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Popular science books recommendation

  • #1
Felipe Lincoln
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I'm aiming to make a list of popular science books to read along the year. Can you recommend some?
 

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  • #2
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I'm aiming to make a list of popular science books to read along the year. Can you recommend some?
Popular among whom? Which science(s) and which kind of books?
 
  • #3
Felipe Lincoln
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Generally about physics, like the elegant universe, the universe in a nutshell ...
 
  • #4
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Generally about physics, like the elegant universe, the universe in a nutshell ...
You know that you are talking about entertainment here and not knowledge?
 
  • #5
Felipe Lincoln
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You know that you are talking about entertainment here and not knowledge?
Humm, I actually don't ...
Isn't it knowledge?
 
  • #6
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Humm, I actually don't ...
Isn't it knowledge?
Not really. Those books are written to explain complicated math in a common language understood by as many people as possible, or as Hawking had put it: "Each formula costs you 10,000 potential readers." Unfortunately, the real physical implications cannot be told without those formulas. As a consequence really many simplifications and metaphors have to be made. The result are many false assumptions and images in people's mind which pop up e.g. here on PF and make it more difficult to learn the actual stuff, as first already learnt has to be forgotten again. We have many articles in our insights blog which deal with things like: the rubber sheet model of gravity, virtual particles, black hole concepts, the balloon analogue of an expanding universe etc., which are practically all wrong. And even our section about quantum mechanics is full of endless discussions among experts about interpretations, which are to be distinguished from the mathematical background, for which there is little dispute about.

I would (and do) only read those books on commuter trains, at doctors' waiting rooms or as bedtime reads. Depending on your goals and age I recommend to read some introductory real textbooks which can actually help you and perhaps save time if you plan to or already do study. If you do not want to go the long way of learning the stuff, and it is a long way, then I'd say read our insight articles. You will not understand all of them, but at least they all are as close as possible to what real science is. I think we have about 400 right now, so there is plenty of good entertainment combined with real insights.

Sure, there are books which are a must-have-read like A Brief History of Time or Gödel, Escher, Bach, and they are worth a read, however, more as an appetizer as a scientific textbook.
 
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  • #7
Felipe Lincoln
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Thank you for explaining your point.
And I just want some thing to help me expand my imagination and something I can enjoy reading in a casual situation. I'm looking for these "must-have-read" books, can we talk about them here?
 
  • #8
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Thank you for explaining your point.
And I just want some thing to help me expand my imagination and something I can enjoy reading in a casual situation. I'm looking for these "must-have-read" books, can we talk about them here?
Sure. I mentioned the two I have read and can recommend. I find Douglas Hofstadter better than Hawking, because he didn't had to make so much severe compromises, on the other hand it's more about mathematics and the symmetries in this world. In a way the latter is physically again, although a bit indirect. But as I usually don't read those books in English, I'm probably of not much help here. However, the questions I posed had to be cleared anyway.
 
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  • #9
Infrared
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I haven't read all of it (who has?) but Road to Reality by Penrose is a popular science book that covers some topics pretty seriously. It's not exactly casual reading though. Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman! isn't strictly about physics, but is a must-read anyway.

I also second @fresh_42's recommendation of GEB.
 
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  • #10
pinball1970
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I haven't read all of it (who has?) but Road to Reality by Penrose is a popular science book that covers some topics pretty seriously. It's not exactly casual reading though. Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman! isn't strictly about physics, but is a must-read anyway.

I also second @fresh_42's recommendation of GEB.
I was floored by Road to Reality - That is the book that made realize I didn't know much physics
 
  • #11
Demystifier
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Why all that attitude against popular physics books? Some people are simply not good in math and will never be. Yet reading popular physics books will give them some idea of what physics is about. Of course, in this way they will never understand physics truly and deeply. Yet at least they will have a clue, which is certainly better than nothing. Besides, some of those readers may be politicians who make decisions about financing physics research. Do you really want that such decisions are made by people who don't even have a clue?
 
  • #12
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Why all that attitude against popular physics books? Some people are simply not good in math and will never be. Yet reading popular physics books will give them some idea of what physics is about. Of course, in this way they will never understand physics truly and deeply. Yet at least they will have a clue, which is certainly better than nothing. Besides, some of those readers may be politicians who make decisions about financing physics research. Do you really want that such decisions are made by people who don't even have a clue?
No, one just have to be aware of it.
 
  • #13
Felipe Lincoln
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In my case I'm at my first years of my degree, so in average we aren't meant to be "this good in math" to learn everything we want through the books, we even don't have time to do it, so I just want to know physics, spread my knowledge on what have been doing, I don't want to go deep in some subject. I just don't know much of the physics areas and want to know, why isn't good?
 
  • #14
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It always depends on personal preferences, but I think you will not be disappointed with
Black Holes and Time Warps by Kip Thorne.
 
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  • #15
vanhees71
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I'm aiming to make a list of popular science books to read along the year. Can you recommend some?
The list of such books, concerning physics, is rather short. It is very difficult to write such books without making things wrong, and thus only the real masters can write such books. Some of these rare books are

https://www.amazon.com/dp/0486607690/?tag=pfamazon01-20
https://www.amazon.com/dp/0618711686/?tag=pfamazon01-20
https://www.amazon.com/dp/1591025753/?tag=pfamazon01-20
https://www.amazon.com/dp/0465024378/?tag=pfamazon01-20
https://www.amazon.com/dp/0691164096/?tag=pfamazon01-20

I don't know whether it counts still as popular, but also the "Theoretical Minimum" series by Susskind is great. Up to now there are 3 volumes:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/0465075681/?tag=pfamazon01-20
https://www.amazon.com/dp/0465062903/?tag=pfamazon01-20
https://www.amazon.com/dp/0465093345/?tag=pfamazon01-20
 
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