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Physics and Philosophy Books Help

  1. Dec 31, 2013 #1
    Hi there folks!

    I am new to the forum and would like to thank anyone in advance for their answers as I will not be able to check them until late tomorrow night.

    I love physics, but not as much as my niece and I have a gift to give and I think I found the best people to set me in the right direction (possibly with enough ideas for years to come)

    Due to her personal interests and recent life experiences I am looking for something along the lines of the "Dancing Wi Lu Masters" but more updated as she is very current on her studies.

    Book recommendations for people familiar with the subject of physics at any level (except expert) that explores its connections to the other disciplines primarily theology, ideology and philosophy.

    Reasons for selections appreciated.
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 31, 2013 #2
  4. Dec 31, 2013 #3


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    First you need to decide whether you want real-world evidence-based physics, or crackpot/spiritual nonsense and cults.
  5. Dec 31, 2013 #4


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    In Search of Schrodinger's Cat is a good transition from something like Dancing Wu Li Masters to something a little more grounded.
  6. Jan 2, 2014 #5
    Thanks Pythagorean Enigman looking forward to reading about those. It helps a great deal. @ strangerep
    Neither specifically, as stated. Looking for solid research, modern theory and a multidisciplinary approach that is fun to read, perhaps even humorous and entertaining.

    Reading Wu Li did make me feel it was pretty outdated and loaded with "Wuwu" if you will, but a pleasant read that made me wonder if there was any modern books that did a good job of relating different kinds of human thought and physics.

    Looking forward to more thoughts on this. Thanks again.
  7. Jan 2, 2014 #6


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    Was the prevailing view on natural philosophy for over a thousand years, and well worth reading for anyone serious about studying the philosophy of nature.


    Bacon is one of heroes, and doesn't receive enough attention in history classes because he's shadowed by Galileo. This is an interesting read and one of my favorites in natural philosophy.

    For pure philosophy, I always recommend any of the many works by Joseph Campbell.

    Dancing Wi Lu Masters is pure garbage. It is neither natural philosophy, philosophy, nor any such thing. Just so you know.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  8. Jan 3, 2014 #7
    Generally agree. (Haven't read Campbell. Probably would agree if I did.) These do however deal with old and in fact outdated material and youngsters might not like to wade through it all. This is not to denigrate it and is a matter of taste for the reader. It is more important that the youngster read varied material eagerly than that s/he begin at the beginning of philosophy and work through to modernity, which can be very tedious and off-putting. (Off-putting is the killer!)
    That said, at https://archive.org/details/texts there is a huge lot of out-of-copyright material, including Bacon, Aristotle, and all the pioneer philosophers and scientists, the likes of Tyndall, Darwin, Maxwell, Faraday, Fabre, Boole, de Morgan, Dodgson(Carroll) free for download in multiple formats for which there are free readers available (PDF, DJVU etc) and don't forget Project Gutenberg at http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/
    If you want quite a lot of excellent modern material, and can afford it, there is a great deal, and one of the main problems is that in-copyright out-of-print works can be VERY hard to obtain.
    It is not clear what the level of your niece's studies might be, whether we are talking late primary school, high school, university, or even post graduate work, so it is hard to know what would be over-stressing her and what would insult her intelligence, or even what her lines of interest within physics might be. A fascinating work is "Physics from Fisher Information" by Roy Frieden, but if she is not yet comfortable with differential equations, it would be dangerously opaque. The collected Scientific American works of Martin Gardner are available on a CD, and they broach a lot of non-trivial physical and variously edifying and entertaining philosophical material. Carl Sagan's works include some seriously good stuff and so do those of Richard Feynman. Ilya Prigogine and Stenger's book "Order out of Chaos" is pretty special. "The Mind's Eye" by Hofstadter and Dennett is a real mind-bender for ANYONE, and so is "Goedel Escher Bach". Try the Smullyan books such as "What is the Name of This Book" (wich is beyond Joe Average, but I have personally known two kids about 8 years old to DEVOUR it.
    Two books, one great in my opinion, the other very good indeed are "Structures, or Why Things Don't Fall Down" by JE Gordon, and "Cats' Paws and Catapults" by Vogel. Don't neglect books by Stephen Pinker such as "The Language Instinct" in particular. Some straddle the subject of information theory, Physics and biology, such as John Maynard Smith and Eors Szathmary (The major Transitions in Evolution"
    I'll stop here for now, but I am sure you will be welcome to rattle cages. Good luck to you nad your niece.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  9. Jan 10, 2014 #8
    Thanks Jon Richfield for such a thorough and thoughtful response. I am going to get a few of those for myself and enjoyed reading their descriptions. Good point about her level. She is in her last year at the university for her BS and top of her class in her Chemistry program. Physics is her other passion since she about 12. It seemed a nice diversion not too far from her studies.

    I have decided to go with What is the Name of This Book, In Search of Schrodinger's Cat, The Mind's Eye as well as Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman and Goedel Escher Bach because I own used copies and its great to have a reminder. I believe I and some friends will enjoy these as well and I think the whole subject a lot of fun as it is making a collection of books that bring the excitement of physics to different kinds of thinkers as well as making a nice list for perhaps a quiet evening, a sunset and a pleasant and engaging read for those of us who already are deeply interested.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 10, 2014
  10. Jan 10, 2014 #9


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    Spam post for Inappropriate self-published personal theory book deleted.
  11. Jan 12, 2014 #10
    That sounds like a special girl! She should be able to handle anything in the list that happens to interest her.

    If she takes enough interest to explore some of this material seriously she should end up being educated to an unusual degree, as opposed to being just taught. It is, if you like, an achievement in civilisation and culture, not just chasing after a certificate.

    My best wishes and kindest regards.
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