New Release Books by Philip Ball

Philip Ball is the author of The Elements (2021), Made to Measure (2021), The Modern Myths (2021), The Beauty of Chemistry (2021), Beyond Weird (2020) and other 113 books.

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The Elements

release date: Jan 01, 2021
The Elements
The classical elements -- The antique metals -- Alchemical elements -- The new metals -- Chemistry golden age -- Electrical discoveries -- The radiant age -- The nuclear age.

Made to Measure

release date: Sep 14, 2021
Made to Measure
Made to Measure introduces a general audience to one of today''s most exciting areas of scientific research: materials science. Philip Ball describes how scientists are currently inventing thousands of new materials, ranging from synthetic skin, blood, and bone to substances that repair themselves and adapt to their environment, that swell and flex like muscles, that repel any ink or paint, and that capture and store the energy of the Sun. He shows how all this is being accomplished precisely because, for the first time in history, materials are being "made to measure": designed for particular applications, rather than discovered in nature or by haphazard experimentation. Now scientists literally put new materials together on the drawing board in the same way that a blueprint is specified for a house or an electronic circuit. But the designers are working not with skylights and alcoves, not with transistors and capacitors, but with molecules and atoms. This book is written in the same engaging manner as Ball''s popular book on chemistry, Designing the Molecular World, and it links insights from chemistry, biology, and physics with those from engineering as it outlines the various areas in which new materials will transform our lives in the twenty-first century. The chapters provide vignettes from a broad range of selected areas of materials science and can be read as separate essays. The subjects include photonic materials, materials for information storage, smart materials, biomaterials, biomedical materials, materials for clean energy, porous materials, diamond and hard materials, new polymers, and surfaces and interfaces.

The Modern Myths

release date: May 21, 2021
The Modern Myths
"Some stories keep returning, each time reimagined to fit the occasion. In some cases, we know them without having read the originals, and in a few brief sentences we can sketch the essential plot points and key characters. Robinson Crusoe, Frankenstein, Dracula, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Sherlock Holmes, Batman: their stories, Philip Ball contends, are among our modern myths. Written since Crusoe was published in 1719, these modern myths truly serve the same function as the stories of Thor and Loki, Hercules and Jason, and other ancient universal myths of creation, flood, redemption, and heroism. What is that function? Why are we still making myths? Why do we need new myths? And which are they? By posing these questions and seeking answers, The Modern Myths makes bold claims about the nature of storytelling, the condition of modernity, and the categories of literature. The themes and meanings of modern myths are decided collectively and dynamically and shift with the times. They escape the intentions of their authors because they inadvertently touch on issues that trouble and obsess us and become vehicles for exploring them. The Modern Myths takes a wide-ranging journey--discovering unexpected truths behind familiar tales, excavating strange and colorful histories, and finding hidden connections between them. The result is an exploration of how stories are created and how they evolve. And from this, Ball crafts provocative conclusions about the purposes and values of literature today and about the roles that new media and technology will play in creating the myths of tomorrow"--

The Beauty of Chemistry

release date: May 11, 2021
The Beauty of Chemistry
Images and text capture the astonishing beauty of the chemical processes that create snowflakes, bubbles, flames, and other wonders of nature. Chemistry is not just about microscopic atoms doing inscrutable things; it is the process that makes flowers and galaxies. We rely on it for bread-baking, vegetable-growing, and producing the materials of daily life. In stunning images and illuminating text, this book captures chemistry as it unfolds. Using such techniques as microphotography, time-lapse photography, and infrared thermal imaging, The Beauty of Chemistry shows us how chemistry underpins the formation of snowflakes, the science of champagne, the colors of flowers, and other wonders of nature and technology. We see the marvelous configurations of chemical gardens; the amazing transformations of evaporation, distillation, and precipitation; heat made visible; and more.

Beyond Weird

release date: Oct 09, 2020
Beyond Weird
“Anyone who is not shocked by quantum theory has not understood it.” Since Niels Bohr said this many years ago, quantum mechanics has only been getting more shocking. We now realize that it’s not really telling us that “weird” things happen out of sight, on the tiniest level, in the atomic world: rather, everything is quantum. But if quantum mechanics is correct, what seems obvious and right in our everyday world is built on foundations that don’t seem obvious or right at all—or even possible. An exhilarating tour of the contemporary quantum landscape, Beyond Weird is a book about what quantum physics really means—and what it doesn’t. Science writer Philip Ball offers an up-to-date, accessible account of the quest to come to grips with the most fundamental theory of physical reality, and to explain how its counterintuitive principles underpin the world we experience. Over the past decade it has become clear that quantum physics is less a theory about particles and waves, uncertainty and fuzziness, than a theory about information and knowledge—about what can be known, and how we can know it. Discoveries and experiments over the past few decades have called into question the meanings and limits of space and time, cause and effect, and, ultimately, of knowledge itself. The quantum world Ball shows us isn’t a different world. It is our world, and if anything deserves to be called “weird,” it’s us.

How to Grow a Human

release date: Oct 16, 2019
How to Grow a Human
Two summers ago, scientists removed a tiny piece of flesh from Philip Ball’s arm and turned it into a rudimentary “mini-brain.” The skin cells, removed from his body, did not die but were instead transformed into nerve cells that independently arranged themselves into a dense network and communicated with each other, exchanging the raw signals of thought. This was life—but whose? In his most mind-bending book yet, Ball makes that disconcerting question the focus of a tour through what scientists can now do in cell biology and tissue culture. He shows how these technologies could lead to tailor-made replacement organs for when ours fail, to new medical advances for repairing damage and assisting conception, and to new ways of “growing a human.” For example, it might prove possible to turn skin cells not into neurons but into eggs and sperm, or even to turn oneself into the constituent cells of embryos. Such methods would also create new options for gene editing, with all the attendant moral dilemmas. Ball argues that such advances can therefore never be about “just the science,” because they come already surrounded by a host of social narratives, preconceptions, and prejudices. But beyond even that, these developments raise questions about identity and self, birth and death, and force us to ask how mutable the human body really is—and what forms it might take in years to come.

A Waste of Blood and Treasure

release date: Jun 30, 2017
A Waste of Blood and Treasure
With the Netherlands overrun by French Republican forces, the British and Russian governments sent an allied army of 48,000 men under the Duke of York to liberate the country and restore the House of Orange.The largest operation mounted by Pitt''s ministry during the French Revolutionary Wars, the amphibious expedition involved the first ever direct cooperation between British and Russian forces, embroiled the armies in five full-scale battles, and secured the capture of the Dutch fleet. As Britain''s first major continental involvement since 1795, it played a part in shaping the early careers of many famous military commanders of the Napoleonic Wars. In the end, however, the campaign failed spectacularly. Its inglorious end provoked parliamentary outrage and led to diplomatic rupture between Britain and Russia. The Duke of York never commanded an army in the field again.This book examines British, French, Dutch and Russian sources to reveal a fascinating tale of intrigue, diplomatic skullduggery and daring action. Spies, politicians, sailors and soldiers all play a part in the exciting story of an expedition that made (and broke) reputations and tested alliances. It recounts in lavish detail the series of battles fought to liberate a people who showed little interest in being saved and explores the story behind the triumphs and failures of this forgotten campaign.

The Water Kingdom

release date: May 05, 2017
The Water Kingdom
From the Yangtze to the Yellow River, China is traversed by great waterways, which have defined its politics and ways of life for centuries. Water has been so integral to China’s culture, economy, and growth and development that it provides a window on the whole sweep of Chinese history. In The Water Kingdom, renowned writer Philip Ball opens that window to offer an epic and powerful new way of thinking about Chinese civilization. Water, Ball shows, is a key that unlocks much of Chinese culture. In The Water Kingdom, he takes us on a grand journey through China’s past and present, showing how the complexity and energy of the country and its history repeatedly come back to the challenges, opportunities, and inspiration provided by the waterways. Drawing on stories from travelers and explorers, poets and painters, bureaucrats and activists, all of whom have been influenced by an environment shaped and permeated by water, Ball explores how the ubiquitous relationship of the Chinese people to water has made it an enduring metaphor for philosophical thought and artistic expression. From the Han emperors to Mao, the ability to manage the waters ― to provide irrigation and defend against floods ― was a barometer of political legitimacy, often resulting in engineering works on a gigantic scale. It is a struggle that continues today, as the strain of economic growth on water resources may be the greatest threat to China’s future. The Water Kingdom offers an unusual and fascinating history, uncovering just how much of China’s art, politics, and outlook have been defined by the links between humanity and nature.

Patterns in Nature

release date: Apr 05, 2016
Patterns in Nature
The acclaimed science writer “curates a visually striking, riotously colorful photographic display…of physical patterns in the natural world” (Publishers Weekly, starred review). Though at first glance the natural world may appear overwhelming in its diversity and complexity, there are regularities running through it, from the hexagons of a honeycomb to the spirals of a seashell and the branching veins of a leaf. Revealing the order at the foundation of the seemingly chaotic natural world, Patterns in Nature explores not only the math and science but also the beauty and artistry behind nature’s awe-inspiring designs. Unlike the patterns we create, natural patterns are formed spontaneously from the forces that act in the physical world. Very often the same types of pattern and form—such as spirals, stripes, branches, and fractals—recur in places that seem to have nothing in common, as when the markings of a zebra mimic the ripples in windblown sand. But many of these patterns can be described using the same mathematical and physical principles, giving a surprising unity to the kaleidoscope of the natural world. Richly illustrated with 250 color photographs and anchored by accessible and insightful chapters by esteemed science writer Philip Ball, Patterns in Nature reveals the organization at work in vast and ancient forests, powerful rivers, massing clouds, and coastlines carved out by the sea. By exploring similarities such as the branches of a tree and those of a river network, this spectacular visual tour conveys the wonder, beauty, and richness of natural pattern formation.

Elegant Solutions

release date: Nov 09, 2015
Elegant Solutions
Devising and performing a scientific experiment is an art, and it is common to hear scientists talk about the ''beauty'' of an experiment. What does this mean in chemistry, the experimental science par excellence? And what are the most beautiful chemical experiments of all time? This book offers ten suggestions for where beauty might reside in experimental chemistry. In some cases the beauty lies in the clarity of conception; sometimes it is a feature of the instrumental design. But for chemistry, there can also be a unique beauty in the way atoms are put together to make new molecules, substances not known in nature. The ten experiments described here offer a window into the way that chemists think and work, and how what they do affects the rest of science and the wider world. This book aims to stimulate the reader to think anew about some of the relationships and differences between science and art, and to challenge some of the common notions about particular ''famous experiments''. Elegant Solutions: Ten Beautiful Experiments in Chemistry is accessible to all readers, including those without a scientific background and can provide an unusual point of entry into some of the basic concepts of chemistry. Phillip Ball is a renowned, prolific, award winning science writer.

H2O

release date: Apr 30, 2015
H2O
The brilliantly told and gripping story of the most familiar - yet, amazingly, still poorly understood - substance in the universe: Water. The extent to which water remains a scientific mystery is extraordinary, despite its prevalence and central importance on Earth. Whether one considers its role in biology, its place in the physical world (where it refuses to obey the usual rules of liquids) or its deceptively simple structure, there is still no complete answer to the question: what is water? Philip Ball''s book explains what, exactly, we do and do not know about the strange character of this most essential and ubiquitous of substances. H20 begins by transporting its readers back to the Big Bang and the formation of galaxies to witness the birth of water''s constituent elements: hydrogen and oxygen. It then explains how the primeval oceans were formed four billion years ago; where water is to be found on other planets; why ice floats when most solids sink; why, despite being highly corrosive, water is good for us; why there are at least fifteen kinds of ice and perhaps two kinds of liquid water; how scientists have consistently misunderstood water for centuries; and why wars have been waged over it. Philip Ball''s gloriously offbeat and intelligent book conducts us on a journey through the history of science, folklore, the wilder scientific fringes, cutting-edge physics, biology and ecology, to give a fascinating new perspective on life and the substance that sustains it. After reading this book, drinking a glass of water will never be the same again.

Invisible

release date: Apr 08, 2015
Invisible
Science is said to be on the verge of achieving the ancient dream of making objects invisible. Invisible is a biography of an idea, tied to the history of science over thelongue durée. Taking in Plato to today''s science, Ball shows us that the stories we have told about invisibility are not in fact about technical capability but about power, sex, concealment, morality, and corruption. Precisely because they refer to matters that lie beyond our senses, unseen beings and worlds have long been a repository for hopes, fears, and suppressed desires. Ideas of invisibility are, like all ideas rooted in legend, ultimately parables about our own potential and weaknesses. Invisible presents the first comprehensive survey of the roles that the idea of invisibility has played throughout time and culture. This territory takes us from medieval grimoires to cutting-edge nanotechnology, from fairy tales to telecommunications, from camouflage to early cinematography, and from beliefs about ghosts to the dawn of nuclear physics and the discovery of dark energy. Invisible reveals what our age-old fantasies about what lurks unseen, and whether we can enter that realm ourselves, truly say about us.

Neither Up Nor Down

release date: Apr 19, 2020
Neither Up Nor Down
A Military history of the 1793-95 campaign in Flanders and the Netherlands

How to Grow a Human: Adventures in Who We Are and How We Are Made

release date: May 30, 2019
How to Grow a Human: Adventures in Who We Are and How We Are Made
A cutting-edge examination of what it means to be human and to have a ''self'' in the face of new scientific developments in genetic editing, cloning and neural downloading.

Entangle

release date: Aug 07, 2019
Entangle
Black holes, dark matter, gravity, time, motion--these phenomena fascinate physicists and artists alike. Both strive to discover how they shape our world. The connection between art and science is gaining increasing significance in contemporary art.Now, the influence of physics on today''s art, design, and architecture is being more closely examined. Curated by Ariane Koek, the founder of the arts program Arts at CERN, the exhibition Entangle - Physics and the Artistic Imagination and its companion catalog present the works of thirteen contemporary artists who are inspired by physics and its investigation of natural phenomena. Besides their works, this ground-breaking publication also contains interviews with the artists and physicists who share their different ways of seeing.Featuring interviews with and works of art by Sarah Sze, Julius von Bismarck, Julian Charrière, Sou Fujumoto, Iris van Herpen, Ryoji Ikeda, William Kentridge, Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, Goshka Macuga, Davide Quayola, Solveig Settemsda, Keith Tyson, Jorinde Voigt, and Carey Young. Exhibition:16.11.2018--14.04.2019, BIldmuseet Umeå

Serving the Reich

release date: Oct 20, 2014
Serving the Reich
This historical analysis of Heisenberg, Planck, Debye, and other German physicists during WWII “is a stunning cautionary tale, well researched and told” (Choice). After World War II, most scientists in Germany maintained that they had been apolitical or actively resisted the Nazi regime, but the true story is much more complicated. In Serving the Reich, Philip Ball takes a fresh look at that controversial history, contrasting the career of Peter Debye, director of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Physics in Berlin, with those of two other leading physicists in Germany during the Third Reich: Max Planck, the elder statesman of physics, and Werner Heisenberg, who succeeded Debye as director of the institute when it became focused on the development of nuclear power and weapons. Mixing history, science, and biography, Ball offers a powerful portrait of moral choice and personal responsibility, as scientists navigated “the grey zone between complicity and resistance.” Ball’s account of the different choices these men made shows how there can be no clear-cut answers or judgement of their conduct. Yet he also demonstrates that the German scientific establishment as a whole mounted no serious resistance to the Nazis, and in many ways acted as a willing instrument of the state. Serving the Reich considers what this problematic history can tell us about the relationship between science and politics today. Ultimately, Ball argues, a determination to present science as an abstract inquiry into nature that is “above politics” can leave science and scientists dangerously compromised and vulnerable to political manipulation. A CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title Award winner

Curiosity

release date: Sep 17, 2014
Curiosity
"Looking closely at the sixteenth through eighteenth centuries, Ball vividly brings to life the age when modern science began, a time that spans the lives of Galileo and Isaac Newton. In this entertaining and illuminating account of the rise of science as we know it, Ball tells of scientists both legendary and lesser known, from Copernicus and Kepler to Robert Boyle, as well as the inventions and technologies that were inspired by curiosity itself, such as the telescope and the microscope. The so-called Scientific Revolution is often told as a story of great geniuses illuminating the world with flashes of inspiration. But Curiosity reveals a more complex story, in which the liberation--and subsequent taming--of curiosity was linked to magic, religion, literature, travel, trade, and empire. Ball also asks what has become of curiosity today: how it functions in science, how it is spun and packaged for consumption, how well it is being sustained, and how the changing shape of science influences the kinds of questions it may continue to ask"--OCLC

30-Second Quantum Theory

release date: Nov 01, 2017
30-Second Quantum Theory
The bestselling 30-Second... series takes a revolutionary approach to learning about those subjects you feel you should really understand.Each title selects a popular topic and dissects it into the 50 most significant ideas at its heart. Each idea, no matter how complex, is explained in 300 words and one picture, all digestible in 30 seconds.30-Second Quantum Theory tackles a mindbendingly mysterious area of physics, introducing the 50 most significant quantum quandaries and ideas. In a world where the quantum physics of electronics is an everyday essential and new quantum developments make headline news, you will visit Parallel Worlds, ride Wave Theory, and learn just enough to talk with certainty about Uncertainty Theory and to untangle the mysteries of quantum entanglement.

Why Society is a Complex Matter

release date: Jun 09, 2012
Why Society is a Complex Matter
Society is complicated. But this book argues that this does not place it beyond the reach of a science that can help to explain and perhaps even to predict social behaviour. As a system made up of many interacting agents – people, groups, institutions and governments, as well as physical and technological structures such as roads and computer networks – society can be regarded as a complex system. In recent years, scientists have made great progress in understanding how such complex systems operate, ranging from animal populations to earthquakes and weather. These systems show behaviours that cannot be predicted or intuited by focusing on the individual components, but which emerge spontaneously as a consequence of their interactions: they are said to be ‘self-organized’. Attempts to direct or manage such emergent properties generally reveal that ‘top-down’ approaches, which try to dictate a particular outcome, are ineffectual, and that what is needed instead is a ‘bottom-up’ approach that aims to guide self-organization towards desirable states. This book shows how some of these ideas from the science of complexity can be applied to the study and management of social phenomena, including traffic flow, economic markets, opinion formation and the growth and structure of cities. Building on these successes, the book argues that the complex-systems view of the social sciences has now matured sufficiently for it to be possible, desirable and perhaps essential to attempt a grander objective: to integrate these efforts into a unified scheme for studying, understanding and ultimately predicting what happens in the world we have made. Such a scheme would require the mobilization and collaboration of many different research communities, and would allow society and its interactions with the physical environment to be explored through realistic models and large-scale data collection and analysis. It should enable us to find new and effective solutions to major global problems such as conflict, disease, financial instability, environmental despoliation and poverty, while avoiding unintended policy consequences. It could give us the foresight to anticipate and ameliorate crises, and to begin tackling some of the most intractable problems of the twenty-first century.
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