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

By Clifford A. Pickover | Go to book overview

THE GREAT CONTENDERS

At once philosophy and genial fantasy, practical physics
and terrifying weapon, E = mc2 has become metonymic
of technical knowledge writ large. Our ambitions for sci-
ence, our dreams of understanding and our nightmares of
destruction find themselves packed into a few scribbles of
the pen.

—Peter Galison, “The Sextant Equation” in Graham
Farmelo’s It Must Be Beautiful

God [could] vary the laws of Nature, and make worlds of
several sorts in several parts of the universe.

—Isaac Newton, “Questions” from Opticks

This section of the book contains a large panoply of eponymous scientific laws. Some of these laws are slightly more obscure than the laws in the main section of the book, and I also include a few favorite biological laws in this section. Some of the “great contenders,” although quite fundamental, do not have simple formulas for their expression or are not referred to as “laws” in many literature references.

As I researched the following laws, I often discovered dozens of interesting books that explained facets of these laws, and I often indicate these book resources within each short entry. Sometimes, I give definitions of the laws from several different authors’ perspectives. In the interest of brevity, the “Great Contenders” section is much less formal and less detailed than the main entries of this book and thus may serve simply as a launch pad for

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