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E=mc 2 (Hb)

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Most people know that Einstein's equation is important but they don't usually know why. This book takes an approach to the equation that concentrates not on the biography of Einstein but on the biography of the equation itself. David Bodanis looks at the ancestors of the equation, the three elements - e, m and c - before they end up together in Einstein's equation in Berne, 1905. From there he follows the course of the equation through the 20th century, focusing on the people who developed Einstein's work and its consequences. Without the equation for instance there would have been no atomic bomb, no lasers, no Internet and no science of black holes.
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As in his earlier books (The Secret Family; The Secret House), science writer and Oxford lecturer Bodanis truly has a gift for bringing his subject matter to life. Here he profiles the most famous equation in science history: E=mc. Each letter and symbol of Einstein's Theory of Special Relativity is explained separately, with historical information about the development of each component. Bodanis provides interesting biographical tidbits about the scientists who influenced Einstein's discovery (Ole Roemer, Michael Faraday) and put his theory to use (Ernest Rutherford, Enrico Fermi, and Lise Meitner). Then he discusses the relationship between these elements (the = in this equation) and the birth of the Nuclear Age. Bodanis includes annotated notes and suggested readings, which in themselves make good reading. Surely one of the best books of the year, this is highly recommended for all libraries.DJames Olson, Northeastern Illinois Univ. Lib., Chicago Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

Most people know this celebrated equation has something to do with Einstein's theory of relativity, but most nonscientists don't know what it means. This very approachable yet somewhat limited work of popular science explains, and adorns with anecdote and biography, the equation and its place in history. Oxford lecturer Bodanis (The Secret Family) shows what happened to Einstein on the way to the discovery, what other scientists did to bring it about and how the equation created the atom bomb. Part Two tackles separately the components of the equation (E, =, m, c and "squared"), which means that it covers 18th- and 19th-century physics. "`E' Is for Energy" opens with Michael Faraday, whose unusual religious beliefs helped him discover that electricity and magnetism were the same force. "`m' Is for Mass" brings in French chemist Lavoisier, who established the law of conservation of matter. Bodanis then turns to Einstein's life and work. The middle third of the book covers the exploration of the atom and the making of the atom bomb; the cast of characters here includes Marie Curie, Lise Meitner and Enrico Fermi. A concluding section considers how E=mc2 powers the sun, and how our sun and all others will eventually run out of gas. Capsule biographies here include one of the engaging English astronomer Cecilia Payne, who wouldn't let institutional sexism stop her from finding the hydrogen in the sun. Bodanis's writing is accessible to the point of chattiness: he seeks, and deserves, many readers who know no physics. They'll learn a handfulÄmore important, they'll enjoy it, and pick up a load of biographical and cultural curios along the way. 20 photos and drawings not seen by PW. (Oct.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

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