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Doing Physics: How Physicists Take Hold of the World

Popular Science

By: Martin H Krieger (Author)

240 pages, 8 b/w illustrations

Indiana University Press

Hardback | Dec 2012 | #199965 | ISBN-13: 9780253006073
Availability: Usually dispatched within 6 days Details
NHBS Price: £16.99 $21/€19 approx

About this book

Doing Physics makes concepts of physics easier to grasp by relating them to everyday knowledge. Addressing some of the models and metaphors that physicists use to explain the physical world, Martin H. Krieger describes the conceptual world of physics by means of analogies to economics, anthropology, theater, carpentry, mechanisms such as clockworks, and machine tool design. The interaction of elementary particles or chemical species, for example, can be related to the theory of kinship – who can marry whom is like what can interact with what. Likewise, the description of physical situations in terms of interdependent particles and fields is analogous to the design of a factory with its division of labour among specialists. For the new edition, Krieger has revised the text and added a chapter on the role of mathematics and formal models in physics.

"This is an important and provocative book, timely and full of insight. Fail to read it, and you may miss out on the physics of the future."
-John Gribbin, New Scientist

"This unusual book introduces 'the moves, the rituals, the incantations' physicists invoke as they go about conceptualizing Nature. The lucid-but-loaded writing makes quite complex ideas accessible to the mathless reader... The rewards are a better understanding of how physics is done."
- Whole Earth Millennial Catalog

"An excellent [and innovative] book."
- Isis


Preface: Degrees of Freedom
A Note to the Reader
A Note for the Scholars
This Second Edition

1. The Division of Labor: The Factory
2. Taking Apart and Putting Together: The Clockworks, the Calculus, and the Computer
3. Freedom and Necessity: Family and Kinship
4. The Vacuum and The Creation: Setting a Stage
5. Handles, Probes, and Tools: A Rhetoric of Nature
6. Production Machinery: Mathematics for Analysis and Description
7. An Epitome Notes


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Martin H. Krieger, who was trained as a physicist at Columbia University, has been a Fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences and at the National Humanities Center. He is author of Marginalism and Discontinuity: Tools for the Crafts of Knowledge and Decision (1989), Constitutions of Matter: Mathematically Modeling the Most Everyday of Physical Phenomena (1996), and Doing Mathematics: Convention, Subject, Calculation, Analogy (2003). He is on the faculty of the University of Southern California, and has taught at Berkeley, Minnesota, MIT, and Michigan

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