Intermediate books: recommendations?

  • Thread starter cragwolf
  • Start date
  • Tags
  • #1
If I don't find some interesting reading material soon, I'm going to jump off a cliff. So I'm wondering if you could give me your science book recommendations. Unfortunately, I have to be rather difficult about it. I have a physics degree, and I tend to dislike so-called popular-science books, which are usually written for laypeople without a physics background. What I'm looking for are books at an intermediate level: somewhere between the popular-science book and the technical graduate textbook. Examples that come to mind are:

"Cosmology: The Science of the Universe" by Edward Harrison (this is the greatest intermediate-level book ever written, in my humble opinion!)
"The Selfish Gene" by Richard Dawkins
"Gödel, Escher and Bach" by Douglas Hofstadter
"The Computational Beauty of Nature" by Gary Flake
"Labyrinths of Reason" by William Poundstone (OK, this is more philosophy than science)

Also: Feynman's Lectures, Abraham Pais' biographies of Einstein and Bohr.

History and philosophy of science books are welcomed, too, but again, at an intermediate level.

Answers and Replies

  • #2
For goodness sake cragwolf do not hurl yourself from the cliff
go to Carlo Rovelli's website and look at the
less-technical more historical and philosophical parts of
his new book Quantum Gravity

He is a Relativist, but also qualifies as a Science Historian.

The book will be a major one and is due to be published by
Cambridge University Press

Rovelli has made the August 2003 draft available online.

He has thought a lot about the foundations-level incompatibility between the two main theories of 20th C-----namely GR and QM. It is fascinating how he lays out the different concepts of space and time that make the two theories difficult to fuse into one.

There is also plenty of technical stuff in the book, but what is special about it for me is the first couple of chapters which don't have much in the way of equations.

Just google Carlo Rovelli and u get his University of Marseille homepage and somewhere under the photograph there is a link to the book
  • #3
Excellent suggestion marcus!
  • #4
Thanks marcus, you have postponed my experience of zero gravity.

I'm familiar with some of Rovelli's writings. He is definitely one of the modern giants of physics. I would like to be a fly on his wall.
  • #5
The Shape of Space - Weeks
The Nature of Space and TIme - Hawking and Penrose
Shadows of the Mind - Penrose
The Emperors New Mind - Penrose
QED - Feynman
Geometry, Relativity, and the Fourth Dimension - Rucker
  • #6
If you like cosmology and don't mind doing upper-level undergraduate mathematics, then try Gravitation and Spacetime by Ohanian and Ruffini. At my school, it is used for the senior level course in General Relativity.
  • #7
intermediate science reading

I've found it difficult to find intermediate material myself and am looking for something interesting too. I'm stuck in a bit of a rut at the moment.Recently I just finished reading the 1972 book, Toward a General Theory of Viable Systems by the physicist Arthur Iberall. It presents an interesting systems view.The physics material is interesting too.
I've found the writings of D. Hestenes, E.T. Jaynes and Mendel Sachs to be thought provoking. There is also quite a bit available on the internet from each of these physicists.
I like Robert Scott Root-Bernstein's writing on scientific discovering. (DISCOVERING, SPARKS OF GENIUS). Recently I started reading old material by Edward De Bono on thinking.
When you get to intermediate level, it's almost impossible to find something interesting at a local bookstore. Some of them don't even have a only a NATURE shelf. Browsing University library shelves can be interesting but the material is quite dated. Browsing the journals often produces a few gems. I found some interesting articles in the European Journal of Physics and the American Journal of Physics as well as at the internet physics archive ( . It's also amazing how one University can have a book you never would have dreamed about or known about if you only visited one University library system. One author I went searching for, after finding one set of his writings, was spread all over several different libraries on campus. Another I would never have known about if I hadn't visited another University.
I liked Sachs' dialectical "Einstein vs. Bohr" type of writing but something like that is rare. I really admire Jaynes' writings similarly for this exploratory quality. There are some real gold nuggets in PROBABILITY: THE LOGIC OF SCIENCE.
I would really like to know what the modern equivalents of Poincare's THE FOUNDATIONS OF SCIENCE or Ernst Mach's THE SCIENCE OF MECHANICS are. Feynman's lectures have never impressed me. Although it's more a teaching textbook than a discussion textbook,I liked some of Noel Doughty's LAGRANGIAN INTERACTIONS if only for the author's attempt to present physics in a less disjointed manner than the usual patchwork quilt of clashing colours.
  • #8
David Hestenes, now that is someone interesting - his work on Geometric Algebra is great as well.

Suggested for: Intermediate books: recommendations?