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

One of Choice's Outstanding Academic Titles for 2009

Hardcover | 2008 | $29.95 | £24.95 | ISBN: 9780691131085
200 pp. | 6 x 9 1/4 | 9 halftones. 10 line illus.
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Chapter 1

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Where is mankind located in the Universe? What goes on inside atoms? Was Einstein always right? Will we find extraterrestrial life in the near future? And what should be done about global warming? Sébastien Balibar, a leading authority in physics, uses illuminating stories from his own life to answer the most intriguing questions in the physical sciences today. The Atom and the Apple considers aspects of our environment--the things we see around us, but seldom truly understand--and shows that science can be an exciting adventure grounded in the phenomena of the daily world.

Balibar examines twelve problems spanning the frontiers of physics, and he devotes a chapter to each issue. He looks at chaos theory, cosmology, fluid mechanics, and climatology. He explains how we discovered the age of the Earth, how we know the Universe is expanding ever more rapidly, and why the spiral patterns of pinecones and sunflowers are related to the Golden Ratio in mathematics. He scrutinizes how the collective behavior of atoms leads to such amazing results as lasers, superconductors, or superfluids. As Balibar invites us to appreciate the physics hidden within the sights and sounds of the natural world, he also recounts the experiences of his childhood and career that were pivotal to his lifelong passion for science.

Written for general readers, The Atom and the Apple explores fascinating aspects of our world, and demonstrates why the pursuit of scientific knowledge is well worth everyone's time, regardless of scientific background.


"Parisian physics professor Balibar has a fervor for life and his work that makes this look at everyday physics, its history, and his own life experiences contagiously readable. Whether explaining the crystal chime of a wine glass or the 'sweet spot' in bicycle touring, his text is eloquent, charming and rigorous, translated beautifully by Stein. . . . Full of ways to rethink daily activities and draw out readers' curiosity, this is an excellent, personable scientific tour." (starred review)

"Casting himself as more a dreamer than a detail-obsessed scientist, French physics professor Balibar credits his own childlike sense of wonder as the inspiration for this engaging collection of essays on the physics of everyday objects. . . . Balibar's breezy bicycle ride through the French countryside is the starting point for an engaging digression on chaos theory and the so-called butterfly effect. . . . [B]alibar is careful to keep his readers enthralled with colorful analogies and a flair for dressing up scientific concepts in elegant, entertaining prose."--Carl Hays, Booklist

"When it comes to ideas, the French have the knack. You see it in their science documentaries and, as Sebastien Balibar's little book proves, you see it in their science writing. The assumption is that readers are curious folk who may not know the, uh, domain of discourse, but they're interested. No need to talk down, no need to talk up to show off. Just chat. And that's exactly what Balibar, a physicist, does. He draws us into 12 problems of physics--from chaos theory to cosmology--by recounting events of his childhood and career. It's wonderful."--Leigh Dayton, The Australian

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Table of Contents:

A Few Apples to Sink Your Teeth Into ix
Chapter 1: Black Night 1
Chapter 2: My Cousin the Leek 16
Chapter 3: I Am Radioactive 26
Chapter 4: Einstein, the Flute, and Quantum Dew 40
Chapter 5: Is My Table Quantum? 54
Chapter 6: The Power of Words 71
Chapter 7: Crystals and Glasses 91
Chapter 8: God, Helium, and Universality 105
Chapter 9: Cyclists and Butterflies 117
Chapter 1: Other Apples 132
Chapter 1: From Pianos to the Sun 146
Chapter 1: I Speak English 160
What Don't I Know? 172
Notes 179
Index 184

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File created: 7/11/2017

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