In 1900 many eminent scientists did not believe atoms existed, yet within just a few years the atomic century launched into history with an astonishing string of breakthroughs in physics that began with Albert Einstein and continues to this day Before this explosive growth into the modern age took place, an all but forgotten genius strove for forty years to win acceptanceIn 1900 many eminent scientists did not believe atoms existed, yet within just a few years the atomic century launched into history with an astonishing string of breakthroughs in physics that began with Albert Einstein and continues to this day Before this explosive growth into the modern age took place, an all but forgotten genius strove for forty years to win acceptance for the atomic theory of matter and an altogether new way of doing physics Ludwig Boltz mann battled with philosophers, the scientific establishment, and his own potent demons His victory led the way to the greatest scientific achievements of the twentieth century Now acclaimed science writer David Lindley portrays the dramatic story of Boltzmann and his embrace of the atom, while providing a window on the civilized world that gave birth to our scientific era Boltzmann emerges as an endearingly quixotic character, passionately inspired by Beethoven, who muddled through the practical matters of life in a European gilded age Boltzmann s story reaches from fin de siecle Vienna, across Germany and Britain, to America As the Habsburg Empire was crumbling, Germany s intellectual might was growing Edinburgh in Scotland was one of the most intellectually fertile places on earth and, in America, brilliant independent minds were beginning to draw on the best ideas of the bureaucratized old world.Boltzmann s nemesis in the field of theoretical physics at home in Austria was Ernst Mach, noted today in the term Mach I, the speed of sound Mach believed physics should address only that which could be directly observed How could we know that frisky atoms jiggling about corresponded to heat if we couldn t see them Why should we bother with theories that only told us what would probably happen, rather than making an absolute prediction Mach and Boltzmann both believed in the power of science, but their approaches to physics could not have been opposed Boltzmann sought to explain the real world, and cast aside any philosophical criteria Mach, along with many nineteenth century scientists, wanted to construct an empirical edifice of absolute truths that obeyed strict philosophical rules Boltzmann did not get on well with authority in any form, and he did his best work at arm s length from it When at the end of his career he engaged with the philosophical authorities in the Viennese academy, the results were personally disastrous and tragic Yet Boltzmann s enduring legacy lives on in the new physics and technology of our wired world.Lindley s elegant telling of this tale combines the detailed breadth of the best history, the beauty of theoretical physics, and the psychological insight belonging to the finest of novels.
Boltzmanns Atom The Great Debate That Launched a Revolution in Physics In many eminent scientists did not believe atoms existed yet within just a few years the atomic century launched into history with an astonishing string of breakthroughs in physics that began wi
This is a well written biography of the tragic life of the brilliant scientist, Ludwig Boltzmann Lindley paints a very intimate portrait of the scientist from within, rather than without, providing the reader with a close up view of the peaks and ebbs of Boltzmann s checkered career and personal life The author provides a cogent review of Boltzmann s contributions to thermodynamics, especially the development of kinetic theory Most significantly, Boltzmann introduced a probabilistic interpretati [...]
Strange to see how persistent the opposition to atomic theory was, and how people like Mach turned into a sort of philosophy, not allowing physics to talk about anything that could not be dobserved directly Also interesting how hard it was to assimilate the use of statistics to understand the behavior of large numbers of atoms It s always worth being reminded how the most obvious ideas once seemed threatening.
Good introduction of a time when atom was a questionable entity, scientists were larger than life, Europe was at peace It was nice to learn some personal information about people who s names we now associate only with constants, theories and scientific units.
I think I liked Uncertainty but I felt like I had to read this one because he refers to it so often in his later book Again it s interesting to see how scientists personalities influence their research but I found this one a little drier than his other book.
Too much biography, not enough science In fact, hardly any science Atom is prominent in the title but very little in this book about what he did or discovered or why it was important.