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A Short History of Physics in the American Century (New Histories of Science, Technology, and Medicine)by David C. Cassidy
Synopses & Reviews
As the twentieth century drew to a close, computers, the Internet, and nanotechnology were central to modern American life. Yet the advances in physics underlying these applications are poorly understood and widely underappreciated by U.S. citizens today. In this concise overview, David C. Cassidy sharpens our perspective on modern physics by viewing this foundational science through the lens of America's engagement with the political events of a tumultuous century.
American physics first stirred in the 1890s-around the time x-rays and radioactivity were discovered in Germany-with the founding of graduate schools on the German model. Yet American research lagged behind the great European laboratories until highly effective domestic policies, together with the exodus of physicists from fascist countries, brought the nation into the first ranks of world research in the 1930s. The creation of the atomic bomb and radar during World War II ensured lavish government support for particle physics, along with computation, solid-state physics, and military communication. These advances facilitated space exploration and led to the global expansion of the Internet.
Well into the 1960s, physicists bolstered the United States' international status, and the nation repaid the favor through massive outlays of federal, military, and philanthropic funding. But gradually America relinquished its postwar commitment to scientific leadership, and the nation found itself struggling to maintain a competitive edge in science education and research. Today, American physicists, relying primarily on industrial funding, must compete with smaller, scrappier nations intent on writing their own brief history of physics in the twenty-first century.
Book News Annotation:
This interesting brief history of physics research in the United States in the twentieth century explores the ways in which political expediency and strategic concerns led to unprecedented levels of investment in scientific research and how, since the end of the Cold War, American science, now funded in large part by for-profit corporations, has suffered. The work discusses topics such as the influx of great European thinkers fleeing fascism and war in the early years of the century, and the critical developments in atomic weaponry and other defense related projects that spurred a century of innovation. Cassidy is a professor of natural sciences at Hofstra University. Annotation ©2011 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
As the twentieth century ended, computers, the Internet, and nanotechnology were central to modern American life. Yet the physical advances underlying these applications are poorly understood and underappreciated by U.S. citizens. In this overview, Cassidy views physics through America's engagement with the political events of a tumultuous century.
An era of sweeping cultural change in America, the postwar years saw the rise of beatniks and hippies, the birth of feminism, and the release of the first video game. It was also the era of new math. Introduced to US schools in the late 1950s and 1960s, the new math was a curricular answer to Cold War fears of American intellectual inadequacy. In the age of Sputnik and increasingly sophisticated technological systems and machines, math class came to be viewed as a crucial component of the education of intelligent, virtuous citizens who would be able to compete on a global scale.
In this history, Christopher J. Phillips examines the rise and fall of the new math as a marker of the periodand#8217;s political and social ferment. Neither the new math curriculum designers nor its diverse legions of supporters concentrated on whether the new math would improve studentsand#8217; calculation ability. Rather, they felt the new math would train children to think in the right way, instilling in students a set of mental habits that might better prepare them to be citizens of modern societyand#151;a world of complex challenges, rapid technological change, and unforeseeable futures. While Phillips grounds his argument in shifting perceptions of intellectual discipline and the underlying nature of mathematical knowledge, he also touches on long-standing debates over the place and relevance of mathematics in liberal education. And in so doing, he explores the essence of what it means to be an intelligent Americanand#151;by the numbers.
A Choice Outstanding Academic Title of 2012
About the Author
David C. Cassidy is Professor of Natural Sciences at Hofstra University.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1. Introduction: The American Subject
Chapter 2. The Subject and the State: The Origins of the New Math
Chapter 3. The Textbook
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History and Social Science » US History » 20th Century » General