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Nuclear Physics


Chernobyl: The History of a Nuclear Catastrophe

Chernobyl: The History of a Nuclear Catastrophe Lowest new price: $20.81
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Author: Serhii Plokhy

From a preeminent historian of Eastern Europe, the definitive history of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster

On the morning of April 26, 1986, Europe witnessed the worst nuclear disaster in history: the explosion of a reactor at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Soviet Ukraine. Dozens died of radiation poisoning, fallout contaminated half the continent, and thousands fell ill.

In Chernobyl, Serhii Plokhy draws on new sources to tell the dramatic stories of the firefighters, scientists, and soldiers who heroically extinguished the nuclear inferno. He lays bare the flaws of the Soviet nuclear industry, tracing the disaster to the authoritarian character of Communist party rule, the regime's control of scientific information, and its emphasis on economic development over all else.

Today, the risk of another Chernobyl looms in the mismanagement of nuclear power in the developing world. A moving and definitive account, Chernobyl is also an urgent call to action.

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Quantum Mechanics: The Theoretical Minimum

Quantum Mechanics: The Theoretical Minimum Lowest new price: $12.40
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Author: Leonard Susskind
Brand: Basic Books AZ

From the bestselling author of The Theoretical Minimum, a DIY introduction to the math and science of quantum mechanics.

First he taught you classical mechanics. Now, physicist Leonard Susskind has teamed up with data engineer Art Friedman to present the theory and associated mathematics of the strange world of quantum mechanics.

In this follow-up to the New York Times best-selling The Theoretical Minimum, Susskind and Friedman provide a lively introduction to this famously difficult field, which attempts to understand the behavior of sub-atomic objects through mathematical abstractions. Unlike other popularizations that shy away from quantum mechanics' weirdness, Quantum Mechanics embraces the utter strangeness of quantum logic. The authors offer crystal-clear explanations of the principles of quantum states, uncertainty and time dependence, entanglement, and particle and wave states, among other topics, and each chapter includes exercises to ensure mastery of each area. Like The Theoretical Minimum, this volume runs parallel to Susskind's eponymous Stanford University-hosted continuing education course.

An approachable yet rigorous introduction to a famously difficult topic, Quantum Mechanics provides a tool kit for amateur scientists to learn physics at their own pace.

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  • Basic Books AZ

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The Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory

The Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory Lowest new price: $6.01
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Author: Brian Greene
Brand: W W Norton Company

The international bestseller that inspired a major Nova special and sparked a new understanding of the universe, now with a new preface and epilogue.

Brian Greene, one of the world's leading string theorists, peels away layers of mystery to reveal a universe that consists of eleven dimensions, where the fabric of space tears and repairs itself, and all matter―from the smallest quarks to the most gargantuan supernovas―is generated by the vibrations of microscopically tiny loops of energy. The Elegant Universe makes some of the most sophisticated concepts ever contemplated accessible and thoroughly entertaining, bringing us closer than ever to understanding how the universe works.

There is an ill-concealed skeleton in the closet of physics: "As they are currently formulated, general relativity and quantum mechanics cannot both be right." Each is exceedingly accurate in its field: general relativity explains the behavior of the universe at large scales, while quantum mechanics describes the behavior of subatomic particles. Yet the theories collide horribly under extreme conditions such as black holes or times close to the big bang. Brian Greene, a specialist in quantum field theory, believes that the two pillars of physics can be reconciled in superstring theory, a theory of everything.

Superstring theory has been called "a part of 21st-century physics that fell by chance into the 20th century." In other words, it isn't all worked out yet. Despite the uncertainties--"string theorists work to find approximate solutions to approximate equations"--Greene gives a tour of string theory solid enough to satisfy the scientifically literate.

Though Ed Witten of the Institute for Advanced Study is in many ways the human hero of The Elegant Universe, it is not a human-side-of-physics story. Greene's focus throughout is the science, and he gives the nonspecialist at least an illusion of understanding--or the sense of knowing what it is that you don't know. And that is traditionally the first step on the road to knowledge. --Mary Ellen Curtin

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  • W W Norton Company

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The Making of the Atomic Bomb: 25th Anniversary Edition

The Making of the Atomic Bomb: 25th Anniversary Edition Lowest new price: $9.49
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Author: Richard Rhodes
Brand: Simon Schuster

Twenty-five years after its initial publication, The Making of the Atomic Bomb remains the definitive history of nuclear weapons and the Manhattan Project. From the turn-of-the-century discovery of nuclear energy to the dropping of the first bombs on Japan, Richard Rhodes’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book details the science, the people, and the socio-political realities that led to the development of the atomic bomb.

This sweeping account begins in the 19th century, with the discovery of nuclear fission, and continues to World War Two and the Americans’ race to beat Hitler’s Nazis. That competition launched the Manhattan Project and the nearly overnight construction of a vast military-industrial complex that culminated in the fateful dropping of the first bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Reading like a character-driven suspense novel, the book introduces the players in this saga of physics, politics, and human psychology—from FDR and Einstein to the visionary scientists who pioneered quantum theory and the application of thermonuclear fission, including Planck, Szilard, Bohr, Oppenheimer, Fermi, Teller, Meitner, von Neumann, and Lawrence.

From nuclear power’s earliest foreshadowing in the work of H.G. Wells to the bright glare of Trinity at Alamogordo and the arms race of the Cold War, this dread invention forever changed the course of human history, and The Making of The Atomic Bomb provides a panoramic backdrop for that story.

Richard Rhodes’s ability to craft compelling biographical portraits is matched only by his rigorous scholarship. Told in rich human, political, and scientific detail that any reader can follow, The Making of the Atomic Bomb is a thought-provoking and masterful work.

If the first 270 pages of this book had been published separately, they would have made up a lively, insightful, beautifully written history of theoretical physics and the men and women who plumbed the mysteries of the atom. Along with the following 600 pages, they become a sweeping epic, filled with terror and pity, of the ultimate scientific quest: the development of the ultimate weapon. Rhodes is a peerless explainer of difficult concepts; he is even better at chronicling the personalities who made the discoveries that led to the Bomb. Niels Bohr dominates the first half of the book as J. Robert Oppenheimer does the second; both men were gifted philosophers of science as well as brilliant physicists. The central irony of this book, which won a National Book Critics Circle Award, is that the greatest minds of the century contributed to the greatest destructive force in history.

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  • Simon Schuster

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Baby Loves Quarks! (Baby Loves Science)

Baby Loves Quarks! (Baby Loves Science) Lowest new price: $5.94
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Author: Ruth Spiro
Brand: Ruth Spiro Irene Chan

"Science starts early in this unique little board book that uses cartoon-style illustrations to put complex concepts into a baby's world context." - Seira Wilson, Amazon Editor

Big, brainy science for the littlest listeners

Accurate enough to satisfy an expert, yet simple enough for baby, this book explores the basics of particle physics and chemistry – quarks, protons, neutrons, atoms and molecules – and ties it all to baby’s world. Beautiful, visually stimulating illustrations complement age-appropriate language to encourage baby’s sense of wonder. Parents and caregivers may learn a thing or two, as well!

With tongue firmly in cheek, the Baby Loves Science series introduces highly intellectual science concepts to the littlest learners.

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  • Baby Loves Quarks Baby Loves Science

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American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer

American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer Lowest new price: $5.51
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Author: Kai Bird
Brand: Vintage Books USA

J. Robert Oppenheimer is one of the iconic figures of the twentieth century, a brilliant physicist who led the effort to build the atomic bomb for his country in a time of war, and who later found himself confronting the moral consequences of scientific progress. In this magisterial, acclaimed biography twenty-five years in the making, Kai Bird and Martin Sherwin capture Oppenheimer’s life and times, from his early career to his central role in the Cold War. This is biography and history at its finest, riveting and deeply informative.

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  • Vintage Books USA

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QED: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter (Princeton Science Library)

QED: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter (Princeton Science Library) Lowest new price: $12.55
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Author: Richard Feynman

Celebrated for his brilliantly quirky insights into the physical world, Nobel laureate Richard Feynman also possessed an extraordinary talent for explaining difficult concepts to the general public. Here Feynman provides a classic and definitive introduction to QED (namely, quantum electrodynamics), that part of quantum field theory describing the interactions of light with charged particles. Using everyday language, spatial concepts, visualizations, and his renowned "Feynman diagrams" instead of advanced mathematics, Feynman clearly and humorously communicates both the substance and spirit of QED to the layperson. A. Zee's introduction places Feynman’s book and his seminal contribution to QED in historical context and further highlights Feynman’s uniquely appealing and illuminating style.

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Fallout: Disasters, Lies, and the Legacy of the Nuclear Age

Fallout: Disasters, Lies, and the Legacy of the Nuclear Age Lowest new price: $13.49
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Author: Fred Pearce

An investigation into our complicated 8-decade-long relationship with nuclear technology, from the bomb to nuclear accidents to nuclear waste.

From Hiroshima to Chernobyl, Fukushima to the growing legacy of lethal radioactive waste, humanity's struggle to conquer atomic energy is rife with secrecy, deceit, human error, blatant disregard for life, short-sighted politics, and fear. Fallout is an eye-opening odyssey through the first eight decades of this struggle and the radioactive landscapes it has left behind. We are, he finds, forever torn between technological hubris and all-too-human terror about what we have created.

At first, Pearce reminds us, America loved the bomb. Las Vegas, only seventy miles from the Nevada site of some hundred atmospheric tests, crowned four Miss Atomic Bombs in 1950s. Later, communities downwind of these tests suffered high cancer rates. The fate of a group of Japanese fishermen, who suffered high radiation doses from the first hydrogen bomb test in Bikini atoll, was worse. The United States Atomic Energy Commission accused them of being Red spies and ignored requests from the doctors desperately trying to treat them.

Pearce moves on to explore the closed cities of the Soviet Union, where plutonium was refined and nuclear bombs tested throughout the '50s and '60s, and where the full extent of environmental and human damage is only now coming to light. Exploring the radioactive badlands created by nuclear accidents--not only the well-known examples of Chernobyl and Fukushima, but also the little known area around Satlykovo in the Russian Ural Mountains and the Windscale fire in the UK--Pearce describes the compulsive secrecy, deviousness, and lack of accountability that have persisted even as the technology has morphed from military to civilian uses.

Finally, Pearce turns to the toxic legacies of nuclear technology: the emerging dilemmas over handling its waste and decommissioning of the great radioactive structures of the nuclear age, and the fearful doublethink over the world's growing stockpiles of plutonium, the most lethal and ubiquitous product of nuclear technologies.

For any reader who craves a clear-headed examination of the tangled relationship between a powerful technology and human politics, foibles, fears, and arrogance, Fallout is the definitive look at humanity's nuclear adventure.

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LHC: Large Hadron Collider

LHC: Large Hadron Collider Lowest new price: $73.61
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Author: Peter Ginter

4 July 2012 - Scientific sensation: Higgs boson found! Extraordinary pictures are interspersed with texts about the machine that made this discovery possible the Large Hadron Collider.


Cosmology for the Curious

Cosmology for the Curious Lowest new price: $30.00
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Author: Delia Perlov

This book is a gentle introduction for all those wishing to learn about modern views of the cosmos. Our universe originated in a great explosion – the big bang. For nearly a century cosmologists have studied the aftermath of this explosion: how the universe expanded and cooled down, and how galaxies were gradually assembled by gravity. The nature of the bang itself has come into focus only relatively recently. It is the subject of the theory of cosmic inflation, which was developed in the last few decades and has led to a radically new global view of the universe.

Students and other interested readers will find here a non-technical but conceptually rigorous account of modern cosmological ideas - describing what we know, and how we know it. One of the book's central themes is the scientific quest to find answers to the ultimate cosmic questions: Is the universe finite or infinite? Has it existed forever? If not, when and how did it come into being? Will it ever end?

The book is based on the undergraduate course taught by Alex Vilenkin at Tufts University. It assumes no prior knowledge of physics or mathematics beyond elementary high school math. The necessary physics background is introduced as it is required. Each chapter includes a list of questions and exercises of varying degree of difficulty.   

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