Archimedes to Hawking: Laws of Science and the Great Minds behind Them

Archimedes to Hawking: Laws of Science and the Great Minds behind Them

Archimedes to Hawking: Laws of Science and the Great Minds behind Them

Archimedes to Hawking: Laws of Science and the Great Minds behind Them


Because the laws of nature provide a framework in which to explore the nature of reality and because laws allow scientists to make predictions about the universe, the discoveries of the laws are among humanity's greatest poetic achievements. Written in an original and clear manner, Cliff Pickover's newest book is a compendium of biographical sketches of all of our significant scientific laws and their discoverers. Each main entry comes in two parts: the eponymous law of nature (with formula) and an explanation for a broad audience followed by a biography of the scientist after whom the law is named.


Isaac Newton was born into a world of darkness, obscu
rity, and magic … veered at least once to the brink of
madness … and yet discovered more of the essential core
of human knowledge than anyone before or after. He was
chief architect of the modern world…. He made knowl
edge a thing of substance: quantitative and exact. He
established principles, and they are called his laws.

—James Gleick, Isaac Newton

At every major step, physics has required, and frequently
stimulated, the introduction of new mathematical tools
and concepts. Our present understanding of the laws of
physics, with their extreme precision and universality, is
only possible in mathematical terms.

—Sir Michael Atiyah, “Pulling the Strings,” Nature


It is now generally accepted that the universe evolves
according to well-defined laws. The laws may have been
ordained by God, but it seems that He does not intervene
in the universe to break the laws.

—Stephen Hawking, Black Holes and Baby Universes

Albert Einstein once remarked that “the most incomprehensible thing about the world is that it is comprehensible.” Indeed, we appear to live in a cosmos that can be described or approximated by compact mathematical expressions and physical laws.

In this book, I discuss landmark laws of nature that were discovered over several centuries and whose ramifications have profoundly altered our everyday lives and understanding of the universe. These laws provide elegant ways for characterizing natural phenomena under a variety of circumstances. For example, as you’ll learn in greater detail, Bernoulli’s Law of Hydrodynamics, v /2 + gz + p/ρ = C, has numerous applications in the fields of aerodynamics, where it is considered when studying flows over airplane wings, propeller blades, and ship rudders. Fick’s Second Law of Diffusion, (∂c/∂t) = D(∂c /∂x) , can be used to explain insect communication through pheromones, the migration of ancient humans, or diffusion in soils contaminated with petroleum hydrocarbons. Forensic police sometimes use Newton’s Law of Cooling . . .

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