Why Quark Rhymes with Pork

Why Quark Rhymes with Pork : And Other Scientific Diversions

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A collection of offbeat, entertaining and primarily nontechnical essays on physics and those who practice it, from eminent theoretical physicist N. David Mermin. Bringing together for the first time all thirty of his columns published in Physics Today's Reference Frame series from 1988 to 2009, with updating commentary, this humorous and unusual volume includes thirteen other essays, many of them previously unpublished. Mermin's lively and penetrating writing illuminates a broad range of topics, from the implications of bad spelling in a major science journal, to the crises of science libraries and scientific periodicals, the folly of scientific prizes and honors, the agony of getting funding, and how to pronounce 'quark'. His witty observations and insightful anecdotes gleaned from a lifetime in science will entertain physicists at all levels, as well as anyone else interested in science or scientists at the turn of the twenty-first century.
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Product details

  • Electronic book text
  • Cambridge University Press (Virtual Publishing)
  • Cambridge, United Kingdom
  • 1139162578
  • 9781139162579

Table of contents

Part I. Reference Frame Columns, Physics Today, 1988-2009: 1. What's wrong with this Lagrangean? April 1988; 2. What's wrong with this library? August 1988; 3. What's wrong with these prizes? January 1989; 4. What's wrong with this pillow? April 1989; 5. What's wrong with this prose? May 1989; 6. What's wrong with these equations? October 1989; 7. What's wrong with these elements of reality? June 1990; 8. What's wrong with these reviews? August 1990; 9. What's wrong with those epochs? November 1990; 10. Publishing in computopia, May 1991; 11. What's wrong with those grants, June 1991; 12. What's wrong in computopia, April 1992; 13. What's wrong with those talks? November 1992; 14. Two lectures on the wave-particle duality, January 1993; 15. A quarrel we can settle, December 1993; 16. What's wrong with this temptation, June 1994; 17. What's wrong with this sustaining myth, March 1996; 18. The golemization of relativity, April 1996; 19. Diary of a Nobel guest, March 1997; 20. What's wrong with this reading, October 1997; 21. How not to create tigers, August 1999; 22. What's wrong with this elegance? March 2000; 23. The contemplation of quantum computation, July 2000; 24. What's wrong with these questions? February 2001; 25. What's wrong with this quantum world? February 2004; 26. Could Feynman have said this? May 2004; 27. My life with Einstein, December 2005; 28. What has quantum mechanics to do with factoring? April 2007; 29. Some curious facts about quantum factoring, October 2007; 30. What's bad about this habit, May 2009; Part II. Shedding Bad Habits: 31. Fixing the shifty split, Physics Today, July 2012; 32. What I think about Now, Physics Today, March 2014; 33. Why QBism is not the Copenhagen interpretation, lecture, Vienna, June 2014; Part III. More from Professor Mozart: 34. What's wrong with this book? Unpublished, 1992; 35. What's wrong with these stanzas? Physics Today, July 2007; Part IV. More to be said: 36. The complete diary of a Nobel guest, unpublished, 1996; 37. Elegance in physics, unpublished lecture, Minneapolis, 1999; 38. Questions for 2105, unpublished lecture, Zurich, 2005; Part V. Some People I've Known: 39. My life with Fisher, lecture, Rutgers University, 2001; 40. My life with Kohn, 2003, updated 2013; 41. My life with Wilson, lecture, Cornell University, 2014; 42. My life with Peierls, unpublished lecture, Santa Barbara, 1997; Part VI. Summing It Up: 43. Writing physics, lecture, Cornell University, 1999.
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Review quote

'This delightful collection of essays should be on the bookshelf of anyone who cares about the human side of physics; it kept me amply entertained for the whole of a transatlantic air trip. I particularly like Mermin's discussion of the 'science wars', where his analysis is orders of magnitude more sophisticated than those of most of the combatants on either side.' Anthony Leggett, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and Nobel Laureate in Physics 'N. David Mermin offers that rare combination of deeply insightful essays that are also thoroughly entertaining. His writings are among the clearest and most illuminating reflections on the content and the practice of physics, and this collection is simply a joy to read.' Brian Greene, Columbia University '[This book] is a great read. This work covers topics of interest to physicists between 1988 and 2014. Discourse ranges from composing and publishing scientific papers to questions regarding quantum mechanics, wave-particle duality, relativity, and many other topics. Though a few columns are technical (and more pertinent for advanced readers), most of the presented features are very readable and will interest many individuals. The last few chapters present essays on information the author has discovered from various physicists throughout his life. This is a great book for scientific undergraduate or graduate students interested in pursuing careers in academic research. Because of the rise of the internet, the essays about creating and publishing research papers may not be as accurate today, but some of the provided information is still relevant and will help demonstrate how to write strong scientific papers.' D. B. Mason, Choice [Mermin's] essays are about: quantum mechanics, academia, condensed-matter physics, writing in general, and obsessive punctuation in particular. ... Why do we submit papers to journals for peer review instead of reviewing them independently ...? Have we learned anything profound in the past half century? ... Why is the sociology of science so utterly disconnected from the practice of science? Does anybody actually read Physical Review Letters? ... The most recent essays in the book mostly focus on the quantum world and just what is and isn't wrong with it. They include the most insightful - and yet brief - exposition of quantum computing that I have come across. ... having read it, I think you should read it too, because I'd rather not discuss the same questions 20 years from now. And the only correct way to pronounce quark is, of course, the German way, as 'qvark.' Sabine Hossenfelder, Physics Today 'The real strength of Mermin's book lies in his descriptions of his interactions with several major figures in condensed-matter physics: Daniel Fischer, Walter Kohn, Ken Wilson, and Sir Rudolph Peierls. These chapters are gems, and they are well worth the price of the book for their clear and insightful descriptions of truly excellent physicists at work.' John G. Cramer, American Journal of Physics
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