The Einstein Paradox and Other Science Mysteries Solved by Sherlock Holmes

The Einstein Paradox and Other Science Mysteries Solved by Sherlock Holmes

The Einstein Paradox and Other Science Mysteries Solved by Sherlock Holmes

The Einstein Paradox and Other Science Mysteries Solved by Sherlock Holmes

Synopsis

In this marvelous book, the reader is introduced to the bizarre concepts of modern physics as the only way to solve a casebook of otherwise impossibly paradoxical crimes. Murder on a royal train. Divers dead of heatstroke at the bottom of an icy sea. An epidemic of insanity among the world’s top scientists. This is the story of the great paradigm shifts of science, told as never before: in Sherlock Holmes adventures set amid the grandeur and squalor of Victorian London. Holmes, Watson, and other beloved characters created by Arthur Conan Doyle are challenged by mysteries, each of which hinges on a scientific paradox or principle. Colin Bruce has recreated the atmosphere of the original Sherlock Holmes stories to give a truly compulsive read. You won’t even realize you’ve learned something until it’s too late!

Excerpt

At the end of the last century, fundamental science appeared to be approaching a triumphant completion. The Universe operated according to straightforward, intuitively understandable laws which had been precisely described. The great Lord Kelvin even suggested that future investigators might have to confine themselves to making ever more accurate determinations of the fundamental constants of physics: there was no new territory left to explore.

Yet there were a few anomalies to be resolved. One paradox concerned the speed of light, which appeared bafflingly constant whatever the motion of the source and the observer. Others involved the microscopic world, which seemed oddly resistant to precise description. In the early decades of this century, these unresolved details were to blow apart the comfortably exact picture of the Universe which nineteenth-century scientists had so patiently assembled. We have not recovered it yet. The paradoxes still outstanding are more fascinating than any brainteasers devised by human puzzle setters; yet they have in common the tantalizing feel that they could be solved by a clever intuitive leap.

I have two reasons for retelling the story in this rather unorthodox form. The first is that I sympathize with Watson's plea in these pages: "No mathematics, Holmes: I have a horror of algebra." I wanted to set out the apparent paradoxes of special relativity and quantum theory in purely visual and logical terms, so that every reader has a fair chance to think about them for him- or herself and make up his or her own mind as to whether there is any alternative . . .

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