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Descartes's Secret Notebook: A True Tale of Mathematics, Mysticism , and the Quest to Understand the Universeby Amir D. Aczel
René Descartes (1596-1650) is one of the towering and central figures in Western philosophy and mathematics. His apothegm "Cogito, ergo sum" marked the birth of the mind-body problem, while his creation of so-called Cartesian coordinates have made our physical and intellectual conquest of physical space possible. But Descartes had a mysterious and mystical side, as well. Almost certainly a member of the occult brotherhood of the Rosicrucians, he kept a secret notebook, now lost, most of which was written in code. After Descartes's death, Gottfried Leibniz, inventor of calculus and one of the greatest mathematicians in history, moved to Paris in search of this notebook--and eventually found it in the possession of Claude Clerselier, a friend of Descartes. Leibniz called on Clerselier and was allowed to copy only a couple of pages--which, though written in code, he amazingly deciphered there on the spot. Leibniz's hastily scribbled notes are all we have today of Descartes's notebook, which has disappeared. Why did Descartes keep a secret notebook, and what were its contents? The answers to these questions lead Amir Aczel and the reader on an exciting, swashbuckling journey, and offer a fascinating look at one of the great figures of Western culture.
Why packages separated by thousands of miles change together.
The history of infinity emphasizing the people who were interested in the concept. Stresses philosophical and religious importance of mathematical ideas throughout history. Fascinating even if math is not your strong suit.
He was neither a mathematician nor a trained physicist and yet Léon Foucault always knew that a mysterious force of nature was among us. Like Newton, Galileo, Copernicus, and others before him, Foucault sensed a dramatic relationship between the rotating skies above and the seemingly motionless ground beneath our feet. But it wasn't until 1851 -- in Paris, inside the Panthéon, and in the company of fellow amateur scientist Napoleon III -- that Foucault swung a pendulum and demonstrated an extraordinary truth about the world: that it turns on its axis. Pendulum is a fascinating journey through the mind and findings of one of the most important and lesser-known characters in the history of science. Through careful research and lively anecdotes, world-renowned author Amir D. Aczel reveals the astonishing range and breadth of Foucault's discoveries. For, in addition to offering the first unequivocal proof of Earth's rotation, Foucault gave us the modern electric compass and microscope, was a pioneer in photographic technology, and made remarkable deductions about color theory, heat waves, and the speed of light. At its heart, Pendulum is a story about the illustrious period in France during the Second Empire; the crucial triumph of science over religion; and, most compelling, the life of a struggling, self-made man whose pursuit of knowledge continues to inform our notions about the universe today.
The Large Hadron Collider is the biggest, and by far the most powerful, machine ever built. A project of CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, its audacious purpose is to re-create, in a 16.5-mile-long circular tunnel under the French-Swiss countryside, the immensely hot and dense conditions that existed some 13.7 billion years ago within the first trillionth of a second after the fiery birth of our universe. The collider is now crashing protons at record energy levels never created by scientists before, and it will reach even higher levels by 2013. Its superconducting magnets guide two beams of protons in opposite directions around the track. After accelerating the beams to 99.9999991 percent of the speed of light, it collides the protons head-on, annihilating them in a flash of energy sufficient--in accordance with Einstein's elegant statement of mass-energy equivalence, E=mc2--to coalesce into a shower of particles and phenomena that have not existed since the first moments of creation. Within the LHC's detectors, scientists hope to see empirical confirmation of key theories in physics and cosmology.In telling the story of what is perhaps the most anticipated experiment in the history of science, Amir D. Aczel takes us inside the control rooms at CERN at key moments when an international team of top researchers begins to discover whether this multibillion-euro investment will fulfill its spectacular promise. Through the eyes and words of the men and women who conceived and built CERN and the LHC--and with the same clarity and depth of knowledge he demonstrated in the bestselling Fermat's Last Theorem--Aczel enriches all of us with a firm grounding in the scientific concepts we will need to appreciate the discoveries that will almost certainly spring forth when the full power of this great machine is finally unleashed.Will the Higgs boson make its breathlessly awaited appearance, confirming at last the Standard Model of particles and their interactions that is among the great theoretical achievements of twentieth-century physics? Will the hidden dimensions posited by string theory be revealed? Will we at last identify the nature of the dark matter that makes up more than 90 percent of the cosmos? With Present at the Creation, written by one of today's finest popular interpreters of basic science, we can all follow the progress of an experiment that promises to greatly satisfy the curiosity of anyone who ever concurred with Einstein when he said, "I want to know God's thoughts--the rest is details."From the Hardcover edition.
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