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Understanding Physics: Volume 3: Electron, Proton, and Neutron

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Isaac Asimov's Understanding Physics is an extensive three-volume survey of the subject, but it is not a formal textbook. It is, rather, an informal, even anecdotal enquiry into this central branch of science. Its purpose is to communicate in a lively, readable manner the basic principles of physics; the author's chief tools are the english language, of which he is a maste Isaac Asimov's Understanding Physics is an extensive three-volume survey of the subject, but it is not a formal textbook. It is, rather, an informal, even anecdotal enquiry into this central branch of science. Its purpose is to communicate in a lively, readable manner the basic principles of physics; the author's chief tools are the english language, of which he is a master, and his well-established ability to transform even the most complicated concepts into clear, precise prose. The present volume, The Electron, Proton, and, Neutron (which may be read quite independently of the others) considers the physics peculiar to the 20th century and deals with the world of the infinitesimally small. Beginning with the slow woking out of the theory of atomism, Mr. Asimov proceeds to the discovery of the structure of the atom. The various aspects of subatomic physics from radioactivity to fission, from the laser to the hydrogen bomb, are explored; and the book concludes with a consideration of matters that agitate the frontiers of physics today: the elusive electron, the mysterious muon, and the puzzling multiplicity of baryons.


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Isaac Asimov's Understanding Physics is an extensive three-volume survey of the subject, but it is not a formal textbook. It is, rather, an informal, even anecdotal enquiry into this central branch of science. Its purpose is to communicate in a lively, readable manner the basic principles of physics; the author's chief tools are the english language, of which he is a maste Isaac Asimov's Understanding Physics is an extensive three-volume survey of the subject, but it is not a formal textbook. It is, rather, an informal, even anecdotal enquiry into this central branch of science. Its purpose is to communicate in a lively, readable manner the basic principles of physics; the author's chief tools are the english language, of which he is a master, and his well-established ability to transform even the most complicated concepts into clear, precise prose. The present volume, The Electron, Proton, and, Neutron (which may be read quite independently of the others) considers the physics peculiar to the 20th century and deals with the world of the infinitesimally small. Beginning with the slow woking out of the theory of atomism, Mr. Asimov proceeds to the discovery of the structure of the atom. The various aspects of subatomic physics from radioactivity to fission, from the laser to the hydrogen bomb, are explored; and the book concludes with a consideration of matters that agitate the frontiers of physics today: the elusive electron, the mysterious muon, and the puzzling multiplicity of baryons.

53 review for Understanding Physics: Volume 3: Electron, Proton, and Neutron

  1. 4 out of 5

    cardulelia carduelis

    For some reason I only found out that Asimov had written a textbook when I came across said textbook in a second-hand bookstore, a few months before covid-lockdown. I was then even more surprised to discover that this was volume 3 of 3 and that he'd written many others, starting from when he was a professor of biochem, off the back of a PhD in chemistry. I've read a few different introductory physics textbooks over the past 10 years and, pedagogically & historically, this is my favoruite one. Ch For some reason I only found out that Asimov had written a textbook when I came across said textbook in a second-hand bookstore, a few months before covid-lockdown. I was then even more surprised to discover that this was volume 3 of 3 and that he'd written many others, starting from when he was a professor of biochem, off the back of a PhD in chemistry. I've read a few different introductory physics textbooks over the past 10 years and, pedagogically & historically, this is my favoruite one. Chapter one, entitled The Atom, I expected to be a slog that focused on Rutherford but instead it started from the greeks, atoms being the logical conclusion of compressible gases that have no change in mass, and then a history of the 1600's pursuit of elements. Then we get into the discovery of elements and, Proust's Law, the formation of the periodic table. The chapter then wraps up with Avogadro's constant and FEM imaging! What a bombastic start. And this is emblematic of the entire volume: the expected content is there but it is also peppered with experiments, historical trivia, and with a focus on the progression of ideas rather than memorizing facts. If you aren't really a math(s) person there is also very little by the way of formulae. The standard of modern physics education is ever-changing as the frontier grows, with older red herrings being pushed aside to make way for new content. This is often what makes old textbooks so interesting: the inclusion of material that is no longer taught and the incorrect interpretations that were cutting edge at the time. Some examples I found of the former are Faraday's Laws of Electrolysis, which neither I nor some old friends recalled having been taught, Hertz's induction experiment, as well as the fact that the term transistor is actually short for 'transfer-resistor'! I also don't recall learning about the electron-proton (as opposed to neutron-proton) model of the nucleus, but that might be my terrible memory.. For the latter, it was so interesting to see that 'no fractional charge' existed (quarks hadn't been discovered yet! They aren't even mentioned, even though Gell-mann & Zweig's papers were circulating, SLAC hadn't started their groundbreaking diffraction experiment), or that Goeppert-Mayer's nuclear shell model is "still the subject of considerable controversy". This is 3 years after her and the other two Germans won the Nobel for it. What's the controversy? I've been googling around for a couple of days, reading old journals and more modern summaries but can't see a controversy. Was the controversy that it didn't fit so well with the liquid drop model? But that model didn't predict magic numbers! If anyone knows, let me know! Also, the neutrino was still massless when this book was written, oscillations weren't discovered till '98! [ A bit of an aside, all the neutrino experiments are a little bit genius aren't they? Look up how they measured the helicity of the neutrino if you don't believe me ;) ] One other dating section was that on fission power: If anything goes wrong with the control system, matters are so arranged that the cadmium rods fall inward of themselves, quenching the reaction. This is a fail-safe situation and a quarter-century of experience shows that nuclear reactors are quite safe when properly designed. This was before Chernobyl & 3-mile island... Other highlights: - a detailed explanation of dinode and trinode tubes - a breakdown of the features of the periodic table, including all of the anomalies and the overlaps with subshells in smaller shells. Definitely more of a chemistry perspective since nothing like spin-orbit couplings were even mentioned but a concise and thorough breakdown nonetheless. - a beautiful, concise description of Peltier elements that I immediately forwarded to my students - generally a focus on empirical progression and smaller experiments I hadn't heard of. Overall this is a cracking standalone read, that can be read as a book rather than a textbook. It's a lot of fun for those well-versed in the subject matter as it provides a very different approach to content and narrative than more modern teaching, but is also an excellent introductory text (even with the few out-of-date passages it contains). I've come out of this an even bigger fan of Asimov's writing! Highly recommended. Berkeley Lab's Bevatron gets a shoutout a few times in the book, naemdly for the discovery of the anti-proton.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Dean Parker

    Reading: Good. Understanding: Not so much. Fortunately the facts were not terribly relevant to me, but the Physicists/scientists' struggles were. The importance of some discoveries were not realized for many to hundreds of years after they were first made. We got to the current world of astronomy, chemistry, physics and all technology in a very Herky-jerky, fits and starts fashion. I am left with this overall thought: Be careful about what you think you know because you are probably wrong (even Reading: Good. Understanding: Not so much. Fortunately the facts were not terribly relevant to me, but the Physicists/scientists' struggles were. The importance of some discoveries were not realized for many to hundreds of years after they were first made. We got to the current world of astronomy, chemistry, physics and all technology in a very Herky-jerky, fits and starts fashion. I am left with this overall thought: Be careful about what you think you know because you are probably wrong (even if you are right, today).

  3. 4 out of 5

    Lee

    I read this series of books long ago and lost them when I moved out of my parents' house. They were, by far, the best science texts I have ever read. I read this series of books long ago and lost them when I moved out of my parents' house. They were, by far, the best science texts I have ever read.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Drew Kirk

  5. 4 out of 5

    Bradley Roth

  6. 4 out of 5

    Sara

  7. 4 out of 5

    Robert Krummenacker

  8. 4 out of 5

    Pearson Moore

  9. 4 out of 5

    أحمد يوسف

  10. 4 out of 5

    Calliope

  11. 5 out of 5

    Donna Parker

  12. 4 out of 5

    Mor

  13. 5 out of 5

    Ian

  14. 4 out of 5

    Tom Brennan

  15. 4 out of 5

    Alexander

  16. 5 out of 5

    Mark

  17. 4 out of 5

    Brad Waller

  18. 4 out of 5

    Menkah

  19. 4 out of 5

    Braxton Thomason

  20. 5 out of 5

    Adith

  21. 5 out of 5

    Nadine Huerta

  22. 5 out of 5

    Luna Corbden

  23. 4 out of 5

    Akbrownsfan

  24. 5 out of 5

    Samantha McGuire (Mirror Bridge Books)

  25. 4 out of 5

    Ethan Kennerly

  26. 4 out of 5

    Curtiss

  27. 5 out of 5

    Secondary Physics

  28. 4 out of 5

    David

  29. 5 out of 5

    Hollis

  30. 5 out of 5

    Eric Leuliette

  31. 4 out of 5

    Michael Mendoza

  32. 4 out of 5

    BookDB

  33. 5 out of 5

    Fred Provoncha

  34. 5 out of 5

    Joshua Hale

  35. 4 out of 5

    Marina

  36. 4 out of 5

    Curtiss

  37. 5 out of 5

    Melody

  38. 5 out of 5

    Randy Benson

  39. 5 out of 5

    Lance

  40. 5 out of 5

    Mr.B

  41. 4 out of 5

    Larry

  42. 4 out of 5

    Rex

  43. 5 out of 5

    Berry connell

  44. 4 out of 5

    Zachery

  45. 5 out of 5

    Rafael Díaz de León

  46. 4 out of 5

    Anna

  47. 4 out of 5

    Judy

  48. 4 out of 5

    Mark Athay

  49. 4 out of 5

    September

  50. 5 out of 5

    Ca53buckeye

  51. 4 out of 5

    Julius

  52. 5 out of 5

    Ian

  53. 5 out of 5

    Avi

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