Geons, Black Holes, and Quantum Foam: A Life in Physics

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9780393046427: Geons, Black Holes, and Quantum Foam: A Life in Physics

The autobiography of one of the preeminent figures in twentieth-century physics.

He studied with Niels Bohr, taught Richard Feynman, and boned up on relativity with his friend and colleague Albert Einstein. John Archibald Wheeler's fascinating life brings us face to face with the central characters and discoveries of modern physics. He was the first American to learn of the discovery of nuclear fission, later coined the term "black hole," led a renaissance in gravitation physics, and helped to build Princeton University into a mecca for physicists. From nuclear physics, to quantum theory, to relativity and gravitation, Wheeler's work has set the trajectory of research for half a century. His career has brought him into contact with the most brilliant minds of his field; Fermi, Bethe, Rabi, Teller, Oppenheimer, and Wigner are among those he's called colleagues and friends. In this rich autobiography, Wheeler reveals in fascinating detail the excitement of each discovery, the character of each colleague, and the underlying passion for knowledge that drives him still.

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Review:

What are little physicists made of? Geons, Black Holes & Quantum Foam, in John Wheeler's science autobiography. To the rest of us, getting excited over the properties of atomic nuclei and the forces that hold invisible particles together may seem eccentric, to say the least. But physicists hold the secrets of the universe in their heads, and they have a special place in human history. Einstein, Bohr, Fermi, Oppenheimer--their names are inextricably linked with the mysteries of the atom. Wheeler, among the most creative physicists of our time, tackled questions related to the nature of space, time, and gravity alongside his more well known colleagues. Renowned as a teacher, Wheeler worked with student Richard Feynman to imagine a subatomic world where particles move backward in time. With fellow physicist and former student Ken Ford, Wheeler has crafted an engaging look at the eye of the 20th-century physics hurricane. There's a lot of physics in this book, which may put off those shy of its terminology and abstractions, but the stories and photographs of the men and women who know the atom will help readers see the humanity in science, and the warmth and passion of its practitioners. This is a remarkable history of one man's part in revealing the underlying nature of everything. --Therese Littleton

From the Author:

A mixture of Wheeler's life and Wheeler's physics. This book is half John Wheeler's life and half his physics. If you are interested in the people, you can skim through the physics. If you are interested in the physics, you can skim through the people. (If you are interested in both, so much the better.) The book provides a good way to have a look at many of the principal physicists of the twentieth century, including Wheeler himself, and a good way to learn a lot of mind-stretching modern physics, even if you have no background in the subject. -- Kenneth W. Ford

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