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"Thirty Years That Shook Physics" by George Gamow

A historically-rich title from one of the greatest science writers of all time.

Another excellent book from author Gamow himself, this time talking about the most important thirty years that brought physics into a realm very few can understand because of its underlying properties: the quantum world. Learning and studying at the level of atoms and smaller particles shows and tells you how complex our world, and our Universe, is. These atoms don't just "sit" there only to be analyzed, yet their behavior can trip up even the best physicists alive.

This simple book tells the story, and some historical notes, development and their included theories, of the folks who made Quantum Mechanics/Physics an area in Physics open and welcome for study and research. Being this was originally released in 1966, technological advancements were still just getting off ground, so physicists had to use the instruments and measurements they had available to them. Regardless, the developments, ideas and theories these fine people have came up with were not without debate, proofs, tests and, on occasion, rejection. Quantum Physics may sound impossible, but we need it to define what this place really is, and how it works. (What about why it works the way it is? That's going into very deep territory, and will be discussed in a near future.)

What I like, again, are the illustrations of the physicists presented and drawn on the very beginning of the chapters. My favorite happens to be the nonchalant, unassuming grin of physicist Werner Heisenberg, compared to the other, cold-faced, intellectually-occupied physicists with modest to no grin. I really don't blame Mr. Heisenberg for smiling like that for the camera as he's got every reason to do so. Once you read about Albert Einstein's take in challenging Quantum Theory, he ends up back at the very beginning in tackling Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle. That's right: even a physicist, whose name is synonymous with "genius," has had his mind boggled challenging against such theory. If we translated that to modern-day language, Heisenberg would likely say to Einstein, "Yo, why you gotta hate on my principle, bro?" (Thank goodness physicists don't talk like that, unless they're being funny, of course.)

Other than that, the stuff written is near similar to Gamow's other book The Great Physicists From Galileo to Einstein, so there isn't too much you're missing out on. This book strictly focuses on the Quantum and its concept and development of the theory.

A nice, short book that still is neat to look back and read again. That includes the rare photographs and Bohr's play written and only available in this book.

Highly recommended!





  • An excellent book for further learning under the physical sciences.
  • Lots of history and events that took place during those years.
  • Written gently and accessible to those wanting to explore the subject.
  • A little too rich on the history part.
95% (A)
Fan Rating
Title Thirty Years That Shook Physics: The Story of Quantum Theory
Author(s) George Gamow
Description In 1900, German physicist Max Planck postulated that light, or radiant energy can exist only in the form of discrete packages or quanta. This profound insight, along with Einstein's equally momentous theories of relativity, completely revolutionized man's view of matter, energy, and the nature of physics itself.

In this lucid layman's introduction to quantum theory, an eminent physicist and noted popularizer of science traces the development of quantum theory from the turn of the century to about 1930—from Planck's seminal concept (still developing) to anti-particles, mesons and Enrico Fermi's nuclear research. Gamow was not just a spectator at the theoretical breakthroughs which fundamentally altered our view of the universe, he was an active participant who made important contributions of his own. This "insider's" vantage point lends special validity to his careful, accessible explanations of Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle, Niels Bohr's model of the atom, the pilot waves of Louis de Broglie and other path-breaking ideas.

In addition, Gamow recounts a wealth of revealing personal anecdotes which give a warm human dimension to many giants of 20th-century physics. He ends the book with the Blegdamsvej Faust, a delightful play written in 1932 by Niels Bohr's students and colleague to satirize the epochal developments that were revolutionizing physics. This celebrated play is available only in this volume.

Written in a clear, lively style, and enhanced by 12 photographs (including candid shots of Rutherford, Bohr, Pauli, Heisenberg, Fermi and other notables), Thirty Years that Shook Physics offers both scientists and laymen a highly readable introduction to the brilliant conceptions that helped unlock many secrets of energy and matter and laid the groundwork for future discoveries.
ISBN 978-0-486-24895-0
Book Dimensions Width: 5.88″ (5 7/8″)
Height: 8.5″ (8½″)
Depth: 0.56″ (916;″)
Page Count 254
Contents Biographical Preface, Preface, Introduction, M. Planck and Light Quanta, N. Bohr and Quantum Orbits, W. Pauli and the Exclusion Principle, L. de Broglie and Pilot Waves, W. Heisenberg and the Uncertainty Principle, P. A. M. and Anti-Particles, E. Fermi and Particle Transformations, H. Yukawa and Mesons, Men At Work, Appendix Blegdamsvej Faust, Index
Cover Design Paul E. Kennedy
Published 1985 (originally published in 1966)
Publisher Dover Publications (www.doverpublications.com). Originally published by Doubleday & Co., New York.
Copyright © 1966 by R. Igor Gamow
Manufactured / Printed in United States of America by Courier Corporation (24895X16)
Book Format Hardcover, Paperback, Mass Market Paperback, Kindle, eBook
Quoted Reviews "Dr. Gamow, physicist and gifted writer, has sketched an intriguing portrait of the scientists and clashing ideas that made the quantum revolution . . ." — Christian Science Monitor
Best Seller's List --
Other Unabridged Dover (1985) republication of the edition published by Anchor Book, Doubleday & Co., New York, 1966.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data 1. Quantum Theory.
2. Physics—History.
I. Title.
CIP Number 88-6797
LC Control Number ????
LC Call Number QC174.12.G35  1985
DDC Call Number 530.1″2″09


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