The Ten Great Ideas of Science


送交者: insight 于 2005-10-22, 01:48:06:

1) Evolution: the emergence of complexity;
2) DNA: the rationalization of biology;
3) Energy: the universalization of accountancy
4) Entropy: the spring of change;
5) Atoms: the reduction of matter
6) Symmetry: the quantification of beauty;
7) Quanta: the simplification of understanding
8) Cosmology: the globalization of reality;
9) Space time: the arena of action;
10) Arithmetic: the limit of reason.

From book: Galileo's Finger: The Ten Great Ideas of Science -- by P. W. Atkins

This beautifully written but at times overly ambitious book illustrates both the possibilities and the limitations of science popularizations. Oxford Don Peter Atkins examines the epochal ideas of science, including evolution, the role of DNA in heredity, entropy, the atomic structure of matter, symmetry, wave-particle duality, the expansion of the universe and the curvature of spacetime. Exploring the history of these concepts from the ancient Greeks onward, the chapters amount to case studies in the power of the Galilean paradigm of the "isolation of the essentials of a problem," and mathematical theorizing disciplined by real-world experiment, as humanity's understanding moves from armchair speculation and observational lore to testable theories of great explanatory power. Atkins presents this progress as a search for evermore fundamental abstractions: DNA emerges as the fleeting physical instantiation of immortal information; thermodynamics is a universal tendency to disorder; and much of physics itself a logical corollary of pure geometry. Writing in lucid, engaging prose illustrated with many ingenious diagrams, Atkins often succeeds brilliantly in conveying the deep conceptual foundations of scientific disciplines to readers lacking a mathematical background. He falters a little, like most science popularizers, at the frontiers of modern physics, where things get very abstract indeed. Atkins's examples are excellent and his prose a marvel of economy, but for most lay readers, no amount of graphical heuristics or arguments by analogy will fully explain string theory or four-dimensional space-time curvature. Still, the elegant style, wide-ranging scope, and unusually high ratio of enlightening explanation to baffling abstruseness make this book one of the best of its kind.

"The nobel Prize for literature has never been won by a scientist. It is high time it happened, and Peter Atkins would be my candidate. He uses his powerful mastery of the English language to open our eyes to the poetry of deep science. His literate prose leaves us inspired, fulfiled, enriched and properly alive. "

Richard Dawkins, author of the Selfish Gene and Unweaving the Rainbow



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