Loading... ## E=mc2: A Biography of the World's Most Famous Equation (2000)## by David Bodanis
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Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book. No current Talk conversations about this book. Many of my students will have heard about this small equation, but I'm not sure if they will understand its gravity. I hope to expound their knowledge on the importance of these five symbols in a line. If science is not your thing but biography is this is the book for you. Excellent. The first chapters actually pertain to the equation components E, "equals sign", m, C and yes, "squared". The remainder is comprised of the history of relativity and atomic theory, with plenty of real lives drama among the various scientists (Einstein's life comprises only s small portion of this). The description of the Hiroshima bomb and the eventual demise of the sun, are awe-inspiring. I still don't know what the darn equation means but it was a heck of an entertaining book. How does one write the "biography" of an equation? Sure, it's "born" whenever the person invents it, but equations can't exactly grow up, marry and die, at least not in the way living things can. David Bodanis's approach to biography is to first explain each part of the equation (E, =, m, c2) and the scientific developments that led to these elements being used in common scientific parlance, and then to trace the history of the whole equation, from when Einstein first developed it to how the universe will eventually end, in keeping with the principles of the equation. This was a very satisfactory book. I learned a lot about some of the early French scientists, like Lavoisier, Emilie du Châtelet (who was great! people need to know about her) and Henri Poincaré, as well as some other unsung female scientists such as Cecilia Payne, whose sexist thesis advisor made me want to go back in time and smack him. There was even a WW2 commando raid! I love when those show up in unexpected places in my reading. In this case it was on a heavy water plant in Norway, which was part of the Germans' effort to build an atom bomb. From a scientific standpoint, the most memorable chapters were the one where Bodanis explains in subatomic detail exactly how the bomb dropped on Hiroshima wrought its horrific damage, and the one where he explains how the universe will end. The latter is probably not the best thing to read right before bed, because it's kind of depressing. So the question is, how much scientific background do you need to appreciate this book? Well, there is a certain amount of detail when he explains the physics behind the equation, but for the most part I was able to follow along, and my formal science education stopped in Grade 11. The only way to know is to give it a try! no reviews | add a review
References to this work on external resources. ## Wikipedia in English (2)
E=mc2. Just about everyone has at least heard of Albert Einstein's formulation of 1905, which came into the world as something of an afterthought. But far fewer can explain his insightful linkage of energy to mass. David Bodanis offers an easily grasped gloss on the equation. Mass, he writes, "is simply the ultimate type of condensed or concentrated energy," whereas energy "is what billows out as an alternate form of mass under the right circumstances." |
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Each part has a bit of a biography associated with it, as, E (Michael Farraday), m (Antoine Lavoisier), c (Ole Roemer), ^2 (Emilie du Chatelet). The equation is first ignored, eventually seized upon, and finally used in many ways. An epilogue on general relativity, the descendants.

Besides those mentioned above, many people trip through these pages. Werner Heisenberg (working on a bomb for Germany), Cecilia Payne (conjecturing that the sun is not so much made of iron as of hydrogen), Arthur Eddington (observing the bending of starlight instead of being incarcerated as a conscientous objector), Enrico Fermi, Lise Meitner (envisaging nuclear fission), James Chadwick (discovering the neutron), Ernest Rutherford (many things), Fred Hoyle, Subramanyan Chandraseckhar (his limit).

Succint and lively, but occasionally a bit sloppy. I listened to this on audio, but would probably be prepared to read the book. ( )