The Harmonious Universe: The Beauty and Unity of Scientific Understanding

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Prometheus Books, 2004 - Science - 370 pages
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From quarks to quasars, this stimulating survey of the main branches of science provides lay readers with a broad scientific understanding of our fascinating universe. Award-winning scientist and popular science writer Keith Laidler explains the major facts, principles, and theories of physics, chemistry, biology, geology, and astronomy. He not only delves into the specifics of each discipline but also shows how they all complement one another, creating a harmonious picture of a completely integrated universe. Along the way Laidler interjects entertaining facts about the larger-than-life figures who have advanced science throughout history. The reader thus learns about both science and the history of science in a lively presentation that emphasizes the human dimension of the vast scientific enterprise.

Among the many interesting people and topics discussed are Isaac Newton and the nature of light, Benjamin Franklin and the investigation of electricity, James Clerk Maxwell’s "demon" and the laws of probability, James Watt and the steam engine, Max Planck and black-body radiation, James Rutherford and the nuclear atom, Albert Einstein and relativity, Lord Kelvin and the earth’s cooling, Gregor Mendel and genes, Charles Darwin and the origin of species, Edward Lorenz and the butterfly effect, and many more. Looking at our universe as a gigantic system of worlds within worlds, Laidler reviews individually the subatomic world, the microscopic world, the electromagnetic world, the world of energy in all its various forms, our world (Earth) in the context of the larger universe, and the world of our living environment. He concludes with a chapter on methods of inquiry and kinds of truth.

More than a primer yet less complex than a textbook, The Harmonious Universe will entertain, educate, and inspire an appreciation for science in all its many facets.

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User Review  - fpagan - LibraryThing

Explains some of the 1-2-3s of chemistry, physics, astronomy, geology, and biology for nonscientist readers. He makes some blunders though, like not mentioning the universe's *accelerating* expansion ... Read full review


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About the author (2004)

Keith Laidler is Professor Emeritus of Chemistry at the University of Ottawa. He is the author of the award-winning The World of Physical Chemistry (OUP, 1993).

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