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Physics, the fundamental science of matter and energy, encompasses all levels of nature from the subatomic to the cosmic, and underlies much of the technology around us. Understanding the physics of our universe is an essential aspect of humanity's quest to understand our environment and our place within it. Doing physics enables us to explore the interaction between environment and human society, and can help us to work towards the future sustainability of the planet.
This Very Short Introduction provides an overview of how this pervasive science came to be and how it works: who funds it, how physicists are trained and how they think, and how physics supports the technology we all use. Sidney Perkowitz presents the theories and outcomes of pure and applied physics from ideas of the Greek natural philosophers to modern quantum mechanics, cosmology, digital electronics and energy production. Considering its most consequential experiments, including recent results in elementary particles, gravitational waves and materials science, he also discusses outside the lab, the effects of physics on society, culture, and humanity's vision of its place in the universe.
1: It all began with the Greeks
2: What physics covers and what it doesn't
3: How physics works
4: Physics applied and extended
5: A force in society
6: Future physics: unanswered questions
Sidney Perkowitz is Charles Howard Candler Professor of Physics at Emory University, during which time he has produced over 100 research papers and books with funding from the US government, industry, and foundations. Now, as Professor Emeritus, he presents science for non-scientists, and is the author of several books, including Universal Foam: From Cappuccino to the Cosmos (Walker Publishing, 2000), and Frankenstein: How a Monster Became an Icon, the Science and Enduring Allure of Mary Shelley's Creation (Pegasus Books, 2018). He has written articles for publications including the Washington Post, New Scientist, and the Los Angeles Review of Books, and has appeared on outlets including CNN, NPR, and the BBC. He is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and, in 2015, received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts.
"From quarks to kitchen refrigerators, Sidney Perkowitz leads us on an illuminating romp through physics. In clear language, he shows us how the simple curiosity of people about how the world works has led us to understandings that can be sharedof what's inside the earth to black holes light years away. Its physics!"
– Professor Roald Hoffmann, Nobel Prize laureate for Chemistry