Everyone's Guide to Atoms, Einstein, and the Universe: Real Science for Real People

~by Robert L. Piccioni

LibraryThing's Member Giveaway program is really quite a nice offshoot of the Early Reviewers program. I've participated by both giving away books and receiving others to read and review, which is how I snagged a copy of Everyone's Guide to Atoms, Einstein, and the Universe: Real Science for Real People by Robert L. Piccioni, Ph.D. Dr. Piccioni earned his bachelor degree at Caltech in physics and his doctorate at Standford University in high-energy physics. For a time, he was a researcher at Harvard University. He is also the son of Oreste Piccioni (an important high-energy physicist) and personally knows many other top scientists, both past and present. Plus, he's a member of LibraryThing. He's currently retired, but continues to lecture on Einstein and Einstein's theories and on cosmology.

The purpose of Everyone's Guide to Atoms, Einstein, and the Universe is to introduce modern scientific principles, discoveries, and theories in such a way that is accessible to most people--without dumbing it down. As Piccioni states right off the bat, "You don't need to be a great musician to appreciate great music. Nor do you need great math or physics expertise to appreciate the exciting discovers and intriguing mysteries of our universe." The book is divided into three main parts. "Part 1: The Micro-World" covers atoms, particles, forces, energy , relativity, and quantum mechanics. "Part 2: Stars" looks at, well, stars, but also at a bit more than just that, including the life of stars, general relativity, white dwarfs, neutron stars, black holes, and space telescopes. Finally, "Part 3: The Universe" investigates our universe, redshift, expansion, the dark side, the Big Bang, and what came before, among other topics.

Piccioni has written the book in such a way that each chapter is more or less discrete. This means a reader can jump around and pick and choose which subjects most interest them and skip over those that don't. The minor drawback to this is that the book doesn't really build upon itself and at times seems more like a listing of facts rather than explaining them in depth. The chapters are relatively short which is nice beaus it allows concepts to be introduced methodically and gives the reader ample opportunity to stop, process, and mull over the information without becoming too overwhelmed.

Everyone's Guide to Atoms, Einstein, and the Universe succeeds, for the most part, in making complex scientific ideas understandable for people who aren't well versed in math or science or, in particular, physics. Piccioni includes several bibliographies compiled according to readers' experience and interests: collections of celestial photographs, for a general audience, for those who enjoy math and physics, for those with strong physics skills, and for graduate physicists. And I mustn't forget to mention the inclusion of gorgeous full color image plates from NASA. One thing that did annoy me was the use of bolding in the text. Usually, this indicated that the term could be found defined in the glossary, but frequently it seemed words were bolded even if they weren't. Some of the asides, examples, and jokes made in the text probably would be more effective in a lecture setting than they were in the book, but overall weren't problematic. Piccioni has done a marvelous job with Everyone's Guide to Atoms, Einstein, and the Universe and his website and blog aren't to be missed either.

Not available in a library...

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