The Atom and the Apple: Twelve Tales from Contemporary Physics
Parisian physics professor Balibar (of the École Normale Supérieure) has a fervor for life and his work that makes this look at everyday physics, its history and his own life experiences contagiously readable. Whether explaining the crystal chime of a wine glass or the ""sweet spot"" in bicycle touring, his text is eloquent, charming and rigorous, translated beautifully by Stein. Each chapter is an independent essay, examining a problem in contemporary or historical physics and showing its direct relevance to things ordinary and otherwise-the quantum properties of the kitchen table, the strange behavior of films and gels, the problems of nuclear waste, the relative predictive success of meteorologists and economists; perhaps most clever is his defense of Eve's fateful curiosity. Balibar's explanation of his own work in low temperature physics is just as interesting, as is his discussion of the Balibar clan in pre- and post-WWII. Full of ways to rethink daily activities and draw out readers' curiosity, this is an excellent, personable scientific tour.