178 episodes

Interviews with physicists and chemists about their new books

New Books in Physics and Chemistry New Books Network

    • Arts
    • 3.5 • 2 Ratings

Interviews with physicists and chemists about their new books

    Alan Lightman, "Einstein's Dreams" (Vintage, 1992)

    Alan Lightman, "Einstein's Dreams" (Vintage, 1992)

    Einstein’s Dreams (Vintage, 1992) by Alan Lightman, set in Albert Einstein’s “miracle year” of 1905, is a novel about the cultural interconnection of time, relativity and life. As the young genius creates his theory of relativity, in a series of dreams, he imagines other worlds, each with a different conceptualization of time. In one, time is circular, and people are destined to repeat triumphs and failures over and over. In another, time stands still. In yet another, time is a nightingale, trapped by a bell jar.
    Translated into over thirty languages, Einstein’s Dreams has inspired playwrights, dancers, musicians and artists around the world. In poetic vignettes, Alan Lightman explores the connections between science and art, creativity and the rhythms of life, and ultimately the fragility of human existence.
    This conversation includes Alan Lightman (MIT), Jeffrey Herlihy-Mera and Annette Martínez-Iñesta, of the Departamento de Humanidades at the Universidad de Puerto Rico-Mayagüez (UPRM), and Joshua Chaparro Mata, a UPRM graduate and doctoral student in Applied Physics at Yale. They discuss dreaming as a scientific and creative resource; the importance of Berne, Switzerland, in the thought of Einstein and Lightman; Lightman’s precise and harmonious poetics; the role of technology in contemporary life; and the course Lightman’s life, experiences and creative process.
    This is the second of two episodes about Einstein’s Dreams. The first, in Spanish, appeared on the New Books Network en español. The series is sponsored by the Lenguaje focal group at Instituto Nuevos Horizontes at UPRM, a group of scholars who consider how translanguaging ​​can provide unique dimensions to knowledge. 
    This episode and the Instituto Nuevos Horizontes at the UPRM have been supported by the Mellon Foundation. The conversation is part of the “STEM to STEAM” project of the “Cornerstone” initiative, sponsored by the Teagle Foundation, which stresses the importance of integrating humanistic perspectives in the sciences.
    Books, scholars, articles and podcasts mentioned in this conversation include:


    In Praise of Wasting Time, Alan Lightman.


    Mr g, Alan Lightman.


    Invisible Cities, Italo Calvino.


    Cities I’ve Never Lived In, Sara Majka.

    “Academic Life without a Smartphone,” Inside Higher Ed, Jeffrey Herlihy-Mera.


    The Hemingway Society Podcast.


    Carlos Alberto Peón Casas.


    Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

    • 55 min
    Pierre Sokolsky, "Clock in the Sun: How We Came to Understand Our Nearest Star" (Columbia UP, 2024)

    Pierre Sokolsky, "Clock in the Sun: How We Came to Understand Our Nearest Star" (Columbia UP, 2024)

    On the surface of the Sun, spots appear and fade in a predictable cycle, like a great clock in the sky. In medieval Russia, China, and Korea, monks and court astronomers recorded the appearance of these dark shapes, interpreting them as omens of things to come. In Western Europe, by contrast, where a cosmology originating with Aristotle prevailed, the Sun was regarded as part of the unchanging celestial realm, and it took observations through telescopes by Galileo and others to establish the reality of solar imperfections. In the nineteenth century, amateur astronomers discovered that sunspots ebb and flow about every eleven years—spurring speculation about their influence on the weather and even the stock market.
    Exploring these and many other crucial developments, Pierre Sokolsky provides a history of knowledge of the Sun through the lens of sunspots and the solar cycle. He ranges widely across cultures and throughout history, from the earliest recorded observations of sunspots in Chinese annals to satellites orbiting the Sun today, and from worship of the Sun as a deity in ancient times to present-day scientific understandings of stars and their magnetic fields. Considering how various thinkers sought to solve the puzzle of sunspots, Sokolsky sheds new light on key discoveries and the people who made them, as well as their historical and cultural contexts. Fast-paced, comprehensive, and learned, Clock in the Sun: How We Came to Understand Our Nearest Star (Columbia UP, 2024) shows readers our closest star from many new angles.
    Garima Garg is a New Delhi based journalist and author.
    Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

    • 29 min
    Siobhan Angus, "Camera Geologica: An Elemental History of Photography" (Duke UP, 2024)

    Siobhan Angus, "Camera Geologica: An Elemental History of Photography" (Duke UP, 2024)

    In Camera Geologica: An Elemental History of Photography (Duke UP, 2024) Siobhan Angus tells the history of photography through the minerals upon which the medium depends. Challenging the emphasis on immateriality in discourses on photography, Angus focuses on the inextricable links between image-making and resource extraction, revealing how the mining of bitumen, silver, platinum, iron, uranium, and rare earth elements is a precondition of photography. Through a materials-driven analysis of visual culture, she illustrates histories of colonization, labor, and environmental degradation to expose the ways in which photography is enmeshed within and enables global extractive capitalism. 
    This conversation discusses the meta-narrative and performative aspects of some of the photographs shown in the text, dives into some of the stories and examples from Ann Atkin's cyanotypes of the 1800s to Warren Cariou's contemporary bitumin prints, and asks what ethical photography looks like given the resource extraction required. 
    Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

    • 51 min
    Bernardo Kastrup, "Analytic Idealism in a Nutshell: A Straightforward Summary of the 21st Century's Only Plausible Metaphysics" (Iff Books, 2024)

    Bernardo Kastrup, "Analytic Idealism in a Nutshell: A Straightforward Summary of the 21st Century's Only Plausible Metaphysics" (Iff Books, 2024)

    Is reality more than the material? Raj Balkaran holds a fascinating interview with philosopher Bernardo Kastrup on this topic. At the vanguard of the modern renaissance of metaphysical idealism, Bernardo presents cogent argumentation that reality is essentially mental, and examines the proper place of the scientific method in this deliberation. Bernardo’s research exhibits some astonishing parallels with ancient Indic thought. 
    Bernardo Kastrup is the author of Analytic Idealism in a Nutshell: A Straightforward Summary of the 21st Century's Only Plausible Metaphysics" (Iff Books, 2024). About the book:
    As the failures of physicalism begin to shake the confidence of even the most biased of its supporters, a new view on the nature of reality is establishing itself as the only tenable alternative: Analytic Idealism. According to it, there is a world out there independent of our individual minds, but such world is - just like ourselves - also mental or experiential. While being a realist, naturalist, rationalist, and even reductionist view, Analytic Idealism flips our culture-bound intuitions on their head, revealing that only through understanding our own inner nature can we understand the nature of the world. This book embodies its author's years-long experience on how best to explain Analytic Idealism to someone who has never studied it before, and has no background in the technical fields involved. It meets the readers where they are, holding their hand as they are shown - through a series of evocative metaphors - how to see through their own unexamined assumptions, so to realize how the impossible dilemas of physicalism disappear when nature is regarded from a slightly different slant. The conclusions have tremendous implications for our values and way of life, as well as our understanding of purpose, self, identity, and death.
    Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

    • 1 hr 53 min
    Kevin Lambert, "Symbols and Things: Material Mathematics in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries" (U Pittsburgh Press, 2021)

    Kevin Lambert, "Symbols and Things: Material Mathematics in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries" (U Pittsburgh Press, 2021)

    The stereotype of the solitary mathematician is widespread, but practicing users and producers of mathematics know well that our work depends heavily on our historical and contemporary fellow travelers. Yet we may not appreciate how our work also extends beyond us into our physical and societal environments.
    Kevin Lambert takes what might be a first crack at this perspective in his book Symbols and Things: Material Mathematics in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2021). An historian of science, Dr. Lambert has shifted in his view of mathematics as a language of science to one as a material practice. Expanding on ideas from historians, archeologists, philosophers, and other scholars of human activity, and through several interweaving vignettes of mathematical work during a technologically dynamic period in British history, he argues that mathematical practice, communication, and even thought occur to a large degree outside the bodies of the persons performing them.
    In this interview, we explore Kevin's journal to and through this book project. We discuss how such ideas as Andy Clark's extended mind informed his approach, and we review several of the lively stories—the co-creation of the long-distance mathematical community with the research journal, Peacock's museological argument for the adoption of symbolic algebra, and the foundational entanglement of electromagnetism, quaternions, and the philosophy of space, among others—he drew out of historical and archival sources. (Here i cannot resist mentioning Tait's collection of his intensive correspondence with Hamilton that transformed how quaternions were applied in physics and even conceptualized as mathematical objects.) We close with some thoughts on our own materially extended cognitive work and where Kevin's interests are currently driving him.
    Suggested companion works:
    • ChatGPT, as a cutting-edge extension of human thought
    • work by Courtney Ann Roby, including the forthcoming The Mechanical Tradition of Hero of Alexandria: Strategies of Reading from Antiquity to the Early Modern Period
    • Algorithmic Modernity: Mechanizing Thought and Action, 1500-2000, edited by Morgan G. Ames and Massimo Mazzotti
    • work by Emily Miller Bonney, for example "A Reconsideration of Depositional Practices in Early Bronze Age Crete"
    Kevin Lambert is a historian of science and mathematics in the early modern and modern periods and professor in the liberal studies department at California State University, Fullerton. His recent book Symbols and Things explores mathematics as a way of thinking outside the body and through the material environment. He also recently published a chapter in the volume Algorithmic Modernity that traces the genealogy of algorithmic practices. He is now working on the problem of writing longue durée histories of science. He is close to completing a paper called “Malthus in the Landscape” that investigates the temporalities of global histories. He is also exploring the problem of writing a global history of the early modern sciences without the prism of the so called “Scientific Revolution.” His work can be found on ResearchGate.
    Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

    • 1 hr 20 min
    Claudia de Rham, "The Beauty of Falling: A Life in Pursuit of Gravity" (Princeton UP, 2024)

    Claudia de Rham, "The Beauty of Falling: A Life in Pursuit of Gravity" (Princeton UP, 2024)

    Claudia de Rham has been playing with gravity her entire life. As a diver, experimenting with her body's buoyancy in the Indian Ocean. As a pilot, soaring over Canadian waterfalls on dark mornings before beginning her daily scientific research. As an astronaut candidate, dreaming of the experience of flying free from Earth's pull. And as a physicist, discovering new sides to gravity's irresistible personality by exploring the limits of Einstein's general theory of relativity. 
    In The Beauty of Falling: A Life in Pursuit of Gravity (Princeton UP, 2024), de Rham shares captivating stories about her quest to gain intimacy with gravity, to understand both its feeling and fundamental nature. Her life's pursuit led her from a twist of fate that snatched away her dream of becoming an astronaut to an exhilarating breakthrough at the very frontiers of gravitational physics.
    While many of us presume to know gravity quite well, the brightest scientists in history have yet to fully answer the simple question: what exactly is gravity? De Rham reveals how great minds--from Newton and Einstein to Stephen Hawking, Andrea Ghez, and Roger Penrose--led her to the edge of knowledge about this fundamental force. She found hints of a hidden side to gravity at the particle level where Einstein's theory breaks down, leading her to develop a new theory of "massive gravity." De Rham shares how her life's path turned from a precipitous fall to an exquisite flight toward the discovery of something entirely new about our surprising, gravity-driven universe.
    Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

    • 50 min

Customer Reviews

3.5 out of 5
2 Ratings

2 Ratings

Top Podcasts In Arts

Fresh Air
NPR
99% Invisible
Roman Mars
The Book Review
The New York Times
The Moth
The Moth
The Jimmy Dore Show
Jimmy Dore
The Magnus Archives
Rusty Quill

You Might Also Like