientific observation, data analysis, and an adequate meta-language. The enthralling prose, beautifully rendered in English by Nathaniel Stein, shows how empirical evidence, based on simple facts of our ordinary experience, should be taken as a point of departure for all scientific debate, and not the other way round."--Filomena Vasconcelos, European Legacy


"For those tired of reading about a landscape of a zillion possible universes, each with its own physics and self-appointed prophets navigating around the swampland in search of other villages, Sébastien Balibar offers a refreshing romp through physics rooted in experimental reality, and even in everyday reality. As a theorist, I am enthralled."--A. Zee, author of Fearful Symmetry and An Old Man's Toy

"This is a delightful smorgasbord of reflections on physics, its history and its practice, which can be read with pleasure even by those who found the subject frightening at school. Balibar is an excellent tour guide!"--Tony Leggett, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

"This interesting book is indeed a significant addition to the field of popular science. With an engaging tone, The Atom and the Apple examines not only some deep contemporary problems, but also everyday phenomena. Balibar conveys to the reader that doing research in the frontiers of physics is a wonderful great adventure."--Pierre A. Piroué, Princeton University

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File created: 4/21/2017

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