Tuesday, April 03, 2007


Okay I can bear it no longer. I’m breaking my self imposed hiatus on posting book reviews. In the past few weeks I’ve finished a few that I would like to share. Here is the first:

My review of E=mc2 A Biography of the World’s Most Famous Equation by David Bodanis

Mr. Bodanis intentionally did not sit down to write a science book. There are countless books detailing the science and theory behind E=mc2. Instead, as the subtitle indicates he wanted this book to be a history of the equation. He did a very good job and unlike many science books on the equivalency of matter and energy at no time did the story get boring or hard to follow. Although a detailed explanation of the science was not his goal, in a few instances his analogies helped to bring the science down to a more understandable level. His explanation of how light can be both electricity and magnetism is the best I have ever heard and made it clearer to my why the speed of light will always be the same relative to the observer.

Bodanis takes the Equation on symbol at a time and explains the history of discovery and research behind each. A whole chapter is devoted to E, =, m, c, and 2. Then he details the many attempts to link the whole equation together. Beginning with E=mv2. then Ultimately to Einstein’s final form of the Equation.

Each chapter chronically the scientific advances by such figures as Newton, Leibnitz, Voltaire and Émilie du Châtelet. His account of the incredible spirit and insight of Émilie du Châtelet has me now looking for a biography of her.

After the eventual discovery of the equation Bodanis details the development of the atomic bomb its eventual wartime use. He dedicates one chapter to the allied actions to make sure that the Germans did not develop the bomb first. Then complete with the politics and personal problems of Oppenheimer he details the bomb’s development in the Manhattan project.

Rather than leave the book on such a negative tone, Bodanis then explains the many astronomical revelations and breakthroughs that we have achieved thanks to E=mc2. Not only does this equation explain the processes going on in our sun but it also gives mathematical support for the existence of black holes and ultimately the processes that have created every element in the universe. No other equation in history has done as much to explain the inner workings of our universe.

I enjoyed this scientific romp through history. My oldest son is home-schooled and he loves history. He needs a little bit more focus on science in his studies. I would like him to read this book in hopes that it will bridge some gaps between his love of history and his understanding of science.

No comments:

Post a Comment