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Arbie's Unoriginally Titled Book Blog

It's a blog! Mainly of book reviews.

Currently reading

Broken Angels
Richard K. Morgan
Progress: 56/468 pages
Introduction to Topology
Bert Mendelson
Progress: 10/224 pages
Basics of Plasma Astrophysics
Claudio Chiuderi, Marco Velli
Progress: 58/250 pages
Ursula K. Le Guin: The Complete Orsinia: Malafrena / Stories and Songs (The Library of America)
Brian Attebery, Ursula K. Le Guin
Progress: 454/700 pages
A Student's Guide to Lagrangians and Hamiltonians
Patrick Hamill
Progress: 7/180 pages
Complete Poems, 1904-1962
E.E. Cummings
Progress: 166/1102 pages
The Complete Plays and Poems
E.D. Pendry, J.C. Maxwell, Christopher Marlowe
She Stoops to Conquer and Other Comedies (Oxford World's Classics)
Henry Fielding, David Garrick, Oliver Goldsmith
Progress: 164/448 pages
Gravitation (Physics Series)
Kip Thorne;Kip S. Thorne;Charles W. Misner;John Archibald Wheeler;John Wheeler
Progress: 48/1215 pages
I Am a Cat
Graeme Wilson, Aiko Ito, Sōseki Natsume
Progress: 410/638 pages
The Cold Wars: A History of Superconductivity - Jean Matricon;Georges Waysand;Charles Glashausser

This book really is a history and a scholarly one, too. It sets the record straight at a number of points, most notably regarding the contribution of Russians during WW2 and the Cold War, and covers the the whole history of superconductivity from the liquifaction of Helium that made its discovery possible, through to 2001. It displays science in all its glory and all its fallible, corruptible humanity, not attempting to disguise the unethical behaviour of individuals where it has been proven or the fiercely competitive nature of top-level research. Any lay-person who wants to know what the real life of scientists is like can do worse than read this book. Unfortunately, superconductivity is an inherently difficult, abstract and quantum phenomenon and despite valiant efforts on the part of the authors, the explanations of the theories as they have evolved in the course of about 100 years are not always clear. This, I suspect, means that anybody with less than a graduate background in physics (or a specialism in quantum chemistry) will have a hard time following the most abstruse arguments.

This is a translation from the French of the original authors but some Gallic flavour is retained, particularly because the authors often make amusing analogies with episodes from French literature.

The people who will like this book most, no doubt, will be superconductivity researchers themselves.