Philip Ball - Author

About the Author

Formerly on the staff of Nature, Philip Ball is now a full-time writer. He lives in London.

Featured books by Philip Ball

Serving the Reich The Struggle for the Soul of Physics Under Hitler

Serving the Reich The Struggle for the Soul of Physics Under Hitler

Author: Philip Ball Format: Paperback Release Date: 09/10/2014

Shortlisted for the Royal Society Winton Prize for Science Books 2014. Serving the Reich tells the story of physics under Hitler. While some scientists tried to create an Aryan physics that excluded any 'Jewish ideas', many others made compromises and concessions as they continued to work under the Nazi regime. Among them were three world-renowned physicists: Max Planck, pioneer of quantum theory, regarded it as his moral duty to carry on under the regime. Peter Debye, a Dutch physicist, rose to run the Reich's most important research institute before leaving for the United States in 1940. Werner Heisenberg, discovered the Uncertainty Principle, and became the leading figure in Germany's race for the atomic bomb. After the war most scientists in Germany maintained they had been apolitical or even resisted the regime: Debye claimed that he had gone to America to escape Nazi interference in his research; Heisenberg and others argued that they had deliberately delayed production of the atomic bomb. Mixing history, science and biography, Serving the Reich is a gripping exploration of moral choices under a totalitarian regime. Here are human dilemmas, failures to take responsibility, three lives caught between the idealistic goals of science and a tyrannical ideology.

Invisible The Dangerous Allure of the Unseen

Invisible The Dangerous Allure of the Unseen

Author: Philip Ball Format: Hardback Release Date: 31/07/2014

If you could be invisible, what would you do? The chances are that it would have something to do with power, wealth or sex. Perhaps all three, given the opportunity. But there's no need to feel guilty. Because these impulses, and plenty more, have always been at the heart of our fascination with invisibility. Precisely because it points to realms beyond our senses, the notion of invisibility has long performed as a receptacle for fears and dreams, as something that hints at worlds where other rules apply; and as a mighty power and a terrible curse, a sexual promise, a spiritual condition. This is a history of invisibility in our culture. It takes in Plato, the occult in the Renaissance and the Middle Ages, Shakespearian ghosts, ether and cathode rays and nineteenth-century science, spiritualism, electromagnetism, H.G. Wells, the microscopic world, camouflage, prestidigitation and twenty-first century nanoscience. Here is everything you've ever wanted to know about the invisible - from the medieval to the cutting-edge, fairy tales to telecommunications, from beliefs about the supernatural to the discovery of dark energy.

Other books by Philip Ball

Beyond Weird

Beyond Weird

Author: Philip Ball Format: Paperback Release Date: 22/03/2018

'This is the book I wish I could have written but am very glad I've read' Jim Al-Khalili `I think I can safely say that nobody understands quantum mechanics.' Richard Feynman wrote this in 1965 - the year he was awarded the Nobel prize in physics for his work on quantum mechanics. Quantum physics is regarded as one of the most obscure and impenetrable subjects in all of science. But when Feynman said he didn't understand quantum mechanics, he didn't mean that he couldn't do it - he meant that's all he could do. He didn't understand what the maths was saying: what quantum mechanics tells us about reality. Over the past decade or so, the enigma of quantum mechanics has come into sharper focus. We now realise that quantum mechanics is less about particles and waves, uncertainty and fuzziness, than a theory about information: about what can be known and how. This is more disturbing than our bad habit of describing the quantum world as `things behaving weirdly' suggests. It calls into question the meanings and limits of space and time, cause and effect, and knowledge itself. The quantum world isn't a different world: it is our world, and if anything deserves to be called `weird', it's us. This exhilarating book is about what quantum maths really means - and what it doesn't mean.

Beyond Weird

Beyond Weird

Author: Philip Ball Format: Hardback Release Date: 22/03/2018

'This is the book I wish I could have written but am very glad I've read' Jim Al-Khalili `I think I can safely say that nobody understands quantum mechanics.' Richard Feynman wrote this in 1965 - the year he was awarded the Nobel prize in physics for his work on quantum mechanics. Quantum physics is regarded as one of the most obscure and impenetrable subjects in all of science. But when Feynman said he didn't understand quantum mechanics, he didn't mean that he couldn't do it - he meant that's all he could do. He didn't understand what the maths was saying: what quantum mechanics tells us about reality. Over the past decade or so, the enigma of quantum mechanics has come into sharper focus. We now realise that quantum mechanics is less about particles and waves, uncertainty and fuzziness, than a theory about information: about what can be known and how. This is more disturbing than our bad habit of describing the quantum world as `things behaving weirdly' suggests. It calls into question the meanings and limits of space and time, cause and effect, and knowledge itself. The quantum world isn't a different world: it is our world, and if anything deserves to be called `weird', it's us. This exhilarating book is about what quantum maths really means - and what it doesn't mean.

The Water Kingdom

The Water Kingdom

Author: Philip Ball Format: Paperback Release Date: 03/08/2017

Selected as a Book of the Year by The Times and The Economist China's history is an epic tapestry of courtly philosophies, warring factions and imperial intrigue. Yet, over five thousand years, one ancient element has so dramatically shaped the country's fate that it remains the key to unlocking China's story. That element is water. In The Water Kingdom Philip Ball takes us on a grand tour of China's defining element, from the rice terraces and towering karts of its battle-worn waterways, to the vast engineering projects that have struggled to contain water's wrath. What surfaces is the secret history of a people and a nation, drawn from its deep reverence for nature's most dynamic force.

A Waste of Blood and Treasure The 1799 Anglo-Russian Invasion of the Netherlands

A Waste of Blood and Treasure The 1799 Anglo-Russian Invasion of the Netherlands

Author: Philip Ball, Kate Bohdanowicz Format: Hardback Release Date: 19/06/2017

With the Netherlands overrun by French Republican forces, the British and Russian governments sent an allied army of 48,000 men under the Duke of York to liberate the country and restore the House of Orange. The largest operation mounted by Pitt's ministry during the French Revolutionary Wars, the amphibious expedition involved the first ever direct cooperation between British and Russian forces, embroiled the armies in five full-scale battles, and secured the capture of the Dutch fleet. As Britain's first major continental involvement since 1795, it played a part in shaping the early careers of many famous military commanders of the Napoleonic Wars. In the end, however, the campaign failed spectacularly. Its inglorious end provoked parliamentary outrage and led to diplomatic rupture between Britain and Russia. The Duke of York never commanded an army in the field again. This book examines British, French, Dutch and Russian sources to reveal a fascinating tale of intrigue, diplomatic skulduggery and daring action. Spies, politicians, sailors and soldiers all play a part in the exciting story of an expedition that made (and broke) reputations and tested alliances.It recounts in lavish detail the series of battles fought to liberate a people who showed little interest in being saved and explores the story behind the triumphs and failures of this forgotten campaign.

The Water Kingdom

The Water Kingdom

Author: Philip Ball Format: Paperback Release Date: 04/08/2016

A secret history of China - a fresh new way of thinking about a people, a civilisation, an epic story. The Water Kingdom takes us on a grand journey through China's past and present, offering a unique window through which we can begin to grasp the overwhelming complexity and teeming energy of the country and its people. Water is a key that unlocks much of Chinese history and thought. The ubiquitous relationship that the Chinese people have had with water has made it an enduring metaphor for philosophical thought and artistic expression. From the Han emperors to Mao, the ability to manage the waters - to provide irrigation and defend against floods - became a barometer of political legitimacy, and attempts to do so have involved engineering works on a gigantic scale. Yet the strain that economic growth is putting on its water resources today may be the greatest threat to China's future. The Water Kingdom is an epic, spell-binding story. Our guides are travellers and explorers, poets and painters, bureaucrats and activists, who have themselves struggled to come to terms with living in a world so shaped and permeated by water.

The Water Kingdom

The Water Kingdom

Author: Philip Ball Format: Hardback Release Date: 04/08/2016

Selected as a Book of the Year by The Times and The Economist A secret history of China - a fresh new way of thinking about a people, a civilisation, an epic story. The Water Kingdom takes us on a grand journey through China's past and present, offering a unique window through which we can begin to grasp the overwhelming complexity and teeming energy of the country and its people. Water is a key that unlocks much of Chinese history and thought. The ubiquitous relationship that the Chinese people have had with water has made it an enduring metaphor for philosophical thought and artistic expression. From the Han emperors to Mao, the ability to manage the waters - to provide irrigation and defend against floods - became a barometer of political legitimacy, and attempts to do so have involved engineering works on a gigantic scale. Yet the strain that economic growth is putting on its water resources today may be the greatest threat to China's future. The Water Kingdom is an epic, spell-binding story. Our guides are travellers and explorers, poets and painters, bureaucrats and activists, who have themselves struggled to come to terms with living in a world so shaped and permeated by water.

Invisible The Dangerous Allure of the Unseen

Invisible The Dangerous Allure of the Unseen

Author: Philip Ball Format: Paperback Release Date: 27/05/2016

Invisible The History of the Unseen from Plato to Particle Physics

Invisible The History of the Unseen from Plato to Particle Physics

Author: Philip Ball Format: Paperback Release Date: 30/07/2015

If you could be invisible, what would you do? The chances are that it would have something to do with power, wealth or sex. Perhaps all three. But there's no need to feel guilty. Impulses like these have always been at the heart of our fascination with invisibility: it points to realms beyond our senses, serves as a receptacle for fears and dreams, and hints at worlds where other rules apply. Invisibility is a mighty power and a terrible curse, a sexual promise, a spiritual condition. This is a history of humanity's turbulent relationship with the invisible. It takes on the myths and morals of Plato, the occult obsessions of the Middle Ages, the trickeries and illusions of stage magic, the auras and ethers of Victorian physics, military strategies to camouflage armies and ships and the discovery of invisibly small worlds. From the medieval to the cutting-edge, fairy tales to telecommunications, from beliefs about the supernatural to the discovery of dark energy, Philip Ball reveals the universe of the invisible.

Serving the Reich The Struggle for the Soul of Physics Under Hitler

Serving the Reich The Struggle for the Soul of Physics Under Hitler

Author: Philip Ball Format: Paperback Release Date: 09/10/2014

Shortlisted for the Royal Society Winton Prize for Science Books 2014. Serving the Reich tells the story of physics under Hitler. While some scientists tried to create an Aryan physics that excluded any 'Jewish ideas', many others made compromises and concessions as they continued to work under the Nazi regime. Among them were three world-renowned physicists: Max Planck, pioneer of quantum theory, regarded it as his moral duty to carry on under the regime. Peter Debye, a Dutch physicist, rose to run the Reich's most important research institute before leaving for the United States in 1940. Werner Heisenberg, discovered the Uncertainty Principle, and became the leading figure in Germany's race for the atomic bomb. After the war most scientists in Germany maintained they had been apolitical or even resisted the regime: Debye claimed that he had gone to America to escape Nazi interference in his research; Heisenberg and others argued that they had deliberately delayed production of the atomic bomb. Mixing history, science and biography, Serving the Reich is a gripping exploration of moral choices under a totalitarian regime. Here are human dilemmas, failures to take responsibility, three lives caught between the idealistic goals of science and a tyrannical ideology.

Curiosity How Science Became Interested in Everything

Curiosity How Science Became Interested in Everything

Author: Philip Ball Format: Paperback Release Date: 26/09/2014

With the recent landing of the Mars rover Curiosity, it seems safe to assume that the idea of being curious is alive and well in modern science--that it's not merely encouraged but is seen as an essential component of the scientific mission. Yet there was a time when curiosity was condemned. Neither Pandora nor Eve could resist the dangerous allure of unanswered questions, and all knowledge wasn't equal--for millennia it was believed that there were some things we should not try to know. In the late sixteenth century this attitude began to change dramatically, and in Curiosity: How Science Became Interested in Everything, Philip Ball investigates how curiosity first became sanctioned--when it changed from a vice to a virtue and how it became permissible to ask any and every question about the world. Looking closely at the sixteenth through eighteenth centuries, Ball vividly brings to life the age when modern science began, a time that spans the lives of Galileo and Isaac Newton. In this entertaining and illuminating account of the rise of science as we know it, Ball tells of scientists both legendary and lesser known, from Copernicus and Kepler to Robert Boyle, as well as the inventions and technologies that were inspired by curiosity itself, such as the telescope and the microscope. The so-called Scientific Revolution is often told as a story of great geniuses illuminating the world with flashes of inspiration. But Curiosity reveals a more complex story, in which the liberation--and subsequent taming--of curiosity was linked to magic, religion, literature, travel, trade, and empire. Ball also asks what has become of curiosity today: how it functions in science, how it is spun and packaged for consumption, how well it is being sustained, and how the changing shape of science influences the kinds of questions it may continue to ask. Though proverbial wisdom tell us that it was through curiosity that our innocence was lost, that has not deterred us. Instead, it has been completely the contrary: today we spend vast sums trying to reconstruct the first instants of creation in particle accelerators, out of a pure desire to know. Ball refuses to let us take this desire for granted, and this book is a perfect homage to such an inquisitive attitude.

Curiosity How Science Became Interested in Everything

Curiosity How Science Became Interested in Everything

Author: Philip Ball Format: Hardback Release Date: 18/10/2013

With the recent landing of the Mars rover Curiosity, it seems safe to assume that the idea of being curious is alive and well in modern science--that it's not merely encouraged but is seen as an essential component of the scientific mission. Yet there was a time when curiosity was condemned. Neither Pandora nor Eve could resist the dangerous allure of unanswered questions, and all knowledge wasn't equal--for millennia it was believed that there were some things we should not try to know. In the late sixteenth century this attitude began to change dramatically, and in Curiosity: How Science Became Interested in Everything, Philip Ball investigates how curiosity first became sanctioned--when it changed from a vice to a virtue and how it became permissible to ask any and every question about the world. Looking closely at the sixteenth through eighteenth centuries, Ball vividly brings to life the age when modern science began, a time that spans the lives of Galileo and Isaac Newton. In this entertaining and illuminating account of the rise of science as we know it, Ball tells of scientists both legendary and lesser known, from Copernicus and Kepler to Robert Boyle, as well as the inventions and technologies that were inspired by curiosity itself, such as the telescope and the microscope. The so-called Scientific Revolution is often told as a story of great geniuses illuminating the world with flashes of inspiration. But Curiosity reveals a more complex story, in which the liberation--and subsequent taming--of curiosity was linked to magic, religion, literature, travel, trade, and empire. Ball also asks what has become of curiosity today: how it functions in science, how it is spun and packaged for consumption, how well it is being sustained, and how the changing shape of science influences the kinds of questions it may continue to ask. Though proverbial wisdom tell us that it was through curiosity that our innocence was lost, that has not deterred us. Instead, it has been completely the contrary: today we spend vast sums trying to reconstruct the first instants of creation in particle accelerators, out of a pure desire to know. Ball refuses to let us take this desire for granted, and this book is a perfect homage to such an inquisitive attitude.

Curiosity How Science Became Interested in Everything

Curiosity How Science Became Interested in Everything

Author: Philip Ball Format: Paperback Release Date: 01/05/2013

There was a time when curiosity was condemned. Through curiosity, our innocence was said to be lost. Yet this hasn't deterred us. Today we spend vast sums trying to recreate the first instants of creation in particle accelerators, out of pure desire to know. There seems now to be no question too vast or too trivial. No longer reviled, curiosity is now celebrated. By examining the rise of curiosity from the dawn of modern science to today, we can examine how it functions in science, how it is spun, packaged and sold, and how the changing shape of science influences the kinds of questions it may ask.

Why Society is a Complex Matter Meeting Twenty-first Century Challenges with a New Kind of Science

Why Society is a Complex Matter Meeting Twenty-first Century Challenges with a New Kind of Science

Author: Philip Ball Format: Paperback Release Date: 07/06/2012

Society is complicated. But this book argues that this does not place it beyond the reach of a science that can help to explain and perhaps even to predict social behaviour. As a system made up of many interacting agents - people, groups, institutions and governments, as well as physical and technological structures such as roads and computer networks - society can be regarded as a complex system. In recent years, scientists have made great progress in understanding how such complex systems operate, ranging from animal populations to earthquakes and weather. These systems show behaviours that cannot be predicted or intuited by focusing on the individual components, but which emerge spontaneously as a consequence of their interactions: they are said to be `self-organized'. Attempts to direct or manage such emergent properties generally reveal that `top-down' approaches, which try to dictate a particular outcome, are ineffectual, and that what is needed instead is a `bottom-up' approach that aims to guide self-organization towards desirable states. This book shows how some of these ideas from the science of complexity can be applied to the study and management of social phenomena, including traffic flow, economic markets, opinion formation and the growth and structure of cities. Building on these successes, the book argues that the complex-systems view of the social sciences has now matured sufficiently for it to be possible, desirable and perhaps essential to attempt a grander objective: to integrate these efforts into a unified scheme for studying, understanding and ultimately predicting what happens in the world we have made. Such a scheme would require the mobilization and collaboration of many different research communities, and would allow society and its interactions with the physical environment to be explored through realistic models and large-scale data collection and analysis. It should enable us to find new and effective solutions to major global problems such as conflict, disease, financial instability, environmental despoliation and poverty, while avoiding unintended policy consequences. It could give us the foresight to anticipate and ameliorate crises, and to begin tackling some of the most intractable problems of the twenty-first century.

Unnatural The Heretical Idea of Making People

Unnatural The Heretical Idea of Making People

Author: Philip Ball Format: Paperback Release Date: 01/03/2012

Can we make a human being? The question has been asked for many centuries, and has produced recipes ranging from the clay golem of Jewish legend to the mass-produced test-tube babies in Brave New World. Unnatural delves beneath the surface of the cultural history of 'anthropoeia' - the artificial creation of people - to explore what it tells us about our views on life, humanity, creativity and technology, and the soul. Philip Ball traces the threads that link the legendary inventor Daedalus, Goethe's tragic Faust, the automata-making magicians of E.T.A. Hoffman and Mary Shelley's Victor Frankenstein. He argues that these old tales and myths are alive and well, subtly manipulating the current debates about assisted conception, embryo research and human cloning, which have at last made the idea of 'making people' into flesh and blood reality.

The Music Instinct How Music Works and Why We Can't Do Without It

The Music Instinct How Music Works and Why We Can't Do Without It

Author: Philip Ball Format: Paperback Release Date: 03/02/2011

Why have all human cultures - today and throughout history - made music? Why does music excite such rich emotion? How do we make sense of musical sound? These are questions that have, until recently, remained mysterious. Now The Music Instinct explores how the latest research in music psychology and brain science is piecing together the puzzle of how our minds understand and respond to music. Ranging from Bach fugues to nursery rhymes to heavy rock, Philip Ball interweaves philosophy, mathematics, history and neurology to reveal why music moves us in so many ways. Without requiring any specialist knowledge, The Music Instinct will both deepen your appreciation of the music you love, and open doors to music that once seemed alien, dull or daunting, offering a passionate plea for the importance of music in education and in everyday life. 'You'll never listen to music the same way again' - Independent

Music Instinct Brain Shot

Music Instinct Brain Shot

Author: Philip Ball Format: eBook Release Date: 02/07/2010

All human cultures seem to make music - today and through history. But why they do so, why music can excite deep passions, and how we make sense of musical sound at all are questions that have, until recently, remained profoundly mysterious. Now in The Music Instinct Brain Shot Philip Ball provides the first comprehensive, accessible survey of what is known - and what is still unknown - about how music works its magic, and why, as much as eating and sleeping, it seems indispensable to humanity.BRAIN SHOT: Byte-sized survey of what is known - and what is still unknown - about how music works and why it is indispensible to humanity

Sun and Moon Corrupted

Sun and Moon Corrupted

Author: Philip Ball Format: Paperback Release Date: 01/01/2009

What if you had developed a machine that generated energy for free and no-one believed you? That is the lot of Kurt Neder, once Einstein's accomplice and the brightest young physicist of his generation, now a lost soul wandering Europe in the hope that someone will pay him heed. Enter Lena - an intrepid young British journalist, hoping for a story to kick-start her stalled career, and driven by her own needs and beliefs, and her own need to believe. Her trail takes her from the cafes of Vienna via the castles of Transylvania and the labs of Princeton to the blasted borderlands of the old Soviet Union, in the search for truth and coherence, both scientific and personal. Here is a Geiger-counter of a novel that crackles with ideas and offers the reader insights and emotions not often found in fiction.

Bright Earth The Invention of Colour

Bright Earth The Invention of Colour

Author: Philip Ball Format: Paperback Release Date: 01/05/2008

Colour in art - as in life - is both inspiring and uplifting, but where does it come from? How have artists found new hues, and how have these influenced their work? Beginning with the ancients - when just a handful of pigments made up the artist's palette - and charting the discoveries and developments that have led to the many splendoured rainbow of modern paints, Bright Earth brings the story of colour spectacularly alive. Packed with anecdotes about lucky accidents and hapless misfortunes in the quests for new colours, it provides an entertaining and fascinating new perspective on the science of art.

The Devil's Doctor Paracelsus and the World of Renaissance Magic and Science

The Devil's Doctor Paracelsus and the World of Renaissance Magic and Science

Author: Philip Ball Format: Paperback Release Date: 05/04/2007

Philip Theophrastus Aureolus Bombastus von Hohenheim - known to later ages as Paracelsus - stands on the borderline between medieval and modern; a name that is familiar but a man who has been hard to perceive or understand. Contemporary of Luther, enemy of established medicine, scourge of the universities ('at all the German schools you cannot learn as much as at the Frankfurt Fair'), army surgeon and alchemist, myths about him - from his treating diseases from beyond the grave in mid-nineteenth century Salzburg to his Faustian bargain with the devil to regain his youth - have been far more lasting than his actual story. Even during his lifetime, he was rumoured to travel with a magical white horse and to store the elixir of life in the pommel of his sword. But who was Paracelsus and what did he really believe and practice? Although Paracelsus has been seen as both a charlatan and as a founder of modern science, Philip Ball's book reveals a more richly complex man - who used his eyes and ears to learn from nature how to heal, and who wrote influential books on medicine, surgery, alchemy and theology while living a drunken, combative, vagabond life. Above all, Ball reveals a man who was a product of his time - an age of great change in which the church was divided and the classics were rediscovered - and whose bringing together of the seemingly diverse disciplines of alchemy and biology signalled the beginning of the age of rationalism.

Devil's Doctor

Devil's Doctor

Author: Philip Ball Format: eBook Release Date: 18/04/2006

Philippus Aureolus Theophrastus Bombast von Hohenheim, who called himself Paracelsus, stands at the cusp of medieval and modern times. A contemporary of Luther, an enemy of the medical establishment, a scourge of the universities, an alchemist, an army surgeon, and a radical theologian, he attracted myths even before he died. His fantastic journeys across Europe and beyond were said to be made on a magical white horse, and he was rumored to carry the elixir of life in the pommel of his great broadsword. His name was linked with Faust, who bargained with the devil.Who was the man behind these stories? Some have accused him of being a charlatan, a windbag who filled his books with wild speculations and invented words. Others claim him as the father of modern medicine. Philip Ball exposes a more complex truth in The Devil's Doctor-one that emerges only by entering into Paracelsus's time. He explores the intellectual, political, and religious undercurrents of the sixteenth century and looks at how doctors really practiced, at how people traveled, and at how wars were fought. For Paracelsus was a product of an age of change and strife, of renaissance and reformation. And yet by uniting the diverse disciplines of medicine, biology, and alchemy, he assisted, almost in spite of himself, in the birth of science and the emergence of the age of rationalism. "e;Ball produces a vibrant, original portrait of a man of contradictions:"e; - Publishers Weekly

Elegant Solutions Ten Beautiful Experiments in Chemistry

Elegant Solutions Ten Beautiful Experiments in Chemistry

Author: Philip Ball Format: Hardback Release Date: 01/08/2005

Devising and performing a scientific experiment is an art, and it is common to hear scientists talk about the 'beauty' of an experiment. What does this mean in chemistry, the experimental science par excellence? And what are the most beautiful chemical experiments of all time? This book offers ten suggestions for where beauty might reside in experimental chemistry. In some cases the beauty lies in the clarity of conception; sometimes it is a feature of the instrumental design. But for chemistry, there can also be a unique beauty in the way atoms are put together to make new molecules, substances not known in nature. The ten experiments described here offer a window into the way that chemists think and work, and how what they do affects the rest of science and the wider world. This book aims to stimulate the reader to think anew about some of the relationships and differences between science and art, and to challenge some of the common notions about particular 'famous experiments'. Elegant Solutions: Ten Beautiful Experiments in Chemistry is accessible to all readers, including those without a scientific background and can provide an unusual point of entry into some of the basic concepts of chemistry. Phillip Ball is a renowned, prolific, award winning science writer.

Critical Mass

Critical Mass

Author: Philip Ball Format: Paperback Release Date: 03/02/2005

Is there a 'physics of society'? Philip Ball's investigation into human nature ranges from Hobbes and Adam Smith to modern work on traffic flow and market trading, across economics, sociology and psychology. Ball shows how much of human behaviour we can understand when we cease trying to predict and analyse the behaviour of individuals and look to the impact of hundreds, thousands or millions of individual human decisions, in circumstances in which human beings both co-operate and conflict, when their aggregate behaviour is constructive and when it is destructive. By perhaps Britain's leading young science writer, this is a deeply thought-provoking book, causing us to examine our own behaviour, whether in buying the new Harry Potter book, voting for a particular party or responding to the lures of advertisers.

The Self-Made Tapestry Pattern Formation in Nature

The Self-Made Tapestry Pattern Formation in Nature

Author: Philip Ball Format: Paperback Release Date: 05/07/2001

Why do similar patterns and forms appear in nature in settings that seem to bear no relation to one another? The windblown ripples of desert sand follow a sinuous course that resemles the stripes of a zebra or a marine fish. In the trellis-like shells of microscopic sea creatures we see the same angles and intersections as for bubble walls in a foam. The forks of lightning mirror the branches of a river or a tree. l This book explains why these are no coincidences. Nature commonly weaves its tapestry by self-organization, employing no master plan or blueprint but by simple, local interactions between its component parts - be they grains of sand, diffusing molecules or living cells - give rise to spontaneous patters that are at the same time complex and beautiful. Many of these patterns are universal: spirals, spots, and stripes, branches, honeycombs. Philip Ball conducts a profusely illustrated tour of this gallery, and reveals the secrets of how nature's patterns are made.

Life's Matrix A Biography of Water

Life's Matrix A Biography of Water

Author: Philip Ball Format: Paperback Release Date: 20/06/2001

One of the four elements of classical antiquity, water is central to the environment of our planet. In Life's Matrix , Philip Ball writes of water's origins, history, and unique physical character. As a geological agent, water shapes mountains, canyons, and coastlines, and when unleashed in hurricanes and floods its destructive power is awesome. Ball's provocative exploration of water on other planets highlights the possibilities of life beyond Earth. Life's Matrix also examines the grim realities of depletion of natural resources and its effects on the availability of water in the twenty-first century.

H2O A Biography of Water

H2O A Biography of Water

Author: Philip Ball Format: Paperback Release Date: 05/10/2000

The brilliantly told and gripping story of the most familiar - yet, amazingly, still poorly understood - substance in the universe: Water. The extent to which water remains a scientific mystery is extraordinary, despite its prevalence and central importance on Earth. Whether one considers its role in biology, its place in the physical world (where it refuses to obey the usual rules of liquids) or its deceptively simple structure, there is still no complete answer to the question: what is water? Philip Ball's book explains what, exactly, we do and do not know about the strange character of this most essential and ubiquitous of substances. H20 begins by transporting its readers back to the Big Bang and the formation of galaxies to witness the birth of water's constituent elements: hydrogen and oxygen. It then explains how the primeval oceans were formed four billion years ago; where water is to be found on other planets; why ice floats when most solids sink; why, despite being highly corrosive, water is good for us; why there are at least fifteen kinds of ice and perhaps two kinds of liquid water; how scientists have consistently misunderstood water for centuries; and why wars have been waged over it. Philip Ball's gloriously offbeat and intelligent book conducts us on a journey through the history of science, folklore, the wilder scientific fringes, cutting-edge physics, biology and ecology, to give a fascinating new perspective on life and the substance that sustains it. After reading this book, drinking a glass of water will never be the same again.

Made to Measure New Materials for the 21st Century

Made to Measure New Materials for the 21st Century

Author: Philip Ball Format: Paperback Release Date: 13/09/1999

Made to Measure introduces a general audience to one of today's most exciting areas of scientific research: materials science. Philip Ball describes how scientists are currently inventing thousands of new materials, ranging from synthetic skin, blood, and bone to substances that repair themselves and adapt to their environment, that swell and flex like muscles, that repel any ink or paint, and that capture and store the energy of the Sun. He shows how all this is being accomplished precisely because, for the first time in history, materials are being made to measure : designed for particular applications, rather than discovered in nature or by haphazard experimentation. Now scientists literally put new materials together on the drawing board in the same way that a blueprint is specified for a house or an electronic circuit. But the designers are working not with skylights and alcoves, not with transistors and capacitors, but with molecules and atoms. This book is written in the same engaging manner as Ball's popular book on chemistry, Designing the Molecular World, and it links insights from chemistry, biology, and physics with those from engineering as it outlines the various areas in which new materials will transform our lives in the twenty-first century. The chapters provide vignettes from a broad range of selected areas of materials science and can be read as separate essays. The subjects include photonic materials, materials for information storage, smart materials, biomaterials, biomedical materials, materials for clean energy, porous materials, diamond and hard materials, new polymers, and surfaces and interfaces.

Designing the Molecular World Chemistry at the Frontier

Designing the Molecular World Chemistry at the Frontier

Author: Philip Ball Format: Paperback Release Date: 11/11/1996

Some of the most exciting scientific developments in recent years have come not from theoretical physicists, astronomers, or molecular biologists but instead from the chemistry lab. Chemists have created superconducting ceramics for brain scanners, designed liquid crystal flat screens for televisions and watch displays, and made fabrics that change color while you wear them. They have fashioned metals from plastics, drugs from crude oil, and have pinpointed the chemical pollutants affecting our atmosphere and are now searching for remedies for the imperiled planet. Philip Ball, an editor for the prestigious magazine Nature, lets the lay reader into the world of modern chemistry. Here, for example, chemists find new uses for the improbable buckminsterfullerene molecules--60-atom carbon soccerballs, dubbed buckyballs --which seem to have applications for everything from lubrication to medicine to electronics. The book is not intended as an introduction to chemistry, but as an accessible survey of recent developments throughout many of the major fields allied with chemistry: from research in traditional areas such as crystallography and spectroscopy to entirely new fields of study such as molecular electronics, artificial enzymes, and smart polymer gels. Ball's grand tour along the leading edge of scientific discovery will appeal to all curious readers, with or without any scientific training, to chemistry students looking for future careers, and to practicing chemical researchers looking for information on other specialties within their discipline.

Author Info

Author's Website

http://www.philipball.co.uk

Author's Facebook

Find Philip Ball on Facebook

Twitter Updates

If this is your author page then you can share your Twitter updates with your readers right here on LoveReading

Find out more