December 9, 2008

Weird, alright

Despite having read many books over the years on relativity and quantum mechanics, these theories just won't get embedded in my brains like Newtonian's theories and classical mechanics that I learned in school. (There was some exposure to statistical mechanics - Boltzmann, Gibbs, etc. - in some of the thermodynamics coursework I took but it was superficial at best and I rue I did not wade into the details and try to get a better grasp of that topic too!)

And yet, I'm drawn from time to time to read more about the fascinating developments in physics from 1900 onwards. I am currently reading a few books on the subject; some of which delve into the lives of the great men involved while others give a good historical narrative of their quest to understand the world of atoms and its components and the forces that hold them (and the world) together. It is amazing that these unique and devastatingly intelligent people were brought together in this scientific quest at the same time (essentially 1900 till mid-30s).

Anyways, just rambling now....since the books I have been reading the past week or so were on my mind and also because I saw this book review in the Washington Post just now.
Very Small, Very Weird - The struggle to understand what goes on -- or doesn't -- inside the atomThe Age of Entanglement - When Quantum Physics was Reborn by Louisa Gilder. - A review of
Because I have never really understood even the basic ideas developed before WWII, I have kept away from the more recent (post WWII) developments in particle physics and new theories like string theory etc. First I need to grasp what Bohr, Schrodinger, Heisenberg, Dirac, Pauli, Einstein and co. are trying to teach us...then I can worry about Feynman, Greene, and many others!!

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