A dazzling, irresistible collection of the ten most ground-breaking and beautiful experiments in scientific history.
With the attention to detail of a historian and the story-telling ability of a novelist, New York Times science writer George Johnson celebrates these groundbreaking experiments and re-creates a time when the world seemed filled with mysterious forces and scientists were in awe of light, electricity, and the human body. Here, we see Galileo staring down gravity, Newton breaking apart light, and Pavlov studying his now famous dogs. This is science in its most creative, hands-on form, when ingenuity of the mind is the most useful tool in the lab and the rewards of a well-considered experiment are on elegant display.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
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|Title of History eBook: The Ten Most Beautiful Experiments|
|Release Date: 04-08-2008|
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|Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group|
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The Ten Most Beautiful Experiments
The Way Things Really Move
Galileo Galilei, by Ottavio Leoni
It is very unpleasant and annoying to see men, who claim to be peers of anyone in a certain field of study, take for granted certain conclusions which later are quickly and easily shown by another to be false.
—Salviati, in Galileo, Two New Sciences
When you throw a rock, catch a ball, or jump just hard enough to clear a hurdle, the older, unconscious part of the brain, the cerebellum, reveals an effortless grasp of the fundamental laws of motion. Force equals mass times acceleration. Every action results in an equal and opposite reaction. But this ingrained physics is sealed off from the newer, upper brain-the cerebrum, seat of intelligence and self-awareness. One can leap as gracefully as a cat but be just as powerless to explain the inverse square law of gravity.
Aristotle, in the fourth century BC, made the first ambitious attempt to articulate the rules of motion. An object falls in proportion to its weight-the heavier a rock, the sooner it will reach the ground. For other kinds of movement (pushing a book across a table or a plow across a field), a force must be constantly applied. The harder you push, the faster the object will go. Stop pushing and it will come to a halt.
It all sounds eminently sensible and obvious and, of course, is exactly wrong.
What if you place the book on a sheet of ice and give it a gentle shove? It will keep moving long after the impetus is removed. (Asked why an arrow keeps going after it leaves the bowstring, the Aristotelians said that it was pushed along by the incoming rush of air.) Now we know that something