A Short History of Physics in the American Century– Review

A Short History of Physics in the American Century by David C. Cassidy (read May 27, 2016)

Unlike most of the books that I have read recently, this one was for a class. It was pretty short (169 pages of content, with a 30-page appendix), but I liked how it was very informative to a general audience about how our society and war, and how America’s situation in the 20th century influenced science—in general and obviously physics in particular. Due to the different institutions, differing opinions on types of science, and opportunities for funding that occurred during that time, the book also discussed how America became one of the leading countries for scientific investigation very rapidly.

It was interesting to see how world issues, politics, and social norms impacted this area of research. I was also inspired as a young college student to see what people can do and how innovative people can be, especially when it seems like there’s not a lot more to learn or you’ve hit a dead end. There are always more things to learn and more things to investigate.

I would criticize the book of its use of jargon and flippant use of scientific terminology. These things are explained more in the appendix, various words and concepts. One would probably assume that whoever is reading this book would be interested in the subject, and maybe have a little bit of knowledge in the subject. Given the fact that my class was reading this for a writing class, and there were music majors in there who—although they are very smart and knew some of what was going on—it was less impactful for than others. A bit more explanation on some of the different concepts that maybe could’ve made a huge difference.

I found this book to be very interesting and informative of the history of physics, which is more than I would’ve expected. If you don’t know a whole lot about scientific history and some different physical concepts in general, it may read a little dry or confusing at points, because entire pages may yield little elaboration, but still a good read, especially if you’re the least bit interested in history or science.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5


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