The Elements: A Very Short Introduction

OUP Oxford
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This Very Short Introduction traces the history and cultural impact of the elements on humankind, and examines why people have long sought to identify the substances around them. Looking beyond the Periodic Table, the author examines our relationship with matter, from the uncomplicated vision of the Greek philosophers, who believed there were four elements - earth, air, fire, and water - to the work of modern-day scientists in creating elements such as hassium and meitnerium. Packed with anecdotes, The Elements is a highly engaging and entertaining exploration of the fundamental question: what is the world made from? ABOUT THE SERIES: The Very Short Introductions series from Oxford University Press contains hundreds of titles in almost every subject area. These pocket-sized books are the perfect way to get ahead in a new subject quickly. Our expert authors combine facts, analysis, perspective, new ideas, and enthusiasm to make interesting and challenging topics highly readable.
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About the author

Philip Ball is a science writer and a consultant editor for Nature, where he was formerly an editor for physical science for over 10 years. He writes about all areas of science for the international press, and has broadcast on TV and radio. His previous books include Designing the Molecular World, The Self-Made Tapestry, H20: A Biography of Water, and Stories of the Invisible: A guided tour of molecules. He holds a degree in chemistry from Oxford University and a doctorate in physics from Bristol University. He lives in London, where his Homunculus Theatre Company occasionally performs on a shoestring budget.
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Additional Information

Publisher
OUP Oxford
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Published on
Apr 8, 2004
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Pages
192
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ISBN
9780191578250
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Language
English
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Genres
Science / Chemistry / General
Science / History
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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The Elements has become an international sensation, with over one million copies in-print worldwide.
The highly-anticipated paperback edition of The Elements is finally available.
An eye-opening, original collection of gorgeous, never-before-seen photographic representations of the 118 elements in the periodic table.
The elements are what we, and everything around us, are made of. But how many elements has anyone actually seen in pure, uncombined form? The Elements provides this rare opportunity. Based on seven years of research and photography, the pictures in this book make up the most complete, and visually arresting, representation available to the naked eye of every atom in the universe. Organized in order of appearance on the periodic table, each element is represented by a spread that includes a stunning, full-page, full-color photograph that most closely represents it in its purest form. For example, at -183°C, oxygen turns from a colorless gas to a beautiful pale blue liquid.
Also included are fascinating facts, figures, and stories of the elements as well as data on the properties of each, including atomic weight, density, melting and boiling point, valence, electronegativity, and the year and location in which it was discovered. Several additional photographs show each element in slightly altered forms or as used in various practical ways. The element's position on the periodic table is pinpointed on a mini rendering of the table and an illustrated scale of the element's boiling and/or melting points appears on each page along with a density scale that runs along the bottom.
Packed with interesting information, this combination of solid science and stunning artistic photographs is the perfect gift book for every sentient creature in the universe.
Includes a tear-out poster of Theodore Gray's iconic Photographic Periodic Table!
After World War II, most scientists in Germany maintained that they had been apolitical or actively resisted the Nazi regime, but the true story is much more complicated. In Serving the Reich, Philip Ball takes a fresh look at that controversial history, contrasting the career of Peter Debye, director of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Physics in Berlin, with those of two other leading physicists in Germany during the Third Reich: Max Planck, the elder statesman of physics after whom Germany’s premier scientific society is now named, and Werner Heisenberg, who succeeded Debye as director of the institute when it became focused on the development of nuclear power and weapons.

Mixing history, science, and biography, Ball’s gripping exploration of the lives of scientists under Nazism offers a powerful portrait of moral choice and personal responsibility, as scientists navigated “the grey zone between complicity and resistance.” Ball’s account of the different choices these three men and their colleagues made shows how there can be no clear-cut answers or judgement of their conduct. Yet, despite these ambiguities, Ball makes it undeniable that the German scientific establishment as a whole mounted no serious resistance to the Nazis, and in many ways acted as a willing instrument of the state.

Serving the Reich considers what this problematic history can tell us about the relationship of science and politics today. Ultimately, Ball argues, a determination to present science as an abstract inquiry into nature that is “above politics” can leave science and scientists dangerously compromised and vulnerable to political manipulation.
If offered the chance—by cloak, spell, or superpower—to be invisible, who wouldn’t want to give it a try? We are drawn to the idea of stealthy voyeurism and the ability to conceal our own acts, but as desirable as it may seem, invisibility is also dangerous. It is not just an optical phenomenon, but a condition full of ethical questions. As esteemed science writer Philip Ball reveals in this book, the story of invisibility is not so much a matter of how it might be achieved but of why we want it and what we would do with it.

In this lively look at a timeless idea, Ball provides the first comprehensive history of our fascination with the unseen. This sweeping narrative moves from medieval spell books to the latest nanotechnology, from fairy tales to telecommunications, from camouflage to ghosts to the dawn of nuclear physics and the discovery of dark energy. Along the way, Invisible tells little-known stories about medieval priests who blamed their misdeeds on spirits; the Cock Lane ghost, which intrigued both Samuel Johnson and Charles Dickens; the attempts by Victorian scientist William Crookes to detect forces using tiny windmills; novelist Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s belief that he was unseen when in his dressing gown; and military efforts to enlist magicians to hide tanks and ships during WWII. Bringing in such voices as Plato and Shakespeare, Ball provides not only a scientific history but a cultural one—showing how our simultaneous desire for and suspicion of the invisible has fueled invention and the imagination for centuries.

In this unusual and clever book, Ball shows that our fantasies about being unseen—and seeing the unseen—reveal surprising truths about who we are.
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