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Graham Farmelo is Senior Research Fellow at the Science Museum, London, and Adjunct Professor of Physics at Northeastern University, Boston, USA. He edited the best-selling It Must be Beautiful: Great Equations of Modern Science in 2002. His biography of Paul Dirac, The Strangest Man, won the 2009 Costa Biography Prize and the 2010 Los Angeles Times Science Book Prize.
Author photo © Paul Stuart
Churchill's Bomb reveals a new aspect of the great Prime Minister's life, so far completely neglected by historians: his relations with his nuclear scientists, and his management of Britain's policy on atomic weapons. Churchill was far more interested in science than he appeared. He made brave efforts to understand the exciting and sinister new world opened up by quantum physics in the 1920s and 30s, and wrote repeatedly about the coming of unimaginably dangerous new explosives. Britain then was the world leader in nuclear research. But when the awful possibility of actually building an atomic bomb raised its head, Churchill made crucial errors that ensured Britain's exclusion from the American-led project to build the bomb. In this original and controversial book, award-winning biographer Graham Farmelo shows a new and less flattering side to the great war leader.
The world would have been a very different place if Churchill had changed his approach to the nuclear challenge. As Graham Farmelo makes clear, there were too many personal whims, reliance on dubious advice and the shoring up of what turned out to be a hollow reed, the US/British alliance. The story of the post-war period and the Cold War is a complex one – here it has been rendered understandable – a revelatory history of science and politics. Like for Like Reading The Secret State: Preparing for the Worst 1945-2010, Peter Hennessy Most Secret: The Hidden History of Orford Ness, Paddy Heazell
Winner of the Costa Biography Award 2009. Costa Book Awards 2009 Judges' comment: "Moving, funny, sad and intensely readable, this is a fascinating insight into the psychology of genius."
A groundbreaking exploration of how the interplay of physics and mathematics has enriched our understanding of the universe - essential reading for anyone who wants to grasp how physicists are attempting, in Stephen Hawking's words, to 'know the mind of God'. One of the great mysteries of science is that underlying all the complexities of the universe is a harmonious order, whose existence Einstein described as 'a miracle'. No less miraculous, the fundamental laws of the universe can be written in the language of advanced mathematics. Searching for these laws, physicists have found themselves developing ambitious mathematical ideas without experiment as their guide. In The Universe Speaks in Numbers, Graham Farmelo demonstrates how today's greatest scientific minds are working in a tradition that dates back to Newton. He takes us on an adventure from the Enlightenment, through the breakthroughs of Einstein and Dirac, to the contemporary physicists and mathematicians who are shedding fascinating light on each other's disciplines. As Farmelo shows, this blossoming relationship between mathematics and physics is responsible for huge, redefining advances in our understanding of reality, space and time. Always lively, vivid and authoritative, Farmelo guides the reader through the most thrilling and controversial developments in contemporary thought. LISTEN TO THE ACCOMPANYING PODCAST featuring interviews with leading scientists at www.grahamfarmelo.com 'A superbly written, riveting book. In elegant prose, and using virtually no equations, Farmelo describes the ongoing quest of great thinkers to understand the bedrock nature of reality' Martin Rees, Astronomer Royal, Emeritus Professor of Cosmology and Astrophysics at the University of Cambridge 'I am overcome with admiration for this book's range and profundity ... An amazing achievement' Michael Frayn, award-winning writer of Copenhagen 'Masterful ... a riveting account of one of the greatest stories of our time' Nima Arkani-Hamed, Professor at the Institute of Advanced Study, Princeton
How math helps us solve the universe's deepest mysteries One of the great insights of science is that the universe has an underlying order. The supreme goal of physicists is to understand this order through laws that describe the behavior of the most basic particles and the forces between them. For centuries, we have searched for these laws by studying the results of experiments. Since the 1970s, however, experiments at the world's most powerful atom-smashers have offered few new clues. So some of the world's leading physicists have looked to a different source of insight: modern mathematics. These physicists are sometimes accused of doing 'fairy-tale physics', unrelated to the real world. But in The Universe Speaks in Numbers, award-winning science writer and biographer Farmelo argues that the physics they are doing is based squarely on the well-established principles of quantum theory and relativity, and part of a tradition dating back to Isaac Newton. With unprecedented access to some of the world's greatest scientific minds, Farmelo offers a vivid, behind-the-scenes account of the blossoming relationship between mathematics and physics and the research that could revolutionize our understanding of reality. A masterful account of the some of the most groundbreaking ideas in physics in the past four decades. The Universe Speaks in Numbers is essential reading for anyone interested in the quest to discover the fundamental laws of nature.
Perhaps no scientific breakthrough has shaped the course of human history as much as the harnessing of the atom. Yet the twentieth century might have turned out entirely differently had this powerful technology stayed under the control of Great Britain, whose scientists spearheaded the Allies nuclear arms program at the outset of World War II. As award-winning science historian Graham Farmelo reveals in Churchills Bomb, Britains supposedly visionary leader remained unconvinced of the potentially earth-shattering implications of his physicists research. Churchill ultimately shared Britains nuclear secrets withand ceded its initiative toAmerica, whose successful development and deployment of an atomic bomb placed the United States in a position of supreme power at the dawn of the Nuclear Age.A groundbreaking investigation of the twentieth centurys most important scientific discovery, Churchills Bomb reveals the secret history of the weapon that transformed modern geopolitics.
Perhaps no scientific development has shaped the course of modern history as much as the harnessing of nuclear energy. Yet the twentieth century might have turned out differently had greater influence over this technology been exercised by Great Britain, whose scientists were at the forefront of research into nuclear weapons at the beginning of World War II. As award-winning biographer and science writer Graham Farmelo describes in Churchill's Bomb, the British set out to investigate the possibility of building nuclear weapons before their American colleagues. But when scientists in Britain first discovered a way to build an atomic bomb, Prime Minister Winston Churchill did not make the most of his country's lead and was slow to realize the bomb's strategic implications. This was odd-he prided himself on recognizing the military potential of new science and, in the 1920s and 1930s, had repeatedly pointed out that nuclear weapons would likely be developed soon. In developing the bomb, however, he marginalized some of his country's most brilliant scientists, choosing to rely mainly on the counsel of his friend Frederick Lindemann, an Oxford physicist with often wayward judgment. Churchill also failed to capitalize on Franklin Roosevelt's generous offer to work jointly on the bomb and ultimately ceded Britain's initiative to the Americans, whose successful development and deployment of the bomb placed the United States in a position of supreme power at the dawn of the nuclear age. After the war, President Truman and his administration refused to acknowledge a secret cooperation agreement forged by Churchill and Roosevelt and froze Britain out of nuclear development, leaving Britain to make its own way. Dismayed, Churchill worked to restore the relationship. Churchill came to be terrified by the possibility of thermonuclear war and emerged as a pioneer of detente in the early stages of the Cold War. Contrasting Churchill's often inattentive leadership with Franklin Roosevelt's decisiveness, Churchill's Bomb reveals the secret history of the weapon that transformed modern geopolitics.
'A monumental achievement - one of the great scientific biographies.' Michael Frayn The Strangest Man is the Costa Biography Award-winning account of Paul Dirac, the famous physicist sometimes called the British Einstein. He was one of the leading pioneers of the greatest revolution in twentieth-century science: quantum mechanics. The youngest theoretician ever to win the Nobel Prize for Physics, he was also pathologically reticent, strangely literal-minded and legendarily unable to communicate or empathize. Through his greatest period of productivity, his postcards home contained only remarks about the weather. Based on a previously undiscovered archive of family papers, Graham Farmelo celebrates Dirac's massive scientific achievement while drawing a compassionate portrait of his life and work. Farmelo shows a man who, while hopelessly socially inept, could manage to love and sustain close friendship. The Strangest Man is an extraordinary and moving human story, as well as a study of one of the most exciting times in scientific history. 'A wonderful book . . . Moving, sometimes comic, sometimes infinitely sad, and goes to the roots of what we mean by truth in science.' Lord Waldegrave, Daily Telegraph
Paul Dirac was among the great scientific geniuses of the modern age. One of the discoverers of quantum mechanics, the most revolutionary theory of the past century, his contributions had a unique insight, eloquence, clarity, and mathematical power. His prediction of antimatter was one of the greatest triumphs in the history of physics. One of Einstein's most admired colleagues, Dirac was in 1933 the youngest theoretician ever to win the Nobel Prize in physics.Dirac's personality is legendary. He was an extraordinarily reserved loner, relentlessly literal-minded and appeared to have no empathy with most people. Yet he was a family man and was intensely loyal to his friends. His tastes in the arts ranged from Beethoven to Cher, from Rembrandt to Mickey Mouse.Based on previously undiscovered archives, The Strangest Man reveals the many facets of Dirac's brilliantly original mind. A compelling human story, The Strangest Man also depicts a spectacularly exciting era in scientific history.
The exact sciences have an immense weight and influence in our culture. At the heart of their effectiveness lies the mathematical equation. The difficult form of the great equations - particularly those of modern physics - has often acted as an obstacle to any understanding and they have come to embody the mystery and terror of modern science. This volume brings together well-known scientists, historians and writers about science as each seeks to unpack an equation and explain how it was arrived at, what it can do and what remains to be understood about it. The contributors include Roger Penrose, John Maynard Smith, Arthur Miller, Steven Weinberg and Oliver Morton.