Cover image for Theoretical concepts in physics : an alternative view of theoretical reasoning in physics
Title:
Theoretical concepts in physics : an alternative view of theoretical reasoning in physics
Author:
Longair, Malcolm S., 1941-
Personal Author:
Edition:
Second edition.
Publication Information:
Cambridge, U.K. ; New York : Cambridge University Press, 2003.
Physical Description:
xvii, 569 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
Language:
English
Contents:
The Origins of Newton's Law of Gravitation -- From Ptolemy to Kepler - the Copernican revolution -- Galileo and the nature of the physical sciences -- Newton and the law of gravity -- Maxwell's Equations -- The origin of Maxwell's equations -- How to rewrite the history of electromagnetism -- Mechanics and Dynamics - Linear and Non-linear -- Approaches to mechanics and dynamics -- Dimensional analysis, chaos and self-organised criticality -- Thermodynamics and Statistical Physics -- Basic thermodynamics -- Kinetic theory and the origin of statistical mechanics -- The Origins of the Concept of Quanta -- Black-body radiation up to 1895 -- 1895-1900: Planck and the spectrum of black-body radiation -- Planck's theory of black-body radiation -- Einstein and the quantisation of light -- The triumph of the quantum hypothesis -- Special Relativity -- Special relativity - a study of invariance -- General Relativity and Cosmology -- An introduction to general relativity -- The technology of cosmology -- Cosmology.
ISBN:
9780521528788

9780521821261
Format :
Book

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QC20 .L66 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
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Summary

Summary

This second edition of a popular text demonstrates how physics can be appreciated through a series of case studies spanning a complete university physics course. Highlights include three new chapters on Newton's laws (one on ancient astronomy up to the time of Galileo, one on Galileo, and one on Newton); a new chapter on dimensional methods, chaos and self-organized criticality; and a new chapter on the technology of cosmology. Although all the arguments are presented precisely in physical and mathematical terminology, the book is written in a relatively non-technical manner, intended to convey a deep understanding and appreciation of the incredible achievements of theorists in creating the structure of modern physics. First Edition Hb (1984): 0-521-25550-3 First Edition Pb (1984): 0-521-27553-9


Reviews 1

Choice Review

In this brilliant expose of theoretical reasoning behind the discoveries of major physics concepts, designed for advanced undergraduate physicists-in-training, Longair (Univ. of Cambridge) captures the intellectual excitement and the beauty of each subject in this new edition (1st ed., CH, Apr'85). Seven case studies run the gamut from Copernicus and Galileo to Einstein and modern cosmology. Representative examples include the birth of mechanics, electrodynamics, fluids and chaos, thermodynamics and kinetic theory, blackbody radiation and quantum mechanics, special and general relativity, and the instrumentation that enabled it all. This integrated view of so much of physics teaches us that along with enthusiasm and competence, a physicist needs an imagination to uncover the behavior of nature. Although the historical aspects of the presentation are accessible to all readers, a genuine appreciation of the incredible struggles and cleverness of the scientists comes only when one is able to understand the mathematical foundations of their work, requiring the geometry and calculus provided in many appendixes. Numerous references to original papers as well as to recent reviews and books connect readers to the intellectual history as worked out by real people over centuries. Extensive index; many helpful diagrams. ^BSumming Up: Essential. Upper-division undergraduates through professionals. F. Potter formerly, University of California, Irvine


Table of Contents

Acknowledgements
Preface
1 Introduction
2 Tycho Brahe, Kepler and Newton - the origin of Newton's law of gravitation
3 The origin of Maxwell's equations
4 How to rewrite the history of electromagnetism
5 Approaches to mechanics and dynamics
6 Simple thermodynamics
7 The kinetic theory of gases and the origin of statistical mechanics
8 Black body radiation up to 1895
9 1895-1900: Planck and the spectrum of black body radiation
10 Planck's theory of black body radiation
11 Einstein and the quantisation of light
12 The story concluded - a further classical paper by Einstein
13 Special relativity - a study in invariance
14 An introduction to general relativity
15 Cosmology
16 Epilogue
References and further reading
Index