"An accelerator physicist's fascinating journey through the experiments that uncovered the nature of matter and made the modern world. Towards the end of the nineteenth century, many scientists believed that the project of physics was nearly complete, that there was little left to explore. But as the new century dawned, scientists with the drive to deepen their understanding began looking ever more closely at the atom, and as a result of their remarkable discoveries, physics-and the world around us-wouldnever again be the same. When the cathode ray tube revealed the secret of X-rays, physics immediately proved itself to be a source of enormous technological innovation, enabling life-saving medical equipment, safer building construction, and stronger security measures. And with every discovery since, our expanded knowledge of the infinitesimal has also brought a corresponding change in technology. These experiments ushered us into the modern world, helping us to create detectors that map the insides of volcanoes and predict eruptions as well as photovoltaic cells that power remote controls, accelerate our Internet speeds, and harness the sun's energy. From the smallest of instruments to machines so large they straddle international borders, Suzie Sheehy takes readers on a captivating journey through twelve crucial experiments that shaped our understanding of the cosmos and how we live within it. Along the way, Sheehy pulls back the curtain to reveal how physics is really done-not by theorists with blackboards, but by experimentalists with brilliant designs. Celebrating human ingenuity, creativity, and above all curiosity, The Matter of Everything is an inspiring story about the scientists who make real discoveries, and a powerful reminder that progress is a function of our desire to know"-- - (Baker & Taylor)
Celebrating human ingenuity, creativity and curiosity, an accelerator physicist introduces us to the people who, through a combination of genius, persistence and luck, staged the experiments that changed the course of history, giving rise to the technology that ushered us into the modern world. 40,000 first printing. Illustrations. - (Baker & Taylor)
A surprising, fascinating journey through the experiments that not only unlocked the nature of matter and shaped our understanding of the cosmos but also forever changed the way we live within it
"A book about the fundamental problems of physics written from a viewpoint I hadn’t come across before: that of the experimenter. A splendid idea, vividly carried out.” –Philip Pullman, best-selling author of His Dark Materials
Physics has always sought to deepen our understanding of the nature of matter and the world around us. But how do you conduct experiments with the fundamental building blocks of existence? How do you manipulate a particle a trillion times smaller than a grain of sand? How do you cause a proton to sail around a twenty-seven-kilometer-long loop 11,000 times per second? And, crucially, why is all this important?
In The Matter of Everything, accelerator physicist Suzie Sheehy introduces us to the people who, through a combination of genius, persistence and luck, staged the experiments that changed the course of history. From the serendipitous discovery of X-rays in a German laboratory to the scientists trying to prove Einstein wrong (and inadvertently proving him right) to the race to split open the atom, these brilliant experiments led to some of the most significant breakthroughs in science and fundamentally changed our lives. They have helped us detect the flow of lava deep inside volcanoes, develop life-saving medical techniques like diagnostic imaging and radiation therapy, and create radio, TV, microwaves, smartphones—even the World Wide Web itself—among countless other advancements.
Along the way, Sheehy pulls back the curtain to reveal how physics is really done—not only by theorists with equation-filled blackboards but also by experimentalists with hand-blown glass, hot air balloons and cathedral-sized electronics. Celebrating human ingenuity, creativity and above all curiosity, The Matter of Everything is an inspiring story of discovery and a powerful reminder that progress is a function of our desire to know. - (Random House, Inc.)
DR. SUZIE SHEEHY is a physicist, science communicator and academic who divides her time between research groups at the University of Oxford and University of Melbourne. She is currently focused on developing new particle accelerators for applications in medicine. The Matter of Everything is her first book. - (Random House, Inc.)
Publishers Weekly Reviews
Physicist Sheehy debuts with a terrific history of experiments that have changed the course of science. In a fast-paced and accessible narrative, Sheehy keenly demonstrates how "our view of the smallest constituents in nature has changed rapidly throughout the last 120 years." Though scientists at the end of the 19th century "agreed that the subject of physics was almost complete," the discovery of X-rays showed that the universe still had more secrets to uncover. A long line of experiments followed: around 1900, Max Planck did important work with "energy quantisation," Hans Geiger and Ernest Marsden uncovered the structure of atoms a few years later, and the early 1910s saw the discovery of cosmic rays. Sheehy also examines inventions each discovery made possible, including semiconductors, the World Wide Web, archaeological dating methods, and CT scans. Along the way come fascinating profiles of scientists, including several women who have been omitted from history (Bibha Chowdhuri, for example, found evidence of "two new subatomic particles" in the 1930s). With punchy writing and vivid historical details, Sheehy brilliantly captures the curiosity that fuels science, the frustration of "false starts and failures," and the thrill of finding answers that are bound to raise more questions. This is pop science at its best. Agent: Chris Wellbelove, Aitken Alexander Assoc. (Jan.)
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