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The Beauty of Physics: Patterns, Principles, & Perspectives

Popular Science
  • Focuses on ideas, patterns, and broad unifying themes in physics
  • Connects seemingly disparate phenomena across different areas of physics
  • Links ideas and themes in physics to other disciplines
  • Broad readership, including non-science university students and intellectually-curious lay readers

By: ARP Rau(Author)

256 pages, 68 b/w illustrations

Oxford University Press

Hardback | Sep 2014 | #214324 | ISBN-13: 9780198709916
Availability: Usually dispatched within 6 days Details
NHBS Price: £24.99 $32/€27 approx

About this book

The beauty of physics lies in its coherence in terms of a few fundamental concepts and principles. Even physicists have occasion to marvel at the overarching reach of basic principles and their ability to account for features stretching from the microscopic sub-atomic world to the cosmological expanses of the Universe. While mathematics is its natural language, physics is mostly about patterns, connections, and relations between objects and phenomena, and it is this aspect that is emphasized in The Beauty of Physics. Since science tries to connect phenomena that at first sight appear widely different, while boiling them down to a small set of essential principles and laws, metaphor and analogy pervade our subject. Consider the pendulum, its swing from one extreme to the other often invoked in social or economic contexts. In molecular vibrations, such as in the CO2 molecule, the quantum motions of electrons and nuclei are metaphorically the pendulums. In electromagnetic radiation, including the visible light we observe, there are not even any concrete material particles, only electric and magnetic fields executing simple harmonic motion. But, to a physicist, they are all "just a pendulum".

The selection of topics reflects the author's own four-decade career in research physics and his resultant perspective on the subject. While aimed primarily at physicists, including junior students, The Beauty of Physics also addresses other readers who are willing to think with symbols and simple algebra in understanding the physical world around us. Each chapter, on themes such as dimensions, transformations, symmetries, or maps, begins with simple examples accessible to all while connecting them later to more sophisticated realizations in more advanced topics of physics.

"This book provides an amazingly coherent view on basic guiding principles not only of current modern developments in theoretical physics but also of science in general. Each chapter of the book is devoted to a different fundamental physical concept. A.R.P. Rau succeeds particularly well in emphasizing underlying general ideas and the unifying band of important scientific concepts thus making this timely book a stimulating source of ideas both for students and researchers in physics and for intellectually curious readers."
– Gernot Alber, TU Darmstadt


1. Adding a dimension
2. Physics as transformations
3. Localization at saddles
4. Coins, classical and quantum
5. Symmetry
6. Maps
7. The problem of time
8. Complexity and emergence

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A.R.P. Rau is a theoretical physicist who has worked primarily in atomic physics and quantum information. He has spent time in universities and research institutions in Australia, Chile, France, Germany, and India.

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