A Cultural History of Physics : Book excerpt
#1
A CULTURAL HISTORY OF PHYSICS
An excerpt from a new book by Karoly Simonyi
(60-page pdf excerpt available for free download)

Excerpt from the foreword by Freeman Dyson:
Quote:A Cultural History of Physics is a grand monument to the life of its author. Karoly Simonyi was teacher first, scholar second, and scientist third. His book likewise has three components. First a text, describing the history of science over the last four thousand years in a rich context of philosophy, art and literature. Second, a collection of illustrations, many of them taken from Hungarian archives and museums unknown to Western readers, giving concrete reality to historical events.Third an anthology of quotations from writers in many languages...
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#2
I have been reading this book for a while now (available on Amazon). It is a dense encyclopedia of sorts. In my opinion it is not the sort of book you'd read in one sitting (or a few). Before I ordered the book, for whatever reason, I expected it to be way slimmer and smaller than it actually is. To give you an idea- it is about the dimensions of a 13" laptop and much heavier- with 636 glossy pages. But it is beautifully written. The scholarship of Simonyi (the author, not his son, i.e.) is astounding. In the first few pages that arvindiyer has linked to, Simonyi makes an interesting observation about a useful approach to teaching physics. In order to help the students better appreciate the process that went into the discovery of the important laws of physics, Simonyi says that one needs to really design experiments that mimic the original setups. For instance, the students should in some way, get to experience the difficulty that Galileo had in demonstrating conclusively that the mass of an object has nothing to do with how fast it accelerates in free fall. For instance, Galileo had to find a way of designing an experiment without friction (grooved incline + rolling ball) and use a calibrated vessel of water, with a hole and pipe affixed to its bottom surface, to keep time. I picked out this particular example because a recent course on Udacity attempts something very similar. Check it out:

http://www.udacity.com/overview/Course/p...ourseRev/1

Preview of course: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cuKmcq6pu...r_embedded#!

Also, a small review is up on MAA (pop-math organization). The review mentions something that I loved and found to be very effective- the representation of the evolution and flow of knowledge and ideas temporally and spatially using simple flowcharts:
http://mathdl.maa.org/mathDL/19/?pa=revi...okId=73160
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