Cover image for To explain the world : the discovery of modern science
Title:
To explain the world : the discovery of modern science
Author:
Weinberg, Steven, 1933- , author.
Edition:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York, NY : Harper, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, [2015]
Physical Description:
xiv, 416 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Summary:
"Weinberg takes us across centuries from ancient Miletus to medieval Baghdad and Oxford, from Plato's Academy and the Museum of Alexandria to the cathedral school of Chartres and the Royal Society of London. He shows that the scientists of ancient and medieval times not only did not understand what we understand about the world--they did not understand what there is to understand, or how to understand it. Yet over the centuries, through the struggle to solve such mysteries as the curious backward movement of the planets and the rise and fall of the tides, the modern discipline of science eventually emerged"--Amazon.com.
Language:
English
Contents:
Part I: Greek physics. Matter and poetry ; Music and mathematics ; Motion and philosophy ; Hellenistic physics and technology ; Ancient science and religion -- Part II: Greek astronomy. The uses of astronomy ; Measuring the sun, moon, and earth ; The problem of the planets -- Part III: The Middle Ages. The Arabs ; Medieval Europe -- Part IV: The scientific revolution. The solar system solved ; Experiments begun ; Method reconsidered ; The Newtonian synthesis ; Epilogue: the grand reduction.
Geographic Term:
ISBN:
9780062346650
Format :
Book

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Q124.95 .W45 2015 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
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Q124.95 .W45 2015 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
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Summary

Summary

A masterful commentary on the history of science from the Greeks to modern times, by Nobel Prize-winning physicist Steven Weinberg--a thought-provoking and important book by one of the most distinguished scientists and intellectuals of our time.

In this rich, irreverent, and compelling history, Nobel Prize-winning physicist Steven Weinberg takes us across centuries from ancient Miletus to medieval Baghdad and Oxford, from Plato's Academy and the Museum of Alexandria to the cathedral school of Chartres and the Royal Society of London. He shows that the scientists of ancient and medieval times not only did not understand what we understand about the world--they did not understand what there is to understand, or how to understand it. Yet over the centuries, through the struggle to solve such mysteries as the curious backward movement of the planets and the rise and fall of the tides, the modern discipline of science eventually emerged. Along the way, Weinberg examines historic clashes and collaborations between science and the competing spheres of religion, technology, poetry, mathematics, and philosophy.

An illuminating exploration of the way we consider and analyze the world around us, To Explain the World is a sweeping, ambitious account of how difficult it was to discover the goals and methods of modern science, and the impact of this discovery on human knowledge and development.


Reviews 3

Booklist Review

*Starred Review* Winner of the 1979 Nobel Prize in Physics for his pioneering investigations of leptons and bosons, Weinberg here advances keen insights not into subatomic particles but rather into the intellectual structure of science itself. To learn what it means to do science, readers travel the long historical path connecting the ancient Pythagoreans, who relied on a poetic imagination to find geometric harmonies in the heavens, with the modern genius Isaac Newton, who demonstrated how empirically verified mathematics actually does expose the laws governing the cosmos. In traversing this long path, readers recognize the early brilliance of Greek thinkers such as Aristarchus and Archimedes, and they marvel at the medieval ingenuity of Christian and Islamic astronomers, such as Buridan and al-Zarqali. But breaking the grip of an earth-centered philosophy required the radical breakthrough achieved by Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, and finally Newton. In the work of these men, Weinberg sees a true revolution, not merely an extrapolation from earlier methods of inquiry. Only the Newtonian revolution made possible Maxwell's electromagnetism, Einstein's relativity, and Heisenberg's quantum mechanics. Weinberg limns the decisive influence of Newton's triumph even in the biological work of Darwin and his heirs. A compelling reminder of how science works and why it matters.--Christensen, Bryce Copyright 2015 Booklist


Publisher's Weekly Review

With his usual scholarly aplomb, Weinberg (The First Three Minutes), a Nobel Prize-winning theoretical physicist, leads readers on a tour of early scientific theory, from the ancient Greeks to the Scientific Revolution of the 17th century. Weinberg begins around 500 B.C. with philosopher Heraclitus, whose infinite "ordered" cosmos made of "ever-living Fire" typifies an early Greek focus on aesthetics rather than observation and verification. Pythagoras brought mathematical rigor and logic to the field, while Aristotle's ideas about motion became scientific bedrock throughout Arab advances of the Middle Ages and held sway until Copernicus, Galileo, and the subsequent Scientific Revolution. Throughout, Weinberg stresses a need for humans to "outgrow" a "holistic" (as in one that considers humanistic concerns) approach to nature, and stop attaching religion and other abstract ideas-justice, love, strife-to our scientific understanding. Science students will particularly appreciate the clarity and detail of Weinberg's "Technical Notes" at the back of the book, which delve more deeply into selected topics. Accessible and smoothly-written, Weinberg offers new insights on what has become familiar territory for pop-science readers. Illus. (Feb.) c Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Library Journal Review

Nobel Prize-winning physicist Weinberg (Jack S. Josey-Welch Fdn. Chair in Science and Regental Professor; director, Theory Research Group, Univ. of Texas at Austin) explains that this book is based upon lecture notes from a course for nonscience college students, and it reads that way. The emphasis throughout is upon the history of astronomy and physics, but the real point is not the history of science but the way the discipline evolved to its present form. Of particular note is the almost 100-page "technical notes" section at the end for those who want to delve a little more deeply into the mathematical details. Historically organized, the text is replete with asides, comparisons to later developments, and many of the author's personal opinions. Thus, we start with a survey of the physics of the Greek philosophers, whom Weinberg holds in low esteem because of their eschewal of experimental verification of their theories. The author then moves on to the Arab scholars who are to be thanked mainly for preserving and improving upon mathematics, which is vital to modern scientific discourse. However, Weinberg reserves his greatest praise for those who created the scientific revolution in the 16th and 17th centuries that made possible the world that we live in today. Verdict This book should find a large audience.-Harold D. Shane, mathematics emeritus, Baruch Coll. Lib., CUNY © Copyright 2015. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.