Conjuring the Universe: The Origins of the Laws of Nature

ISBN : 9780198813378

Peter Atkins
208 Pages
135 x 216 mm
Pub date
Mar 2018
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  • Considers the profound question of the origin of the laws that structure our Universe
  • Exposes the beautiful simplicity at the heart of the processes of our complicated universe
  • Looks at conservation laws, and lesser laws, exploring the basic ideas of classical and quantum mechanics and the nature of light, time, and temperature
  • Reflects on why mathematics, the language in which these laws of nature are expressed, should work

The marvellous complexity of the Universe emerges from several deep laws and a handful of fundamental constants that fix its shape, scale, and destiny. There is a deep structure to the world which at the same time is simple, elegant, and beautiful. Where did these laws and these constants come from? And why are the laws so fruitful when written in the language of mathematics?
Peter Atkins considers the minimum effort needed to equip the Universe with its laws and its constants. He explores the origin of the conservation of energy, of electromagnetism, of classical and quantum mechanics, and of thermodynamics, showing how all these laws spring from deep symmetries. The revolutionary result is a short but immensely rich weaving together of the fundamental ideas of physics. With his characteristic wit, erudition, and economy, Atkins sketches out how the laws of Nature can spring from very little. Or arguably from nothing at all.


1: Back to eternity
2: Much ado about nothing
3: Anarchy rules
4: The heat of the moment
5: Beyond anacrhy
6: The creative power of ignorance
7: The charge of the light brigade
8: Measure for measure
9: The cry from the depths

About the author: 

Peter Atkins is a fellow of Lincoln College in the University of Oxford and the author of about seventy books for students and a general audience. His texts are market leaders around the globe. A frequent lecturer in the United States and throughout the world, he has held visiting professorships in France, Israel, Japan, China, and New Zealand. He was the founding chairman of the Committee on Chemistry Education of the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry and was a member of IUPAC's Physical and Biophysical Chemistry Division. Peter was the 2016 recipient of the American Chemical Society's Grady-Stack Award for science journalism.

"Atkins writes in a clear and humorous manner for the lay reader. Dont skip the notes at the end of the book. Some real gems are hidden there ... Recommended for undergraduates and general readers." - CHOICE

"This short volume is essential reading for anyone who balks at the mention of Schrödinger, equations and cats included... Atkins sweeps aside the mathematical mystique with his characteristic wit." - Zoe Hackett, Chemistry World

"Tour de force... this is a compact 168 pages that delivers splendidly on the question of where the natural laws came from." - Brian Clegg, popularscience.com

"It's rare to find a study of physical laws that is also a bravura display of rarefied humour and experiential depth; but such is this gem by chemist Peter Atkins." - Barbara Kiser, Nature

"I enjoyed reading the book, not only for the main themes but also for several asides on history, etymology, and so on." - Phillip Helbig, Observatory Magazine

"Atkins writes in a charming, even chummy way. He understands our confusion and leads us onwards with the promise of great insights: how the very laws of physics came to be ... Conjuring the Universe is a clear example of [Atkins's] extraordinary erudition and flair." - Robyn Williams, Australian Book Review

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