The best science books to enjoy and to get you thinking

Basil Mahon Author Of The Forgotten Genius of Oliver Heaviside: A Maverick of Electrical Science
By Basil Mahon

The Books I Picked & Why

Men of Mathematics

By E.T. Bell

Book cover of Men of Mathematics

Why this book?

First published in 1937, this lovely book is a true classic. In two volumes Bell brings to life 30 or so mathematicians, from Archimedes to Cantor. When first reading the book many years ago I had remembered some of the names from school and college, but only as labels to theorems or equations, and I felt taken into a delightful new realm of knowledge – I could now think of Fermat, Lagrange, Gauss, and Riemann as people. And I began to want to know more about the scientists whose names I had heard in school and college. Bell’s book had sparked a lifelong interest.


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The Maxwellians

By Bruce J. Hunt

Book cover of The Maxwellians

Why this book?

In telling us how four men with disparate but complementary talents came together to bring James Clerk Maxwell’s epoch-changing but hitherto obscure theory of electromagnetism to the world, Bruce Hunt somehow succeeds in combining the highest level of scholarship with a warm and engaging narrative. One gets to know Oliver Heaviside, Oliver Lodge, George Francis FitzGerald, and Heinrich Hertz, and to feel almost as though one were sharing their struggles and triumphs. I love this book.


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QED: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter

By Richard P. Feynman

Book cover of QED: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter

Why this book?

How can anyone write a book on quantum electrodynamics without equations? Nobody but Richard Feynman would even have thought of attempting such a thing. Yet he manages to explain the complex behaviour of photons and electrons in a way that people without training in advanced mathematics can understand. It’s not a book for the casual browser – the reader has to think and it can be hard work. But that’s because Feynman has integrity. There’s no skimping – he gives you the full works. And you only have to read one sentence to hear the New York accent and see the grin. Marvellous.


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Theoretical Concepts in Physics: An Alternative View of Theoretical Reasoning in Physics

By Malcolm S. Longair

Book cover of Theoretical Concepts in Physics: An Alternative View of Theoretical Reasoning in Physics

Why this book?

Malcolm Longair’s book is like a course of very good lectures that get behind the equations to reveal the context of their discovery. For example, we learn how Planck, who hated Boltzmann’s statistical approach to the theory of heat, was obliged to adopt it in order to solve the problem of black body radiation, and how this led to the concept of the quantum. There are plenty of equations but each chapter tells a compelling story of people at work, and the presentation all the way through is beautifully clear, with superb illustrations.


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The Cosmic Computer: The Physics of the Perennial Philosophy

By Gareth Timms

Book cover of The Cosmic Computer: The Physics of the Perennial Philosophy

Why this book?

Self-published on Amazon, this book is a blast of fresh air. Bold, deep, and engagingly written, it takes an axe to received wisdom in physics. In Timms’ hypothesis, the universe we perceive is one half of a duality, its partner existing deep within atoms and inaccessible to us because of the huge amounts of energy required to probe such small scales. The partners communicate at the atomic scale, where the quantum of action becomes the currency unit of exchange. Timms makes his case elegantly and plausibly, using many quotes from authoritative sources. You may not agree with some of his propositions but it is stimulating, and enjoyable, to have one’s ideas given a good shake-up.


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