The Cosmic Machine: The Science That Runs Our Universe and the Story Behind It by Scott Bembenek

The Cosmic Machine: The Science That Runs Our Universe and the Story Behind It

Energy, Entropy, Atoms, and Quantum Mechanics form the very foundation of our universe. But how do they govern the world we live in? What was the difficult path to their discovery? Who were the key players that struggled to shape our current understanding? The Cosmic Machine takes you from the earliest scientific inquiries in human history on an exciting journey in search...

Title:The Cosmic Machine: The Science That Runs Our Universe and the Story Behind It
Author:
Rating:
ISBN:0997934107
Edition Language:English
Number of Pages:358 pages

The Cosmic Machine: The Science That Runs Our Universe and the Story Behind It Reviews

  • Becky

    I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

    This is a well written overview of several fundamental chemistry and physics topics, conveniently organized into bite sized chunks within four major categories: energy, entropy, atoms, and quantum mechanics.

    At first, I found myself wondering who the target audience was, since the subjects felt a bit basic for someone with a strong science background, but at times felt a bit abstract for the general layman. To that extent, I think the book could

    I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

    This is a well written overview of several fundamental chemistry and physics topics, conveniently organized into bite sized chunks within four major categories: energy, entropy, atoms, and quantum mechanics.

    At first, I found myself wondering who the target audience was, since the subjects felt a bit basic for someone with a strong science background, but at times felt a bit abstract for the general layman. To that extent, I think the book could benefit a great deal from some additional well placed diagrams or illustrations. That said, this is absolutely one of the better descriptions of quantum mechanics (particularly Schrodinger's wave function) that I've read, especially with most of the math removed and what is left made very accessible in context.

    The book truly comes into its own, though, when it integrates the science with the history of discovery that accompanied it. This is particularly the case in the latter half of the book. Dr. Bembenek has done an exceptional job of portraying the back and forth nature of scientific discovery, as different researchers confirm, expand, or try to refute​ the works of others in their field. Overall an enjoyable read for afficianados of science and the history of science.

  • Max

    This review is based on an advance reader copy provided by the author.

    Bembenek’s goal is to make learning physics interesting for the non-scientist. In this he largely succeeds with a proviso. This is not a light read. It is for the lay reader with a deep interest in physics. The difficulty is not the included equations. These are straightforward, well explained and help clarify the text. Rather it is that complex concepts are not glossed over. They are presented in detail that goes beyond many

    This review is based on an advance reader copy provided by the author.

    Bembenek’s goal is to make learning physics interesting for the non-scientist. In this he largely succeeds with a proviso. This is not a light read. It is for the lay reader with a deep interest in physics. The difficulty is not the included equations. These are straightforward, well explained and help clarify the text. Rather it is that complex concepts are not glossed over. They are presented in detail that goes beyond many popular books. Bembenek does not try to make something simpler than it is. Many times I realized my understanding was exactly that.

    Given books with similar sounding titles, some might think this is a book about cosmology or astrophysics. It’s not. We don’t learn about the beginning or end of the universe, the multiverse or string theory. Bembenek reviews basic concepts in energy, entropy, atoms and quantum mechanics covering considerable ground in 300 pages. For this reader the level of detail was very welcome. Already familiar with simpler explanations of these topics,

    hit my sweet spot. The material was often presented in ways I had not seen in other books.

    We also get a history of physics thought and discoveries. We are introduced to a myriad of scientists. And while there are biographical sketches, more than people we are following their ideas. If you want to trace the concept of the atom through history from Democritus to Einstein,

    is an excellent way to do it. When Bembenek explains classical mechanics he painstakingly takes us through Galileo’s experiments. We learn by seeing how great scientists frame problems to find solutions. The human interest factor helps you maintain attention.

    The four sections (energy, entropy, the atom, and quantum mechanics) are presented in that order. It is beneficial to read them in the order presented. Energy as depicted in classical mechanics and thermodynamics is critical to understanding entropy and in turn concepts and tools used to define entropy such as an ideal gas and statistical mechanics are important to Planck’s, Einstein’s and Schrodinger’s exploration of the of the atom. Bembenek connects the dots showing how modern concepts developed. The following four paragraphs outline the discussions in each topic.

    ENERGY: In the early seventeenth century Galileo experiments with pendulums and inclined planes demonstrating kinetic and potential energy and its relationship to work. Later that century Descartes, Huygens, Leibniz and Newton further define the relationships of force and matter. Newton establishes the conservation of momentum. Next we come to heat. In the late eighteenth century Laplace and Lavoisier believe heat is a fluid called caloric followed by Count Rumford who sees heat as motion. Nineteenth century experiments by Joule show heat can produce work winning a belated but vigorous endorsement by William Thomson. In 1847 Helmholtz holds that heat is a form of energy and establishes “the conservation of energy”, the first law of thermodynamics.

    ENTROPY: In the early nineteenth century Carnot visualizes an ideal reversible heat engine from which he builds a theory of heat efficiency opening the door for thermodynamics. In 1852 Thomson builds on Joule’s work with his Law of Dissipation, essentially the second law of thermodynamics. Clausius then formulates the second law mathematically and later in 1865 coins the term entropy which he viewed as “heat over temperature”. In 1860 Maxwell pioneers statistical mechanics with his kinetic energy distribution of an ideal gas. In 1868 Boltzmann then defines a total energy distribution which presumes the existence of atoms, a concept not commonly accepted at the time.

    THE ATOM: We begin reviewing ancient concepts of matter including Democritus prescient concept of the atom. However it wasn’t until the late seventeenth century that the chemist Boyle recognizes individual elements. In the late eighteenth century John Dalton recognizes compounds formed in definite proportions leading him to postulate atoms, atomic weights and molecules. Gay-Lussac and Avogadro refine Dalton’s theories and then Cannizzaro establishes a reliable system for determining atomic weights in 1858. Finally Einstein proves that atoms really do exist in his 1905 paper on Brownian motion.

    QUANTUM MECHANICS: Kirchhoff in 1859 shows that an object both emits and absorbs thermal radiation at the same frequencies indicating a single process is involved. Kirchhoff searches for the spectrum of an idealized object that would emit and absorb all frequencies, a blackbody. In 1900 Max Planck describes that spectrum and establishes that an exchange of energy is quantized. In 1905 Einstein explains the photoelectric effect holding that light is a quantum particle, a photon. In 1909 he realizes that light’s momentum also possesses the properties of a wave, a duality. In 1913 Bohr finds that changes to energy states of electrons in atoms equal Einstein’s light quanta. In 1923 de Broglie holds that matter also has wave characteristics. In 1925 inspired by de Broglie and applying the statistical techniques of Bose to an ideal gas, Einstein again shows the duality of light. That year Schrodinger builds on de Broglie’s work to develop a wave equation and wave function for matter suggesting the motion of quantum particles is subject to a new quantum probability. That same year Heisenberg shows the more we knew about a particle’s positon the less we knew about its momentum and vice versa.

    If these topics interest you and you are a physics buff ready to step beyond the typical pop science book,

    may be your cup of tea. Bembenek’s combination of history and theory make difficult concepts more accessible. Showing how each scientist’s findings were used by the next gives you the background to better understand their work. The equations become clearer because you see the logic that went into constructing them. Thus what they represent has more meaning. Based on what I got out of The Cosmic Machine I give it five stars. I came away with a better understanding of many challenging concepts. I think other physics fans could as well.

  • Hirdesh

    More than 5 shining stars.

    Just Awesome ! ! !

    Review to come.

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