Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Book I read: "Gravity: How the Weakest Force in the Universe Shaped Our Lives" by Brian Clegg

I just finished "Gravity: How the Weakest Force in the Universe Shaped Our Lives" by Brian Clegg and enjoyed it very much.  The author isn't afraid to give you equations, and that is a refreshing change.  He also did a fantastic job of explaining what makes the math for general relativity so devilishly hard.


(image is an amazon link.)

My favorite part had to be the observation that tiny Ant sized Physicists would have a devilishly hard time discovering and understanding gravity.  At their tiny size, EM forces would dominate science.  Picturing tiny lab-coated ants rolling lead balls down tiny ramps like Galileo made me giggle on a number of levels.

Fantastic book, +1 double recommended and I will likely read it again.  The Murfreesboro Tennessee library has the copy I read.

I've read a few others since my last post here too.  I slogged through the entirety of Barron's EZ-Trigonometry, filling a very large hole in my understanding of the universe.  The hardest part of this for me was the trigonometric function proofs.  The book works through a couple of these, the sine and cosine of the sum of two angles, and then leaves the reader to prove a number of others.  This was stunningly hard for me, but worth it.

On the Audiobook front I've listened to several decent reads.  Clive Cussler's "The Jungle" was okay.  (spoiler) (spoiler) (spoiler)   Placing myself in the lead character's shoe, I can't say that I would... even if I could kill the first sentient AI.  That seems wrong on uncountable levels.  She was the first and last of her kind.(/spoiler)(/spoiler)(/spoiler)

I also listened to "No Easy Day".  I cried for the children that saw their fathers die in the raid at the end of the book.  They were bad men and had to die.  I get that.  Despite that, I wish the kids did not have that as the last memory of their fathers.

Finally I listened to "Modern Scholar: Mathematics is Power".  I didn't find this particularly exciting, but it did manage to get through my thick skull why there are infinitely more irrational numbers than there are rational numbers.  Fun.

I'm reading "Optics for Dummies" now, ~100 pages in.  It's okay so far.  The author recommended that I drag out and dust off matrix operations for solving linear equations.  I don't recall ever learning that.

The most intriguing thing I've learned from it so far is that the E and B fields of light are in phase.  I had thought that they oscillated from E to B and back.  What makes this interesting is that it means that an observer looking at the fields of a stationary* photon would see a spherical field that expands and contracts from nothing to a full sphere and back.  This would be a beautiful thing to see, as it's precisely what a 5 dimensional sphere would look like as it moved across our 4 dimensional perception.**  It is like a scene out of the book "Flatlanders".

* Yes, I know there is no such thing as a stationary photon.
** If ever a paragraph needed a picture to explain a concept, this is it. :/

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