Cover image for Galileo's pendulum : from the rhythm of time to the making of matter
Title:
Galileo's pendulum : from the rhythm of time to the making of matter
Author:
Newton, Roger G.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Cambridge, Mass. : Harvard University Press, 2004.
Physical Description:
x, 153 pages : illustrations ; 21 cm
Summary:
Bored at Mass at the cathedral in Pisa, the seventeen-year-old Galileo regarded the chandelier swinging overhead and remarked to his great surprise, that the lamp took as many beats to complete an arc when hardly moving as when it was swinging widely. Galileo's Pendulum tells the story of what this observation meant, and of its profound consequences for science and technology.
Language:
English
Contents:
Biological timekeeping; the body's rhythms -- Calendar; different drummers -- Early clocks; home-made beats -- Pendulum clock; the beat of nature -- Successors; ubiquitous timekeeping -- Isaac Newton; the physics of the pendulum -- Sound and light; oscillations everywhere -- Quantum; oscillators make particles.
ISBN:
9780674013315
Format :
Book

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Summary

Bored during Mass at the cathedral in Pisa, the seventeen-year-old Galileo regarded the chandelier swinging overhead - and remarked, to his great surprise, that the lamp took as many beats to complete an arc when hardly moving as when it was swinging widely. Galileo's Pendulum tells the story of what this observation meant, and of its profound consequences for science and technology. The principle of the pendulum's swing - a property called isochronism - marks a simple yet fundamental system in nature, one that ties the rhythm of time to the very existence of matter in the universe. Roger Newton sets the stage for Galileo's discovery with a look at biorhythms in living organisms and at early calendars and clocks - contrivances of nature and culture that, however adequate in their time, did not meet the precise requirements of seventeenth-century science and navigation. Galileo's Pendulum recounts the history of the newly evolving timepieces - from marine chronometers to atomic clocks - based on the pendulum as well as other mechanisms employing the same physical principles, and explains the Newtonian science underlying their function. The book ranges nimbly from the sciences of sou


Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Physicist Newton, editor of the ournal of Mathematical Physics0 , here addresses nonexperts on the subject of time--specifically, the measurement of its passage. The range of things that measure time, from living creatures to atomic clocks, brackets Newton's intriguing narrative of time's connections, in the middle of which stands Galileo's famous discovery about pendulums. They exhibit isochronism, that is, a fixed period of oscillation, which is important, as Newton explains, because it offered a principle for accurately measuring the duration of a unit of time. The ensuing search for precise oscillators, from mechanical pendulums to vibrating atoms of quartz, drives his story forward. En route, Newton touches on both the greatest names in physics and clockmakers, such asohn Harrison, inventor of the seagoing chronometer and the star of Dava Sobel's Longitude0 (1995), thus fruitfully entwining the fundamental discoveries of science with the progress of timekeeping technology. Science buffs will delight in the links Newton makes in this readable tour of how humanity marks time. --Gilbert Taylor Copyright 2004 Booklist


Publisher's Weekly Review

Newton (What Makes Nature Tick) explains the premise of his slim volume in a single sentence in the introduction: "This book is about the rhythm of time, how that rhythm was finally regulated by Galileo's pendulum, the impact the oscillations of the pendulum had on our perception of that rhythm, and how these oscillations were later found to manifest themselves in many other natural phenomena." The book's eight chapters touch on a wealth of topics: circadian rhythms in living organisms; the conceptualization and design of calendars; the construction of clocks, from sundials and water clocks to those powered by pendula and cesium; and the development of physics from Isaac Newton to modern quantum electrodynamics. Indeed, the array is too broad for the disparate elements to come together and form a coherent whole. Additionally, the range of material here is unlikely to be fully satisfying to most readers; the basic history of science will be accessible to the nonspecialist but not compelling for the scientist science buff, while the highly technical mathematical sections will certainly cut off the general reader. Anyone wanting to understand how humans first defined time and how it became systematically measured might want to turn to the relatively recent Einstein's Clocks and Poincare's Maps, by Peter Galison. 34 photos and illus. (Mar.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.


Choice Review

Noted physicist Sidney Coleman has claimed "The secret vow every physics professor takes is to never teach a course without discussing the harmonic oscillator." Galileo's Pendulum is nominally about time and its measurement, but it is also the story of the pervasiveness of the harmonic oscillator throughout physics. In the first three chapters of this brief book, Newton (emer., physics, Indiana Univ.) discusses biological rhythms and early calendars and clocks. In chapter 4, Galileo's famous discovery of the constant period of the pendulum is used to introduce harmonic oscillation. This discovery led quickly to the first reliable mechanical clocks, an invention with enormous impact on society. Galileo's work also began physics as it is known today, and the last half of the book is a quick, clear history of physics, based around the harmonic oscillator. A great deal of physics is covered quickly and well, with many brief biographies of famous physicists. Newton's book can be read with pleasure by students interested in science and educated general readers. Science educators will find a helpful perspective on the fundamentals of physics, along with some fascinating personal histories of famous scientists. ^BSumming Up: Highly recommended. General readers; lower- and upper-division undergraduates; professionals. M. C. Ogilvie Washington University


Table of Contents

Preface
Introduction
1 Biological Timekeeping: The Body's Rhythms
2 The Calendar: Different Drummers
3 Early Clocks: Home-Made Beats
4 The Pendulum Clock: The Beat of Nature
5 Successors: Ubiquitous Timekeeping
6 Isaac Newton: The Physics of the Pendulum
7 Sound and Light: Oscillations Everywhere
8 The Quantum: Oscillators Make Particles
Notes
References
Index