They started with four: earth, air, fire, and water. From these basics, they sought to understand the essential ingredients of the world. Those who could see further, those who understood that the four were just the beginning, were the last sorcerers â€" and the world’s first chemists.

What we now call chemistry began in the fiery cauldrons of mystics and sorcerers seeking not to make a better world through science, but rather to make themselves richer through magic formulas and con games. But among these early magicians, frauds, and con artists were a few far-seeing “alchemists†who, through rigorous experimentation, transformed mysticism into science.

By the 18th century the building blocks of nature, the elements of which all matter is composed, were on the verge of being discovery. Initially, it was not easy to determine whether a substance really was an element. Was water just water, plain and simple? Or could it be the sum of other (unknown and maybe unknowable) parts? And if water was made up of other substances, how could it be broken down into discreet, fundamental, and measurable components?

Scientific historians generally credit the great 18th century French chemist Antoine Lavoisier with addressing these fundamental questions and ultimately modernizing the field of chemistry. Through his meticulous and precise work this chaotic new field of scientific inquiry was given order. Exacting by nature, Lavoisier painstakingly set about performing experiments that would provide lasting and verifiable proofs of various chemical theories. Unfortunately, the outspoken Lavoisier eventually lost his head in the Terror, but others would follow his lead, carefully examining, measuring, and recording their findings.

As the field slowly progressed, another pioneer was to emerged almost 100 years later. Dimitri Mendeleev, an eccentric genius who cut his flowing hair and beard but once a year, sought to answer the most pressing questions that remained to chemists: Why did some elements have properties that resembled those of others? Were there certain natural groups of elements? And, if so, how many, and what elements fit into them? It was Mendeleev who finally addressed all these issues when he constructed the first Periodic Table in the late 1800s.

But between and after Lavoisier and Mendeleev were a host of other colorful, brilliant scientists who made their mark on the field of chemistry. Depicting the lively careers of these scientists and their contributions while carefully deconstructing the history and the science, author Richard Morris skillfully brings it all to life. Hailed by Kirkus Reviews as a “clear and lively writer with a penchant for down-to-earth examples†Morris’s gift for explanation â€" and pure entertainment â€" is abundantly obvious. Taking a cue from the great chemists themselves, Morris has brewed up a potent combination of the alluringly obscure and the historically momentous, spiked with just the right dose of quirky and ribald detail to deliver a magical brew of history, science, and personalities.

Centuries ago, when the ancient philosopher Zeno proposedhis famous paradox involving Achilles and the Tortoise, he struck at the heart of one of science's most enduring and intractable problems: How do we define the infinite? From then on, our greatest natural philosophers, logicians, mathematicians, and scientists, from Aristotle to Stephen Hawking, have been stymied-and driven-by infinity.

Acclaimed Science writer Richard Morris guides us on a fascinating, literate and entertaining tour of the efforts made throughout history to make sense of the mind-bending concept of the infinite. In tracing this quest, Morris shows us how each new encounter with infinity drove the advancement of physics and mathematics. Along the way, we encounter such luminaries as Galileo and Newton, Tycho Brahe and Giordano Bruno, and the giants of modern physics: Planck, Einstein, Bohr, Feynmann, Hawking, and numerous others.

Beginning with simple logical puzzles and progressing to the latest cosmological theories, Morris shows how these same infinity problems helped spawn such groundbreaking scientific developments as relativity and quantum mechanics. Though in many ways, the infinite is just as baffling today as it was in antiquity, contemporary scientists are probing ever deeper into the nature of our universe and catching fleeting glimpses of the infinite in ways the ancients could never have imagined.

Ultimately, we see that hidden within the theoretical possibility of an infinite number of universes may lie the answers to some of humankind's most fundamental questions: Why is there something rather than nothing? Why are we here?

Funny You Should Think About a Return to Judaism/A Journey From Comedy Stages to the Wisdom of Sages By Richard Morris This book is about priorities. A ship that is changing course will inevitably move forward to another destination. And that course might, indeed, lead that vessel to more inviting and fulfilling waters than at first imagined. Richard Morris is a stand-up comedian and writer who was one of the original writers, and a frequent guest, on NBC's Late Night with David Letterman. He has written a book about his transformation from total devotion to a show business lifestyle, to how he had the chance to realize a deeper, more personal awareness: the story of how he learned about his Judaism again. The spiritual and practical level he had the opportunity to go searching for turned out to be the funny, inspiring and very personal story of his travels, his encounters, and the great clarity that he found. Richard's story is told here. But everyone who is Jewish can apply it to his or her own journey; their own circumstances; their own dreams. Everybody has a story. With Richard's book, non-Jews can also certainly be inspired by this story of Jewish return, to look at their own respective religions in a new, practical, and yes, funny way. It's all about feeling connected to something substantial, of real value, and also about being able to laugh about something that's often looked at as something very serious. Look for this book to entertain, inspire and be revealing. And as it's been said in many Jewish delicatessens through the years: Enjoy!
This book advances the thesis that memorials are fundamentally rhetorical and cultural forms of expression, that a careful examination of American memorializing discloses the contours of at least three distinct American cultures, and that shifting visual and discursive memorial patterns across time reveal the ascendancy and subordination of these three cultures and their cultural memories. It unveils a mode of human expression that embodies the ethoi and world views of divergent American cultures--each of which has possessed and continues to seek to possess America's hegemonic voice and to become (or remain) the custodian of America's collective memory.

The unveiling of memorializing as a mode of expression proceeds diachronically and synchronically. Diachronically tracing the contours of American memorial traditions from 1630 to the present provides a nearly cinemagraphic representationof the ebb and flow, the movement and moment of cultural transformation and dominance. This demonstrates why the content of public memory at any given moment in a multicultural society depends largely on the needs and inclinations, the values and the norms, the ethos and the world view of the culture that is dominant at that moment. Within this interpretive frame, responses to Lincoln's assassination--considered as a synchronic balance--provide images akin to still photographs of a specific moment and place that deepen our understanding of memorializing. Taken together, these twin focal points reveal a historically embedded cultural struggle that has significant implications for how we interpret cultural conflict in past, present, and future America.
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