From X-rays to Quarks: Modern Physicists and Their Discoveries

Courier Corporation
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A leading figure in twentieth-century physics offers impressions and recollections of the field's development. Nobel Laureate Emilio Segrè (1905–89) knew and worked with many of modern physics' preeminent scientists. In this simple but elegant history, he offers compelling views not only of the milestones of scientific discovery but also the personalities involved—their attitudes and politics as well as their trials and triumphs. Highlights include a profile of Albert Einstein, from his unconventional youth to his role as science's elder statesman; the wonder year of 1932, which witnessed the discoveries of the neutron, positron, and deuterium; and the first steps in building particle accelerators.
A student and colleague of Enrico Fermi, Segrè made numerous important contributions to nuclear physics, including participation in the Manhattan Project. Segrè is further renowned for his narrative skills as a historian. This book is a companion to the author's From Falling Bodies to Radio Waves: Classical Physicists and Their Discoveries, also available from Dover Publications.
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About the author

Emilio G. Segrè: The History of Physics
Emilio Segrè (1905–1989) became, in 1928, the first student to earn a doctorate in physics at The University of Rome under Enrico Fermi. A decade later, restrictive fascist laws against Jews in academic positions in Italy turned Segrè into an academic refugee — he settled in Berkeley where, in 1955, with colleague Owen Chamberlain, he proved the existence of the antiproton, a negatively charged proton that destroys itself as well as the matter it strikes. In 1959, Segrè and Chamberlain shared the Nobel Prize for Physics for their work on antiproton.

From 1943 to 1946, Segrè worked as a group leader on the Manhattan Project at Los Alamos. In his 1970 book about Fermi, Segrè recalled a crucial atomic test in the New Mexico desert: "In a fraction of a second, at our distance, one received enough light to produce a sunburn. I was near Fermi at the time of the explosion, but I do not remember what we said, if anything. I believed that for a moment I thought the explosion might set fire to the atmosphere and thus finish the earth, even though I knew that this was not possible."

It always seems an opportunity that should not be missed when a major participant in the world of science takes the time and makes the effort to write about his field for a general audience. At Dover we were very pleased to acquire from Emilio Segrè's heirs the rights to publish his outstanding two-volume history of physics written for the general reader and historian of science: From Falling Bodies to Radio Waves: Classical Physicists and Their Discoveries and From X-Rays to Quarks: Modern Physicists and Their Discoveries, both reprinted by Dover in 2007.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Courier Corporation
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Published on
May 3, 2012
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Pages
352
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ISBN
9780486141039
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Language
English
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Genres
Biography & Autobiography / Science & Technology
Science / Physics / General
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This content is DRM protected.
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If science has the equivalent of a Bloomsbury group, it is the five men born at the turn of the twentieth century in Budapest: Theodore von Kármán, Leo Szilard, Eugene Wigner, John von Neumann, and Edward Teller. From Hungary to Germany to the United States, they remained friends and continued to work together and influence each other throughout their lives. As a result, their work was integral to some of the most important scientific and political developments of the twentieth century. István Hargittai tells the story of this remarkable group: Wigner won a Nobel Prize in theoretical physics; Szilard was the first to see that a chain reaction based on neutrons was possible, initiated the Manhattan Project, but left physics to try to restrict nuclear arms; von Neumann could solve difficult problems in his head and developed the modern computer for more complex problems; von Kármán became the first director of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, providing the scientific basis for the U.S. Air Force; and Teller was the father of the hydrogen bomb, whose name is now synonymous with the controversial "Star Wars" initiative of the 1980s. Each was fiercely opinionated, politically active, and fought against all forms of totalitarianism. Hargittai, as a young Hungarian physical chemist, was able to get to know some of these great men in their later years, and the depth of information and human interest in The Martians of Science is the result of his personal relationships with the subjects, their families, and their contemporaries.
The late Abraham Pais, author of the award winning biography of Albert Einstein, Subtle is the Lord, here offers an illuminating portrait of another of his eminent colleagues, J. Robert Oppenheimer, one of the most charismatic and enigmatic figures of modern physics. Pais introduces us to a precocious youth who sped through Harvard in three years, made signal contributions to quantum mechanics while in his twenties, and was instrumental in the growth of American physics in the decade before the Second World War, almost single-handedly bringing it to a state of prominence. He paints a revealing portrait of Oppenheimer's life in Los Alamos, where in twenty remarkable, feverish months, and under his inspired guidance, the first atomic bomb was designed and built, a success that made Oppenheimer America's most famous scientist. Pais describes Oppenheimer's long tenure as Director of the Institute of Advanced Study at Princeton, where the two men worked together closely. He shows not only Oppenheimer's brilliance and leadership, but also how his displays of intensity and arrogance won him powerful enemies, ones who would ultimately make him one of the principal victims of the Red Scare of the 1950s. J. Robert Oppenheimer is Abraham Pais's final work, completed after his death by Robert P. Crease, an acclaimed historian of science in his own right. Told with compassion and deep insight, it is the most comprehensive biography of the great physicist available. Anyone seeking an insider's portrait of this enigmatic man will find it indispensable.
 Raymond Chandler never wrote a memoir or autobiography. The closest he came to writing either was in—and around—his novels, shorts stories, and letters. There have been books that describe and evaluate Chandler’s life, but to find out what he himself felt about his life and work, Barry Day, editor of The Letters of Noël Coward (“There is much to dazzle here in just the way we expect . . . the book is meticulous, artfully structured—splendid” —Daniel Mendelsohn; The New York Review of Books), has cannily, deftly chosen from Chandler’s writing, as well as the many interviews he gave over the years as he achieved cult status, to weave together an illuminating narrative that reveals the man, the work, the worlds he created.

Using Chandler’s own words as well as Day’s text, here is the life of “the man with no home,” a man precariously balanced between his classical English education with its immutable values and that of a fast-evolving America during the years before the Great War, and the changing vernacular of the cultural psyche that resulted. Chandler makes clear what it is to be a writer, and in particular what it is to be a writer of “hardboiled” fiction in what was for him “another language.” Along the way, he discusses the work of his contemporaries: Dashiell Hammett, James M. Cain, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Agatha Christie, W. Somerset Maugham, and others (“I wish,” said Chandler, “I had one of those facile plotting brains, like Erle Gardner”).

Here is Chandler’s Los Angeles (“There is a touch of the desert about everything in California,” he said, “and about the minds of the people who live here”), a city he adopted and that adopted him in the post-World War I period . . . Here is his Hollywood (“Anyone who doesn’t like Hollywood,” he said, “is either crazy or sober”) . . . He recounts his own (rocky) experiences working in the town with Billy Wilder, Howard Hawks, Alfred Hitchcock, and others. . .We see Chandler’s alter ego, Philip Marlowe, private eye, the incorruptible knight with little armor who walks the “mean streets” in a world not made for knights (“If I had ever an opportunity of selecting the movie actor who would best represent Marlowe to my mind, I think it would have been Cary Grant.”) . . . Here is Chandler on drinking (his life in the end was in a race with alcohol—and loneliness) .  .  . and here are Chandler’s women—the Little Sisters, the “dames” in his fiction, and in his life (on writing The Long Goodbye, Chandler said, “I watched my wife die by half inches and I wrote the best book in my agony of that knowledge . . . I was as hollow as the places between the stars.” After her death Chandler led what he called a “posthumous life” writing fiction, but more often than not, his writing life was made up of letters written to women he barely knew.)

Interwoven throughout the text are more than one hundred pictures that reveal the psyche and world of Raymond Chandler. “I have lived my whole life on the edge of nothing,” he wrote.  In his own words, and with Barry Day’s commentary, we see the shape this took and the way it informed the man and his extraordinary work.

In this biography of Enrico Fermi (1901-54), who won the Nobel Prize in physics in 1938 for his work on radioactivity by neutron bombardment and his discovery of transuranic elements and who achieved the first controlled nuclear chain reaction in Chicago in 1942, his student, collaborator, fellow Nobel Prize winner and lifelong friend Emilio Segrè presents the scientist, and explains in nontechnical terms Fermi’s work and his achievements.



“Segrè’s description of Fermi’s early life and his involvement with and commitment to physics is extremely interesting... Segrè understands and describes very clearly the outstanding characteristics of Fermi’s theoretical work: clarity and completeness... Segrè has succeeded admirably in describing Fermi’s entire scientific career, and this book is strongly recommended.” — M. L. Goldberger, Science


“We must thank Emilio Segrè for this authoritative, revealing and inspiring book. It covers in a masterly fashion the most exciting thirty years of modern physics and the character and activities of one of its greatest contributors.” — Nature


“A rich, well-rounded portrait of [Fermi] the scientist, his methods, intellectual history, and achievements. Explaining in nontechnical terms the scientific problems Fermi faced or solved, Enrico Fermi, Physicist contains illuminating material concerning Fermi’s youth in Italy and the development of his scientific style.” — Physics Today


“All that might be hoped for in a biography of one Nobel Prize winner in physics by another has been realized in Emilio Segrè’s biography of his friend, Enrico Fermi... A truly masterly drawing of Fermi’s character, along with his physics and the events through which he moved, Segrè has provided us with a brilliant appreciation of one of the most pre-eminent figures of modern physics.” — Physics Bulletin


“This excellent biography, written by one of the original group who worked with him during the 1930s at Rome, catches beautifully the style and spirit of its subject... With Fermi’s passing the age of the universal experimental and theoretical physicist is gone. Segre’s book tells the story of this heroic age of physics and of its principal actor; it is a delight to read, and I recommend it heartily.” — American Scientist


“Here we meet the man at work and we see the meticulous scientist... This book also shows us another facet of Fermi: that of the conscientious scientist torn between his love of pure research and his love of teaching.” — V. Barocas, Annals of Science


“Segrè is a sensitive biographer, responsive to all problems that can plague the creative scientist; he shows, above all, Fermi’s dedication, zeal, and extraordinary talents. Segrè has provided more than sympathy. Much that is new about Fermi’s youth in Italy appears here... [A] very rewarding book... Every physicist will want to read this biography, along with every reader who has an interest in intellectual developments during the 1920-1960 era.” — J. Z. Fullmer, The Ohio Journal of Science

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