Universal Foam: From Cappuccino to the Cosmos

Sidney Perkowitz, Author Walker & Company $24 (194p) ISBN 978-0-8027-1357-5
In a book that travels from the earthly delights of cappuccino to the frothy structure of the universe, Emory University physics professor Perkowitz (Empire of Light) shares his ""foamy obsession."" Deftly blending theoretical discussion with real-world examples, Perkowitz introduces readers to foams, both liquid (shaving cream, whitecaps, beer) and solid (cork, pumice and a nearly insubstantial high-tech material called aerogel). The book is a something-for-everyone tour led by a guide who sees voids and bubbles wherever he looks. After introducing the basics of making and observing this surprising, common phenomenon, the book moves to a compendium of example-rich chapters on edible foams, practical foams, living foams, earthly foams and cosmic foams. Though Perkowitz wrote most of the book at a favorite cappuccino spot, he carries readers to volcanic eruptions and foaming seas, into scientific laboratories and on a comet-sampling mission. He ends by tying together the infinitesimal with the infinite. Cosmologists speculate that the Big Bang began as a bubble, a quantum fluctuation that emerged from the primordial vacuum and inflated, creating space and time. Billions of years later, the signature of that fluctuation remains in the structure of the universe, which was recently discovered to be foamlike: galaxies lie on a gossamer network of bubbles with great expanses of nothingness inside. Some readers may tire of Perkowitz's compulsion to see everything through foam-covered glasses. Most, however, will forgive his fixation on froth, for his idiosyncratic vision enables them to discover substance in the most tenuous forms that nature or humans can create. (June)
Reviewed on: 05/29/2000
Release date: 06/01/2000
Paperback - 208 pages - 978-0-385-72070-0
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