Infinitesimal by Amir AlexanderPulsing with drama and excitement,Infinitesimalcelebrates the spirit of discovery, innovation, and intellectual achievement-and it will forever change the way you look at a simple line. On August 10, 1632, five men in flowing black robes convened in a somber Roman palazzo to pass judgment on a deceptively simple proposition: that a continuous line is composed of distinct and infinitely tiny parts. With the stroke of a pen the Jesuit fathers banned the doctrine of infinitesimals, announcing that it could never be taught or even mentioned. The concept was deemed dangerous and subversive, a threat to the belief that the world was an orderly place, governed by a strict and unchanging set of rules. If infinitesimals were ever accepted, the Jesuits feared, the entire world would be plunged into chaos. InInfinitesimal, the award-winning historian Amir Alexander exposes the deep-seated reasons behind the rulings of the Jesuits and shows how the doctrine persisted, becoming the foundation of calculus and much of modern mathematics and technology. Indeed, not everyone agreed with the Jesuits. Philosophers, scientists, and mathematicians across Europe embraced infinitesimals as the key to scientific progress, freedom of thought, and a more tolerant society. As Alexander reveals, it wasn't long before the twocamps set off on a war that pitted Europe's forces of hierarchy and order against those of pluralism and change. The story takes us from the bloody battlefields of Europe's religious wars and the English Civil War and into the lives of the greatest mathematicians and philosophers of the day, including Galileo and Isaac Newton, Cardinal Bellarmine and Thomas Hobbes, and Christopher Clavius and John Wallis. In Italy, the defeat of the infinitely small signaled an end to that land's reign as the cultural heart of Europe, and in England, the triumph of infinitesimals helped launch the island nation on a course that would make it the world's first modern state. From the imperial cities of Germany to the green hills of Surrey, from the papal palace in Rome to the halls of the Royal Society of London, Alexander demonstrates how a disagreement over a mathematical concept became a contest over the heavens and the earth. The legitimacy of popes and kings, as well as our beliefs in human liberty and progressive science, were at stake-the soul of the modern world hinged on the infinitesimal.
Call Number: 511 ALE
Publication Date: 2014-04-08
The Calculus Wars by Jason Socrates BardiNow regarded as the bane of many college students' existence, calculus was one of the most important mathematical innovations of the seventeenth century. But a dispute over its discovery sewed the seeds of discontent between two of the greatest scientific giants of all time -- Sir Isaac Newton and Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz. Today Newton and Leibniz are generally considered the twin independent inventors of calculus, and they are both credited with giving mathematics its greatest push forward since the time of the Greeks. Had they known each other under different circumstances, they might have been friends. But in their own lifetimes, the joint glory of calculus was not enough for either and each declared war against the other, openly and in secret. This long and bitter dispute has been swept under the carpet by historians -- perhaps because it reveals Newton and Leibniz in their worst light -- but The Calculus Wars tells the full story in narrative form for the first time. This vibrant and gripping scientific potboiler ultimately exposes how these twin mathematical giants were brilliant, proud, at times mad and, in the end, completely human.
Call Number: 515.09 BAR
Publication Date: 2007-04-26
The Age of Radiance by Craig NelsonA riveting narrative of the Atomic Age--from x-rays and Marie Curie to the Nevada Test Site and the 2011 meltdown in Japan--written by the prizewinning and bestselling author of Rocket Men. From theNew York Times bestselling author of Rocket Men and the award-winning biographer of Thomas Paine comes the first complete history of the Atomic Age, a brilliant, magisterial account of the men and women who uncovered the secrets of the nucleus, brought its power to America, and ignited the twentieth century. When Marie Curie, Enrico Fermi, and Edward Teller forged the science of radioactivity, they created a revolution that arced from the end of the nineteenth century, through the course of World War II and the Cold War of superpower brinksmanship, to our own twenty-first-century confrontation with the dangers of nuclear power and proliferation--a history of paradox, miracle, and nightmare. While nuclear science improves our everyday lives--from medicine to microwave technology--radiation's invisible powers can trigger cancer and cellular mayhem. Writing with a biographer's passion, Craig Nelson unlocks one of the great mysteries of the universe in a work that is tragic, triumphant, and above all, fascinating. From the discovery of X-rays in the 1890s, through the birth of nuclear power in an abandoned Chicago football stadium, to the bomb builders of Los Alamos and the apocalyptic Dr. Strangelove era, Nelson illuminates a pageant of fascinating historical figures: Marie and Pierre Curie, Albert Einstein, Niels Bohr, Franklin Roosevelt, J. Robert Oppenheimer, Harry Truman, Curtis LeMay, John F. Kennedy, Robert McNamara, Ronald Reagan, and Mikhail Gorbachev, among others. He reveals how brilliant Jewish scientists fleeing Hitler transformed America from a nation that created lightbulbs and telephones into one that split atoms; how the most grotesque weapon ever invented could realize Alfred Nobel's lifelong dream of global peace; and how, in our time, emergency workers and low-level utility employees fought to contain run-amok nuclear reactors while wondering if they would live or die. Radiance defies our common-sense views of nature, with its staggering amounts of energy flowing from seemingly inert rock and matter pulsing in half-lives that transforms into other states over the course of decades or in the blink of an eye. Radiation is as scary a word as cancer, but it's the power that keeps our planet warm, as well as the force behind earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanic eruptions, and so organic to all life that even our own human bodies are radioactive. By tracing mankind's complicated relationship with the dangerous energy it discovered and unleashed, Nelson reveals how atomic power and radiation are indivisible from our everyday lives. Brilliantly told and masterfully crafted, The Age of Radiance provides a new understanding of a misunderstood epoch in history and restores to prominence the forgotten heroes and heroines who have changed all of our lives for better and for worse. It confirms Craig Nelson's position as one of the most lively and skillful popular historians writing today.
Call Number: 539.75 NEL
Publication Date: 2014-03-25
Galileo's Daughter by Dava SobelInspired by a long fascination with Galileo, and by the remarkable surviving letters of Galileo's daughter, a cloistered nun, Dava Sobel has written a biography unlike any other of the man Albert Einstein called "the father of modern physics- indeed of modern science altogether." Galileo's Daughter also presents a stunning portrait of a person hitherto lost to history, described by her father as "a woman of exquisite mind, singular goodness, and most tenderly attached to me." The son of a musician, Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) tried at first to enter a monastery before engaging the skills that made him the foremost scientist of his day. Though he never left Italy, his inventions and discoveries were heralded around the world. Most sensationally, his telescopes allowed him to reveal a new reality in the heavens and to reinforce the astounding argument that the Earth moves around the Sun. For this belief, he was brought before the Holy Office of the Inquisition, accused of heresy, and forced to spend his last years under house arrest. Of Galileo's three illegitimate children, the eldest best mirrored his own brilliance, industry, and sensibility, and by virtue of these qualities became his confidante. Born Virginia in 1600, she was thirteen when Galileo placed her in a convent near him in Florence, where she took the most appropriate name of Suor Maria Celeste. Her loving support, which Galileo repaid in kind, proved to be her father's greatest source of strength throughout his most productive and tumultuous years. Her presence, through letters which Sobel has translated from their original Italian and masterfully woven into the narrative, graces her father's life now as it did then. Galileo's Daughter dramatically recolors the personality and accomplishment of a mythic figure whose seventeenth-century clash with Catholic doctrine continues to define the schism between science and religion. Moving between Galileo's grand public life and Maria Celeste's sequestered world, Sobel illuminates the Florence of the Medicis and the papal court in Rome during the pivotal era when humanity's perception of its place in the cosmos was about to be overturned. In that same time, while the bubonic plague wreaked its terrible devastation and the Thirty Years' War tipped fortunes across Europe, one man sought to reconcile the Heaven he revered as a good Catholic with the heavens he revealed through his telescope. With all the human drama and scientific adventure that distinguished Dava Sobel's previous book Longitude, Galileo's Daughter is an unforgettable story.
Call Number: 520 SOB
Publication Date: 1999-10-01
A More Perfect Heaven by Dava SobelBy 1514, the reclusive cleric Nicolaus Copernicus had written and hand-copied an initial outline of his heliocentric theory-in which he defied common sense and received wisdom to place the sun, not the earth, at the center of our universe, and set the earth spinning among the other planets. Over the next two decades, Copernicus expanded his theory through hundreds of observations, while compiling in secret a book-length manuscript that tantalized mathematicians and scientists throughout Europe. For fear of ridicule, he refused to publish. In 1539, a young German mathematician, Georg Joachim Rheticus, drawn by rumors of a revolution to rival the religious upheaval of Martin Luther's Reformation, traveled to Poland to seek out Copernicus. Two years later, the Protestant youth took leave of his aging Catholic mentor and arranged to have Copernicus's manuscript published, in 1543, asDe revolutionibus orbium coelestium(On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres)-the book that forever changed humankind's place in the universe. In her elegant, compelling style, Dava Sobel chronicles, as nobody has, the conflicting personalities and extraordinary discoveries that shaped the Copernican Revolution. At the heart of the book is her playAnd the Sun Stood Still, imagining Rheticus's struggle to convince Copernicus to let his manuscript see the light of day. As she achieved with her bestsellersLongitude andGalileo's Daughter, Sobel expands the bounds of narration, giving us an unforgettable portrait of scientific achievement, and of the ever-present tensions between science and faith.
Call Number: 520.92 SOB
Publication Date: 2011-10-04
Fifty Plants That Changed the Course of History by Bill LawsThe fascinating stories of the plants that changed civilizations. Fifty Plants that Changed the Course of History is a beautifully presented guide to the plants that have had the greatest impact on human civilization. Entries feature a description of the plant, its botanical name, its native range and its primary functions -- edible, medicinal, commercial or practical. Concise text is highlighted by elegant botanical drawings, paintings and photographs as well as insightful quotes. Many of the plants are well known, such as rice, tea, cotton, rubber, wheat, sugarcane, tobacco, wine grapes and corn. However, there are also many whose stories are less known. These history-changing plants include: Agave, used to make sisal, poison arrows, bullets, tequila and surgical thread Pineapple, which influenced the construction of greenhouses and conservatories Hemp, used for hangman's rope, sustainable plastics, the Declaration of Independence and Levi's jeans Coconut, used for coir fiber, soap, margarine, cream, sterile IV drips and coagulants Eucalyptus, used in mouthwash, diuretics, vitamins, honey, underwear and fire-resistant uniforms Sweet pea, which Gregor Mendel used in his research on genetic heredity White mulberry, used to make silk English oak, used for fire-resistant structures, dyes, leather tanning, charcoal, casks and ships White willow, used in the manufacture of aspirin, cricket bats, hot-air balloon baskets and coffins This attractive reference provides an innovative perspective on both botanical and human history.
Call Number: 581.6 LAW
Publication Date: 2011-01-25
Rats by Robert SullivanThe author dispenses rat facts and entertaining rat stories, looking into the history of rats, and describes how, with the aid of a notebook and night-vision gear, he sat nightly in a garbage-filled alley getting to know the wild city rat