Peter Pesic Sky in a Bottle (MIT Press)

ISBN 13: 9780262662000

Sky in a Bottle (MIT Press)

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9780262662000: Sky in a Bottle (MIT Press)
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The age-old question "Why is the sky blue?" begins a quest through science, history, and art, from Aristotle and Newton through Goethe and Einstein.

Children ask, "Why is the sky blue?" but the question also puzzled Plato, Leonardo, and even Newton, who unlocked so many other secrets. The search for an answer continued for centuries; in 1862 Sir John Herschel listed the color and polarization of sky light as "the two great standing enigmas of meteorology." In Sky in a Bottle, Peter Pesic takes us on a quest to the heart of this mystery, tracing the various attempts of science, history, and art to solve it. He begins with the scholars of the ancient world and continues through the natural philosophers of the Enlightenment, the empiricists of the scientific revolution, and beyond. The cast of characters includes Aristotle, Leonardo da Vinci, Kepler, Descartes, Euler, Saussure, Goethe, Rayleigh, and Einstein; but the protagonist is the question itself, and the story tells how we have tried to answer it.

Pesic's odyssey introduces us to central ideas of chemistry, optics, and atomic physics. He describes the polarization of light, Rayleigh scattering, and connections between the appearance of the sky and Avogadro's number. He discusses changing representations of the sky in art, from new styles of painting to new pigments that created new colors for paint. He considers what the sky's nighttime brightness might tell us about the size and density of the universe. And Pesic asks another, daring, question: Can we put the sky in a bottle? Can we recreate and understand its blueness here on earth? This puzzle, he says, opens larger perspectives; questions of the color and brightness of the sky touch on secrets of matter and light, the scope of the universe in space and time, the destiny of the earth, and deep human feelings.

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About the Author:

Peter Pesic, writer, pianist, and scholar, is Director of the Science Institute and Musician-in-Residence at St. John's College, Santa Fe. He is the author of Abel's Proof: An Essay on the Sources and Meaning of Mathematical Unsolvability; Seeing Double: Shared Identities in Physics, Philosophy, and Literature; Sky in a Bottle; and Music and the Making of Modern Science, all published by the MIT Press.

Review:

In tireless pursuit of the mundane mystery of the blue sky, Pesic takes us on a thrilling 2,000-year scientific treasure hunt, turning up profound questions, surprising answers, unexpected connections, and―always―more questions. Scholarly, sophisticated, yet broadly accessible. A little sapphire of a book!

Hans Christian von Baeyer, Chancellor Professor of Physics, College of William and Mary, author of Information: The New Language of Science (Endorsement)

Nimbly stepping from Goethe to Einstein, Peter Pesic takes us to awesome mountain peaks and into darkened laboratories to see where the blue in the sky comes from. This is an adventure of the mind, using observation, inspiration, and measurement to show how simple things come from subtle sources.

Robert P. Kirshner, Clowes Professor of Science, Harvard University, author of The Extravagant Universe (Endorsement)

Why is the daytime sky blue? Why isn't it violet? Why is the nighttime sky black? Here is a surprising romp through history, art, and physics, replete with beguiling twists and turns. A fascinating, well-focused investigation!

Owen Gingerich, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, author of The Book Nobody Read: Chasing the Revolutions of Nicolaus Copernicus (Endorsement)

A remarkable and beautiful book, as lyrical as it is learned.

Oliver Sacks, author of The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat (Endorsement)

There be mysteries in the simple air above us. Not the least of them is the color of the sky, the color of hope. Peter Pesic, a master expositor of science, here recounts (with experiments!) the lively story of how we came to know why the sky, our sky, is blue.

Roald Hoffmann, Nobel Laureate in Chemistry (1981), author of The Same and Not the Same (Endorsement)

With the simple question Why is the sky blue? Peter Pesic opens the door to observations and thoughts about light, color, vision, and atmosphere, from earliest times to the present. He decorates his account with biographical sketches and suggests experiments for readers to do, and at the end he even comes up with the answer.

David Park, Professor Emeritus of Physics, Williams College, author of The Fire Within the Eye and The Grand Contraption (Endorsement)

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Other Popular Editions of the Same Title

9780262162340: Sky in a Bottle

Featured Edition

ISBN 10:  0262162342 ISBN 13:  9780262162340
Publisher: The MIT Press, 2005
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