Physics-Related Books

 

  • "Big picture" books related to cosmology
    • Just Six Numbers: The Deep Forces that Shape the Universe by Martin Rees. A short but stimulating book that discusses how many details of the universe and the existence of life itself depend on precise values of certain constants of nature. Why are the properties of the universe so sensitive to these constants and why is it that the constants seem to have just the right precise values for complicated structure, including life, to arise?

    • The First Three Minutes: A Modern View of the Origin of the Universe, Second Edition by Steven Weinberg (Basic Books, 1993).

     

  • Three popular books related to frontiers of particle physics and gravity:
    • The Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory by Brian Greene. A popular non-technical book that tries to explain string theory, one of the current attempts to reconcile the physics of the small (quantum mechanics) with the physics of the large (Einstein's theory of gravity). Along the way you will learn why there may be as many as ten spatial dimensions and that all known particles possibly arise from vibrations of incredibly tiny quantum strings. There is a NOVA television episodebased on this book that you might enjoy watching.

    • Warped Passages: Unraveling The Mysteries Of The Universe's Hidden Dimensions by Lisa Randall. Another popular book by a leading physicist about the possibility and consequences of more than three spatial dimensions existing.

    • Neutrino Hunters: the Thrilling Chase for a Ghostly Particle to Unlock the Secrets of the Universe" by Ray Jayawardhana (Scientific American, 2013).

     

  • Some non-technical books related to nonlinear dynamics, pattern formation, and networks (related to the question of how does complex structure arise in the world and how does one describe complex structure):
    • Chaos: Making A New Science by James Gleick
    • The Self-Made Tapestry: Pattern Formation in Nature by Philip Ball.
    • Linked: How Everything is Connected to Everyting Else and What it Means by Albert-Laslo Barabasi.

  • The Edge of Physics: A Journey to Earth's Extremes to Unlock the Secrets of the Universeby Anil Anathaswamy. Non-technical book that gives a first-hand look at ten ongoing physics experiments that are addressing the frontiers of physics.

  • The Quest for Consciousness: A Neurobiological Approach by Christof Koch. How does one begin to figure out how brains work and can one explain something as ill-defined as "consciousness"? Theoretical physicist Christof Koch gives a readable, interesting, and mainly non-technical overview of how scientists are making progress in understanding how brains work.

  • Beyond Measure: Modern Physics, Philosophy, and the Meaning of Quantum Theory by Jim Baggott. One of the best non-technical discussions about what is quantum mechanics.

  • Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman by Richard P. Feynman. Entertaining stories and musings by one of the great theoretical physicists of the 20th century.

  • Sustainable Energy--Without the Hot Air by David MacKay. One of the better books on the quest for sustainble energy, a major physics challenge for the next few decades. It is free to download from this site.