The Magic Furnace: The Search for the Origins of Atoms

The Magic Furnace: The Search for the Origins of Atoms Every Breath You Take Contains Atoms Forged In The Blistering Furnaces Deep Inside Stars Every Flower You Pick Contains Atoms Blasted Into Space By Stellar Explosions That Blazed Brighter Than A Billion Suns Thus Begins The Magic Furnace, An Eloquent, Extraordinary Account Of How Scientists Unraveled The Mystery Of Atoms, And Helped To Explain The Dawn Of Life Itself The Historic Search For Atoms And Their Stellar Origins Is Truly One Of The Greatest Detective Stories Of Science In Effect, It Offers Two Epics Intertwined The Birth Of Atoms In The Big Bang And The Evolution Of Stars And How They Work Neither Could Be Told Without The Other, For The Stars Contain The Key To Unlocking The Secret Of Atoms, And The Atoms The Solution To The Secret Of The Stars Marcus Chown Leads Readers Through The Major Theories And Experiments That Propelled The Search For Atomic Understanding, With Engaging Characterizations Of The Major Atomic Thinkers From Democritus In Ancient Greece To Binning And Rohrer In Twentieth Century New York He Clarifies The Science, Explaining With Enthusiasm The Sequence Of Breakthroughs That Proved The Existence Of Atoms As The Alphabet Of Nature And The Discovery Of Subatomic Particles And Atomic Energy Potential From There, He Engagingly Chronicles The Leaps Of Insight That Eventually Revealed The Elements, The Universe, Our World, And Ourselves To Be A Product Of Two Ultimate Furnaces The Explosion Of The Big Bang And The Interior Of Stars Such As Supernovae And Red Giants Chown Successfully Makes These Massive Concepts Accessible For Students, Professionals, And Science Enthusiasts His Story Sheds Light On All Of Us, For In Essence, We Are All Stardust

Marcus Chown is an award winning writer and broadcaster Formerly a radio astronomer at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, he is currently cosmology consultant of the weekly science magazine New Scientist He is the author of the bestselling Quantum Theory Cannot Hurt You, The Never Ending Days of Being Dead and The Magic Furnace He also wrote The Solar System, the bestselling ap

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  • Hardcover
  • 240 pages
  • The Magic Furnace: The Search for the Origins of Atoms
  • Marcus Chown
  • English
  • 02 April 2017
  • 9780195143058

10 thoughts on “The Magic Furnace: The Search for the Origins of Atoms

  1. says:

    I was impressed to read this book.the theme The history of nuclear physics is written systematically.It is composed of the elements necessary to human beings by the supernova explosion.I recommend the book.Who are interested in the book the people want to read who are interested in astronomy, know the origin of universe ,human is the brilliant story of universe and human being.

  2. says:

    Definitivno nije za one sa apsolutno nimalo znanja o atomima Ipak, pisana je laganim stilom, istorijat otkri a je uradjen ba kako treba, bez mnogo vrdanja sa strane od centralne teme knjige U ivao sam.

  3. says:

    This book is one of my favorite books that I read

  4. says:

    well, you need a science education to begin to read this, but then it s fantastic The best science book I ve read Felt like I was reading a racy detective thriller, and yes I do still remember much of what he said, so thank you Marcus.

  5. says:

    Captivating, informative, demanding, but highly readableThe title is an allusion to the dream of the alchemists of old who sought a magic kiln in which to transform base metals into gold That dream remained intact until the discovery in the twentieth century of how the elements are actually built up from hydrogen and exactly what kind of magic furnace would be required to turn base metals into gold In a most engaging narrative, science writer Marcus Chown tells that fascinating story through the lives and ideas of the scientists who made the discoveries Chown begins, as one must, with the Greeks and Democritus who opined, in reality there are only atoms and the void Chown shows how it was impossible for the Greeks without the scientific method to go any further than Democritus s intuition But Chown does not dwell on the alchemy but ratchets us directly to modern science and the growing realization that Atoms Are Not the Smallest Things Chapter Two , and that therefore it must be possible to transform an atom of one element into an atom of another p 21 And with that, the race was on to account for how hydrogen became helium which became, through crucibles unimaginable to man, carbon, iron and eventually the heaviest elements The story culminates in the work of Fred Hoyle, Margaret and Geoffrey Burbidge, and Willy Fowler who explained the nuclear processes operating inside stars and supernovae Chown finishes with a chapter on the discovery of the cosmic background radiation, the afterglow of creation which confirmed how helium was manufactured in the Big Bang, and a chapter on how the elements are strewn into space and end up in Population I stars and eventually in our bodies There is a Glossary and a Selected Bibliography.The value of this book lies not only in the fascinating story told but in the magical way that Chown is able to painlessly teach us a little chemistry and physics along the way I learned about the nature of atoms and the various forces in nature in these pages, almost incidentally, than I have in any other single book So intrigued was I in learning that I turned to the Periodic Table of the Elements as I read the text.But Chown s style is not didactic Instead he illuminates the personalities and the flow of ideas We see Marie Currie with her radiation swollen fingers and Fred Hoyle truant at the back of the local cinema teaching himself to read We see how the vision of meteorites falling into the sun became the vision of the sun falling in upon itself, shrinking and, as the elements got closer and closer together, heating up, and how that idea coursed after some meandering into the discovery of atomic energy But perhaps the most beautiful turn as in a poetic change of perception, as in a sonnet in the book is on page 107 where Chown s writes about the sameness of all the atoms of an element, and then suddenly asks, thinking about the mysterious behavior evidenced by the phenomenon of the half life How could radium atoms all be the same yet behave differently This question leads directly to the uncertainty principle and quantum mechanics.There is an implicit sense of warning in the book about the limitations of humans doing science Thus the American geologist Thomas Chamberlain is quoted on page 54 as saying, There is perhaps no beguilement insidious and dangerous than an elaborate and elegant mathematical process built upon unfortified premises He was critiquing Lord Kelvin, but might his words not apply to recent theories, such as that of one dimensional strings And on page 65 it is recounted that Auguste Comte deemed it self evident that we would never be able to study the chemical composition of the stars Two years after his death in 1857 thanks to the unlikely technique of spectroscopy we were doing just that Indeed, as Chown reports on page 67, helium was discovered, through a reading of its spectrum, on the sun before it was discovered on the earth By the way, Chown s material on spectroscopy is fascinating and helped me to a better understanding of how the process works and how the black lines in spectrums of light reveal the composition of the stars.Chown has the ability to engage the reader in scientific ideas, perhaps in part because of the unique way he sometimes puts things For example on page 79 he writes about the resistance encountered by an object as it approached the speed of light He states, The only conceivable source of such resistance was a body s mass However, what I thought was, mass cannot find resistance by itself There must be something in the very fabric of spacetime that is providing the resistance It is not enough to posit inertia since that really explains nothing I believe there is still something fundamental that we do not understand about the relationship between the speed of light and the nature of matter and energy.Chown sometimes uses the language and assumptions of the times he is writing about For example on page 96 he speaks of the electrons which flitted about an atomic nucleus like planets round the sun, an analogy now considered somewhat misleading a cloud is preferred, I believe , but in recalling it, we are again forced to imagine what an atom might look like if we could somehow see it.Most amusing story Austrian physicist Fritz Houtermans making up dreams to tell Sigmund Freud p 110 Best steam of consciousness leading to insight Fred Hoyle musing on the atomic bomb project about which he had only second hand and circumstantial evidence pp 159 160 Best speculation In answer to Where are they , Fermi s famous question about extra terrestrials, Chown proposes that they came and went long before the sun even shone p 215 Dennis Littrell, author of The World Is Not as We Think It Is

  6. says:

    Excellent book giving the history of our understanding of atoms and how they are synthesised, and hence our understanding of stars I ve been interested in this subject for a number of years and have not previously found a book that gives the right level of detail, but here it is It also explained something I d never understood about spectral lines and I particularly enjoyed the section dominated by the account of Hoyle s work, as he is almost invariably remembered just for resisting the concept of the Big Bang rather than for his great discoveries.

  7. says:

    Excellent book Truly inspirational Made me feel rather insignificant Subject matter that I had not reflected on recently Obviously was taught most of it at some point, but an amazing refresher Rutherford blows my mind yet again Marcus Chown did a great job in weaving it all together like a novel.

  8. says:

    This was a very readable book Marcus Chown presented a complex story of the formation of the atoms of different elements in the universe in a very clear and understandable narrative Highly recommended.

  9. says:

    What a brilliant book this is This should be included in the school curriculum For the students interested in Physics particularly Astronomy , this book gives a good overview of what they are heading into.

  10. says:

    The Magic Furnace is a magic book The story of physics, astrophysics and astronomy is a tale that Chown begins back in ancient Greece and is the search for the origin of atoms The two thousand year investigative odyssey of what everything is made of and where atoms came from and how they were made, from the Universe rich hydrogen and helium, the light elements, all the way to the heavy atoms is a mind blower I enjoyed the authors previous work The Afterglow of Creation , and I think Magic Furnace is even better From the Greek philosopher Democritus, back when Alexander the Great was on his rampage, all the way to the L.H.C with who discovered what and how is set out and explained in such an easy to understand way, Marcus Chown removes the mystery and has to be congratulated.As we look out into the universe and identify the many accidents of physics and astronomy that have worked together to our benefit, it almost seems as if the universe must have known that we were coming.Or we have on our hands a multiverse, where we inhabit the fortunate carbon rich one off.

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