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Light Reading Suggestions (Non-textbooks)

  1. Jul 22, 2013 #1
    As the topic says!

    Anyone read a good books lately that were related to physics/mathematics? I'm thinking history books, or things of that sort.

    I've recently finished reading "Black Hole Wars," by Leonard Susskind. I liked it quite a lot. It was a very nice mixture of history, anecdote, and information.

    edit: Ah, sorry, I meant to post this in General Physics subsection.
    Last edited: Jul 23, 2013
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  3. Jul 22, 2013 #2
    The book "Zero" by Charles Seife is good in my opinion. Tells about the history and implications for mathematics of the concept of zero.
  4. Jul 23, 2013 #3


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    I'm currently reading "The Particle at the End of the Universe: How the Hunt for the Higgs Boson Leads Us to the Edge of a New World," by Sean Carroll. I just started it a couple days ago...it's quite good so far.

    As far as math based books, I really enjoyed both "The Golden Ratio" and "Is God a Mathematician?" by Mario Livio. Both great books with a lot of insight into mathematical principles, and how math is reflected in, and representative of the world around us.
  5. Jul 23, 2013 #4
    Can't ever discount "A Mathematician's Apology" by G.H. Hardy, very good read. I also liked 'The Strangest Man'
    - A biography of Paul Dirac.
  6. Jul 25, 2013 #5


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    Yes, "Black Hole Wars," by Susskind was good.

    It inspired me to calculate the displacement of an object as a function of time that one, I'll call him "Bob," would measure if Bob was right up next to the event horizon of a large [supermassive, for example] black hole (imagine Bob was suspended from above by a long cable), and and Bob dropped an object (call it "Alice"), allowing the object (Alice) to free-fall into the black hole.

    The displacement of the object I came up with is:

    [tex] x' = d \left[ 1 - \mathrm{sech} \left( \frac{c}{d} \tau \right) \right] [/tex]
    [itex] x' [/itex]: displacement of object [Alice] away from stationary observer [Bob] as measured by the observer [Bob].
    [itex] c [/itex]: speed of light.
    [itex] d [/itex]: distance of stationary observer [Bob] to the event horizon. (Not the distance to the center of black hole! it is assumed that [itex] d \ll r [/itex]).
    [itex] \tau [/itex]: time, as measured by the stationary observer [Bob].
    [itex] \mathrm{sech}() [/itex]: hyperbolic secant function.

    According to the equation, the object [Alice] will approach the event horizon, but never actually cross it (as measured from the observer's [Bob's] frame of reference).

    And note that the stationary observer feels an acceleration (from the cable suspending him) of [itex] g = c^2/d [/itex]. With that, it can be shown through series expansion that the displacement reduces to [itex] x' = \frac{1}{2}g \tau^2 [/itex] for small [itex] \tau [/itex], agreeing with Newtonian mechanics (at small times, before things get relativistic)!

    (This also ignores the mass of Alice and any spacetime curvature caused by Alice's mass; it is assumes Alice has negligible mass. Also, quantum effects are ignored.)


    Anyway, back to the topic. I recommend

    "Prime Obsession: Bernhard Riemann and the Greatest Unsolved Problem in Mathematics," by John Derbyshire.


    "The Drunkard's Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives," by Leonard Mlodinow.
    Last edited: Jul 25, 2013
  7. Jul 25, 2013 #6
    The Road to Reality by Penrose. It's a history of mathematics from the Egyptians and Pythagoreans to the modern era. He muses on the nature of the phenomena he explores on occasion which sounds right up your alley.
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