The idea of the atom--the ultimate essence of physical reality, indivisible and eternal--has been the focus of a quest that has engaged humanity for 2,500 years. That quest is captured in The Atom in the History of Human Thought.
Here is a panoramic intellectual history that begins in ancient Greece, ranges across the entire span of Western philosophy and science, and ends with the first direct visual proof of the atom's existence, just ten years ago. Bernard Pullman deftly captures the richness and depth of this remarkable debate, giving us not only the ideas of philosophers, church leaders, and scientists, but also the historical and social context from which these thoughts evolved. We have marvelous accounts of the work of such thinkers as Plato and Aristotle, Aquinas and Maimonides, Galileo and Descartes, Newton and Einstein--indeed, virtually every major philosopher of Western civilization, with excursions into the Hindu and Arab world--all presented against the backdrop of history. But perhaps most fascinating is the gradual shift in the book from a philosophical and religious perspective to a scientific perspective, especially in the 19th century, as science begins to dominate how humanity understands the world. Thus a book that begins with pre-Socratic philosophers such as Democritus and Empedocles ends with nuclear physicists such as Werner Heisenberg and Richard Feynman, and with a very different world view.
Ably translated by Axel Reisinger, this is a vibrant look at humanity's search to understand the ultimate nature of physical reality, a quest that has spanned the entire course of Western civilization.
What's the matter? This was no trivial question for Democritus, generally considered the father of the atom. Like his fellow philosophers in ancient Greece, he was gravely concerned with discovering the nature of the universe through reason and argument, and hence wanted to understand the basic composition of material things. His postulate, that there are minuscule, indivisible units of matter, was revolutionary and resisted by many scientists until the early 20th century.
The late Dr. Bernard Pullman, former professor of quantum chemistry at the Sorbonne, presents a challenging, broad-ranging history of this seemingly simple idea in The Atom in the History of Human Thought. The language is remarkably clear, thanks in part to the translation of Axel Reisinger; there are no awkward phrasings or unfamiliar idioms to puzzle the reader. Instead we are told the life story of an idea, one so basic to our modern understanding of the world as to seem almost obvious.
But, as Pullman shows us, it was not only resisted but actively suppressed for centuries. From the often-bizarre notions of the ancients (could the universe really be made only of water?) to the equally bizarre concepts of modern atomic theory (is your chair really composed almost entirely of empty space?), with occasional forays into the science of the Islamic and Hindu worlds, he shows many attempts to answer the most fundamental question in science and philosophy. With such a long and controversial history, it's little wonder that we still haven't set matter straight. --Rob Lightner
Fractals and surfaces are two of the most widely-studied areas of modern physics. In fact, most surfaces in nature are fractals. In this book, Drs. Barabási and Stanley explain how fractals can be successfully used to describe and predict the morphology of surface growth. The authors begin by presenting basic growth models and the principles used to develop them. They next demonstrate how models can be used to answer specific questions about surface roughness. In the second half of the book, they discuss in detail two classes of phenomena: fluid flow in porous media and molecular beam epitaxy (MBE). In each case, the authors review the model and analytical approach, and present experimental results. This book is the first attempt to unite the subjects of fractals and surfaces, and it will appeal to advanced undergraduate and graduate students in condensed matter physics and statistical mechanics. Because of the technological importance of MBE, it will also be of interest to scientists, particularly materials scientists, working in industry and research. Interested readers may view a sample chapter by contacting our web site at http://www.cup.org/onlinepubs/Fractals/fracts1.html.
Atomic theory began more than two millenia and half ago in Greece and India, but scientific details emerged - very rapidly - only in the 20th century. This text conveys a glimpse of the grandeur of 20th century physics through nine essays and one interview on the models and modellers of a basic element of matter: the hydrogen atom. Basic ideas are presented and illustrated, the mathematical treatments are of a tutorial nature, and facsimile reproductions of 10 key papers are included. Using the simple hydrogen atom, educators may use this book to initiate high school students into the grandeur of physics or motivate university students to become science-literate.