Behind the Second Scientific Revolution…

The great transition from Newtonian physics to the physics of today forms one of the most important chapters in the annals of scientific progress. Climaxing with Planck’s and Einstein’s landmark contributions, this immen se explansion of knowledge is examined and explained by an author unsurpassed in writing for the nonexpert. In Light, Magnetism, and Electricity, Isaac Asimov succeeds in making superbly clear the essential foundation of understanding the science that plays so paramount a role in shaping our world.

The two companion volumes to Isaac Asimov’s Light, Magnetism, and ElectricityMotion, Sound, and Heat and The Electron, Proton, and Neutron—are also available in Signet Science editions. Each book can be enjoyed independently. Together they form a major contribution by an author acclaimed by the Saturday Review as “one of the few scientists who has the gift of being able to simplify the complext,” and by the Los Angeles Times as “the type of writer needed in our time.…[His books] bridge the gap between scientists and non-scientists.”

This book continues in the high-quality tradition of Understanding Physics, volume one (no surprise there).

As with volume 1, the book is largely virgin material for Asimov. Granted, he deals frequently enough with things like relativity and the electromagnetic nature of light and associated radiations, and why people thought there was an ether when there isn’t, but here he covers an awful lot he never otherwise wrote about—optics, for example, and electrostatics.

Again, the relatively equation-heavy nature of the book helps out. (Asimov, never understanding calculus himself, leave it out of consideration and so doesn’t even bother to reproduce Maxwell’s equations; more’s the pity. One doubts, of course, that Asimov would have left them in if he did understand them himself, but the point is moot.) It gives Asimov the motivation to deal with matters such as optics, electricity, and magnetism in a completely detailed thorough fashion and include a lot of the topics and concepts which are basically impossible to present in a meaningful fashion without mathematics—the strength of lenses, the nature of real and virtual images, magnetic flux, and so on.

(I remember as a teenager holding a copy of this book open while I measured the strength in diopters of the various magnifying glasses lying around the house.)

Again, this is a very solid piece of work and among Asimov’s best and most worthwhile pieces of non-fiction ever.

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