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A cultural and historical fly-by

29 May 2019, 08:30 UTC
A cultural and historical fly-by
(200 words excerpt, click title or image to see full post)

(Courtesy: ESA/Hubble & NASA, K Stapelfeldt)
Covering all of physics and astronomy, from the history and the people to the latest hot topics, in 200 pages is a big challenge. That, however, is what the theoretical physicist Nicholas Mee set out to do in his new book The Cosmic Mystery Tour: a High-speed Journey Through Space and Time. In short chapters, Mee briefly sketches the main topics that make up modern physics, combining historical and cultural background with clear, concise explanations of the science itself. The history adds a splash of colour, and for the most part I enjoyed Mee’s decisions on who to include, not always going for the obvious choice.
Brevity is a style that works for Mee, though it did mean that some of the cultural asides felt out of place. I love Greek mythology, but a two-page explanation of the myths surrounding Perseus seems indulgent in a book where the Standard Model of particle physics gets just 1.5 pages. From Newtonian gravity to electromagnetic fields to fundamental particles, the early chapters feel a little lacking in any sense of order, jumping around in history and topic. By the halfway point it becomes clear that Mee’s main ...

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