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1 Beaverton Physics- General

This title in other editions

The Fly in the Cathedral

by

The Fly in the Cathedral Cover

 

Staff Pick

A revealing, absorbing, detailed account and re-creation of the most celebrated scientific experiment of its time — the splitting of the atom.
Recommended by Ryan C., Powells.com

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

Re-creating the frustrations, excitements, and obsessions of 1932, the "miracle year" of British physics, Brian Cathcart reveals in rich detail the astonishing story behind the splitting of the atom. The most celebrated scientific experiment of its time, it would lead to one of mankind's most devastating inventions?the atomic bomb.

All matter is made mostly of empty space. Each of the billions of atoms that comprise it is hollow, its true mass concentrated in a tiny nucleus that, if the atom were a cathedral, would be no bigger than a fly. Discovering its existence three quarters of a century ago was Lord Rutherford's greatest scientific achievement, but even he caught only a glimpse. Almost at the point of despair, John Cockcroft and Ernest Walton, two young researchers in a grubby basement room at the famous Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge, grappled with the challenge. Racing against their American and German counterparts — a colorful cast of Nobel Prize winners — they would change everything. With paper-and-pencil calculations, a handmade apparatus, the odd lump of plasticine, and some revolutionary physics, Cockroft and Walton raised the curtain on the atomic age.

The Fly in the Cathedral is a riveting and erudite narrative inspired by the dreams that lead the last true gentlemen scientists to the very essence of the universe: the heart of matter.

Review:

"Cathcart (Test of Greatness: Britain's Struggle for the Atom Bomb), a former reporter for Reuters, presents a superb account of the genesis of nuclear physics in the first third of the 20th century. Although the centerpiece of his story is the experiment performed on April 14, 1932, by John Cockcroft and Ernest Walton, in which an atom of lithium was split into two alpha particles (they would win a Nobel prize for this 19 years later), Cathcart fully describes the experiment's scientific and social context. Through crisp prose, interesting analogies and ample insight, he makes the basics of nuclear physics accessible while demonstrating the passion scientists have for their work. Cockcroft and Walton both worked under Nobel laureate Ernest Rutherford at the prestigious Cavendish Laboratory at Cambridge University at a time when precious little was known about the nucleus at the center of every atom. The race to understand the inner workings of the nucleus and to split an atom into its component parts was an international one, including labs in Germany, Denmark, Russia and the United States. The great progress that was made in a short time was all the more amazing given that labs had limited budgets and virtually all equipment first had to be conceptualized and then made from scratch. Cathcart instills in the reader a sense of excitement as the nuclear age unfolds around the world. B&w illus. (Jan.) " Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)

Review:

"Cathcart tells this exhilarating story with both verve and precision" The Sunday Telegraph

Review:

"An engaging, well-researched account of nuclear physics 75 years ago....A wonderful celebration of hands-on physics back in the days before megateams presided over megabuck atom-smashers." Kirkus Reviews

Review:

"Cathcart...may lack a formal background in physics, but he has a talent for making the scientific process accessible to nonspecialists....[H]he captures the considerable suspense and exhilaration among physicists of the 20's and 30's solving some of the fundamental questions about the workings of the universe." Richard Panek, The New York Times Book Review

Book News Annotation:

Cathcart, a science writer but not himself a scientist, relates the story of how the atom was split in 1932 in terms of human dreams and human endeavor--in short, as an adventure tale that "involves people with ordinary lives and loves who worked with nothing more exotic than steel, wire, glass, oil, a few odd minerals and their own good sense." The science isn't lost in Cathcart's translation, it's simply made thrillingly accessible to anyone with an interest in how the atomic age came to be. Cathcart is a former reporter for Reuters and The Independent and the author of Test of Greatness: Britain's Struggle for the Atom Bomb.
Annotation 2004 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

Synopsis:

Re-creating the frustrations, excitements, and obsessions of 1932, the "miracle year" of British physics, Cathcart reveals in rich detail the astonishing story behind the splitting of the atom in a riveting and erudite narrative.

About the Author

A former reporter for Reuters and the Independent, Brian Cathcart is the author of: Test of Greatness: Britain's Struggle for the Atom Bomb, among other books. He lives in North London.

Product Details

ISBN:
9780374157166
Subtitle:
How a Group of Cambridge Scientists Won the International Race to Split the Atom
Author:
Cathcart, Brian
Publisher:
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Subject:
Science
Subject:
History
Subject:
Modern - 20th Century
Subject:
Nuclear Physics
Copyright:
Edition Description:
American
Publication Date:
20050112
Binding:
HC
Language:
English
Illustrations:
Y
Pages:
320
Dimensions:
9.40x6.28x1.13 in. 1.23 lbs.

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Related Subjects

Science and Mathematics » Physics » General
Science and Mathematics » Physics » Nuclear
Science and Mathematics » Physics » Popular

The Fly in the Cathedral Used Hardcover
0 stars - 0 reviews
$8.95 In Stock
Product details 320 pages Farrar Straus Giroux - English 9780374157166 Reviews:
"Staff Pick" by ,

A revealing, absorbing, detailed account and re-creation of the most celebrated scientific experiment of its time — the splitting of the atom.

"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "Cathcart (Test of Greatness: Britain's Struggle for the Atom Bomb), a former reporter for Reuters, presents a superb account of the genesis of nuclear physics in the first third of the 20th century. Although the centerpiece of his story is the experiment performed on April 14, 1932, by John Cockcroft and Ernest Walton, in which an atom of lithium was split into two alpha particles (they would win a Nobel prize for this 19 years later), Cathcart fully describes the experiment's scientific and social context. Through crisp prose, interesting analogies and ample insight, he makes the basics of nuclear physics accessible while demonstrating the passion scientists have for their work. Cockcroft and Walton both worked under Nobel laureate Ernest Rutherford at the prestigious Cavendish Laboratory at Cambridge University at a time when precious little was known about the nucleus at the center of every atom. The race to understand the inner workings of the nucleus and to split an atom into its component parts was an international one, including labs in Germany, Denmark, Russia and the United States. The great progress that was made in a short time was all the more amazing given that labs had limited budgets and virtually all equipment first had to be conceptualized and then made from scratch. Cathcart instills in the reader a sense of excitement as the nuclear age unfolds around the world. B&w illus. (Jan.) " Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Review" by , "Cathcart tells this exhilarating story with both verve and precision"
"Review" by , "An engaging, well-researched account of nuclear physics 75 years ago....A wonderful celebration of hands-on physics back in the days before megateams presided over megabuck atom-smashers."
"Review" by , "Cathcart...may lack a formal background in physics, but he has a talent for making the scientific process accessible to nonspecialists....[H]he captures the considerable suspense and exhilaration among physicists of the 20's and 30's solving some of the fundamental questions about the workings of the universe."
"Synopsis" by , Re-creating the frustrations, excitements, and obsessions of 1932, the "miracle year" of British physics, Cathcart reveals in rich detail the astonishing story behind the splitting of the atom in a riveting and erudite narrative.
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