Doing Physics

Doing Physics

How Physicists Take Hold of the World
- Second Edition
Martin H. Krieger
Distribution: World
Publication date: 10/29/2012
Format: paper 248 pages, 8 b&w illus.
6 x 9
ISBN: 978-0-253-00607-3
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Description

Doing Physics makes concepts of physics easier to grasp by relating them to everyday knowledge. Addressing some of the models and metaphors that physicists use to explain the physical world, Martin H. Krieger describes the conceptual world of physics by means of analogies to economics, anthropology, theater, carpentry, mechanisms such as clockworks, and machine tool design. The interaction of elementary particles or chemical species, for example, can be related to the theory of kinship—who can marry whom is like what can interact with what. Likewise, the description of physical situations in terms of interdependent particles and fields is analogous to the design of a factory with its division of labor among specialists. For the new edition, Krieger has revised the text and added a chapter on the role of mathematics and formal models in physics. Doing Physics will be of special interest to economists, political theorists, anthropologists, and sociologists as well as philosophers of science.

Author Bio

Martin H. Krieger, who was trained as a physicist at Columbia University, has been a Fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences and at the National Humanities Center. He is author of Marginalism and Discontinuity: Tools for the Crafts of Knowledge and Decision (1989), Constitutions of Matter: Mathematically Modeling the Most Everyday of Physical Phenomena (1996), and Doing Mathematics: Convention, Subject, Calculation, Analogy (2003). He is on the faculty of the University of Southern California, and has taught at Berkeley, Minnesota, MIT, and Michigan.

Reviews

"This is an important and provocative book, timely and full of insight. Fail to read it, and you may miss out on the physics of the future." —John Gribbin, New Scientist

"This unusual book introduces 'the moves, the rituals, the incantations' physicists invoke as they go about conceptualizing Nature. The lucid-but-loaded writing makes quite complex ideas accessible to the mathless reader. . . . The rewards are a better understanding of how physics is done." —Whole Earth Millennial Catalog

"An excellent [and innovative] book." —Isis

"Not many books about physics have six citations of Adam Smith. Building on the analogy that Nature is like an economic system, Krieger provides a novel analysis of how physicists construct models of the world. A fascinating insight into the way scientists think." —Dick Easterlin, University of Southern California

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Table of Contents

Preface
Degrees of Freedom; A Note to the Reader; A Note for the Scholars; This Second Edition; Acknowledgments
1. The Division of Labor: The Factory
Nature as a Factory; Handles and Stories. What Everyday Walls Must Do; Walls for a Factory; Walls as Providential. Particles, Objects, and Workers; What Particles Must Be Like; Intuitions of Walls and Particles. What Fields Must Be Like.
2. Taking Apart and Putting Together: The Clockworks, The Calculus, and the Computer
The Right Degrees of Freedom; The Clockworks and The Calculus. Parts Are Strategies; Independence and Randomness; Dependence, Spreadsheets, and Differential Equations; Additivity and The Calculus; Disjoint Functionality and Interpretability: Bureaucracy, Flow Processing Plants, and Object-Oriented Programming; Sequence and Procedure. Parts Are Commitments.
3. Freedom and Necessity: Family and Kinship
Recapitulation and Prospect; Kinship, Exchange, and Plenitude; Systematics in the Field; The Problem of "Quite Rarely"; Markets and Fetishes; Taking the Rules Seriously; Structure and System.
4. The Vacuum and The Creation: Setting a Stage
So Far, an Epitome; Sweeping Up the Vacuum; Symmetry and Order. The Empty Stage; Of Nothing, Something, and the Vacuum. Setting Up the Stage; Ideologies for a Vacuum; The Dialectic of Finding a Good Vacuum; The Analogy of Substance, Once More. Fluctuations in a Vacuum. Annealing the World.
5. Handles, Probes, and Tools: A Rhetoric of Nature
A Craft of Science; Some Handles onto the World (Particles, Crystals, Gasses; Analogy; Phase Transitions; Knowledge Is Handling). Probes; Objectivity and Inelasticity; Probes and Handles. Tools and Toolkits; A Physicist's Toolkit; So Far.
6. Production Machinery: Mathematics for Analysis and Description
Philosophical Analysis and Phenomenological Description; Machinery and Production Processes; Naming and Modeling the World; Demonstrations and Proofs as Strategies of Explanation; Understanding "The Physics"; Analogy and Syzygy; The Mathematics and The Physics
7. An Epitome
Notes
Index
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