Top Physics and Science Books of 2012

| January 11, 2013 | 0 Comments

Happy new year everybody, and, now, as the holidays are over, let’s conclude the last year by reviewing the best physics books of 2012. Let’s take a look at some of the most popular list online, which enlist their choice for the best physics and science books of the year.

Starting with the Physics World, which traditionally chooses a “book of the year”, we find one of my personal favourites – “How the Hippies Saved Physics” by David Kaiser. The other books added to the shortlist of the best books of the year are as follows:

  • A Hole at the Bottom of the Sea: The Race to Kill the BP Oil Gusher by Joel Achenbach — a look back at a crisis of untold danger and an unprecedented challenge.
  • The Science Magpie: A Hoard of Fascinating Facts by Simon Flynn — a fascinating collection of science facts.
  • The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation by Jon Gertner — the tale of the great age of American innovation.
  • Erwin Schrödinger and the Quantum Revolution by John Gribbin — a detailed and fascinating story about how quantum mechanics conquered the world of physics.
  • The Geek Manifesto: Why Science Matters by Mark Henderson —  the answer to why science matters, to geeks, by a geek.
  • Life’s Ratchet: How Molecular Machines Extract Order from Chaos by Peter M Hoffmann — is life just a collection of lifeless molecules moving according to the laws of chemistry and physics?
  • How the Hippies Saved Physics: Science, Counterculture and the Quantum Revival by David Kaiser– a well known bestseller describing one of the strangest and most amazing periods in the history of science: the Hippie age of physics.
  • How to Teach Relativity to Your Dog by Chad Orzel — the title says it all — an informative and surprisingly readable guide of relativity.
  • Pricing the Future: Finance, Physics and the 300-Year Journey to the Black–Scholes Equation by George Szpiro — all about the discovery of the Black-Scholes options pricing model.
  • Physics on the Fringe: Smoke Rings, Circlons, and Alternative Theories of Everything by Margaret Wertheim — a rather well-written work on rather esoteric branches of physcics.


Now we switch to a more general list of the best science books of 2012 from Cocktail Party Physics blog. It includes the best books in mathematics, physics, medicine, chemistry and so on:

  • The Particle at the End of the Universe by Sean M. Carroll
  • A Man of Misonceptions: The Life of an Eccentric in an Age of Change by John Glassie
  • The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation, by Jon Gertner
  • The Signal and the Noise by Nate Silver
  • The Joy of X: A Guided Tour of Math from One to Infinity by Steven Strogatz
  • Fooling Houdini: Magicians, Mentalists, Math Geeks and the Hidden Powers of the Mind by Alex Stone
  • To The Last Breath: A Memoir of Going to Extremes by Francis Slakey
  • Trinity: A Graphic History of the First Atomic Bomb by Jonathan Fetter-Vorm
  • Breasts: A Natural and Unnatural History by Florence Williams
  • The Magic of Reality: How We Know What’s Really True by Richard Dawkins
  • Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic by David Quammen
  • Turing’s Cathedral: The Origins of the Digital Universe by George Dyson
  • God’s Hotel: A Doctor, A Hospital, and a Pilgrimage to the Heart of Medicine by Victoria Sweet
  • Before the Lights Go Out: Conquering the Energy Crisis Before It Conquers Us by Maggie Koerth-Baker

Naturally, the books that interest me mostly are “The Particle at the End of the Universe”, “The Joy of X”, “Turing’s Cathedral”, “Trinity” and “Fooling Houdini”. The first one is another bestseller about perhaps the most popular particle of all times – the Higg’s Boson. “

The Joy of X” is a detailed tour through mathematics – including amazing facts from the history of mathematics and how it is related to philosophy, art and even literature.

“Turing’s Cathedral” is a well-written and informative look at a small group of men and women, led by John von Neumann at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, who built one of the first computers to realize Alan Turing’s vision of a Universal Machine.

“Trinity” is an astounding graphic history of the birth of nuclear weapons, retelling the story of the first atomic bomb.

And finally, “Fooling Houdini” is a journey to the understanding how experts magicians manipulate our minds using psychology, illusions, mathematics and so much more.

Other books, which I overlooked are, needless to say, also worth of your attention so be sure to add them to your reading list. And let’s hope 2013 will be a great year for science and physics books as well.



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