MacMillan Publishing Company
Physicists are on the brink of success in an extraordinary hundred-year quest to understand the fundamental principles of matter and energy – a revolution in science that has already transformed contemporary life. The Second Creation is the story of that quest and the remarkable people behind it. In this brilliant and fascinating book, Robert Crease and Charles Mann take us on a thrilling voyage of exploration with the makers of the revolution in twentieth century physics: Bohr, Einstein, Heisenberg, and Planck – the inventors of quantum mechanics – and their successors, scientists like Richard Feynman, Murray Gell-Mann, Sheldon Glashow, and Stephen Weinberg.
Based on hundreds of exclusive interviews with Nobel Prize-winning physicists and on previously unpublished archival material, letters, and laboratory guidebooks, The Second Creation is an unprecedented group portrait of twentieth century science, from its beginnings in the dusty brick laboratories of Edwardian England to the present generation of gleaming atom smashers burrowing for miles beneath the midwestern prairies. The book’s scope is as sweeping and far-reaching as its subject, with dramatic scenes ranging from the top of the Eiffel Tower to the lightless depths of an Indian gold mine.
Ever since J. J. Thomson discovered the electron and Einstein formulated the principles of relativity, scientists have advanced closer and closer to the ultimate goal of physics: a single unified theory that explains all matter and energy, a theory comprehensive enough to account for the smallest quarks and the largest stars, broad enough to cover the cosmos from the inferno of the Big Bang to the long cold slumber at the end of all things.
To reach this goal, scientists at the cutting edge of their profession are employing theories with names as esoteric and forbidding as supersymmetry and multidimensional string theory. But to their creators, these theories have an intent that is astonishingly simple: Unification, a Theory of Everything.
Like The Double Helix and Soul of a New Machine, this is science writing at its most gripping and lucid. The Second Creation conveys the excitement of the scientific enterprise in dramatic, human terms and makes its complex subject clear, accessible, and utterly compelling.
Robert P. Crease is currently completing his Ph.D. at Columbia University, where he has taught “The Theory and Practice of Science” and “Contemporary Civilization.” Charles C. Mann, a former editor of Technology Illustrated, has written on science and technology for a variety of publications here and abroad.
The research for this book required five years and numerous trips to Europe and Asia.