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All of the knowledge that had sustained human society until that point — processing raw food into bread, cheese, beer and wine, tilling the ground, building cathedrals, sailing across the oceans — had been the work of skilled craftsmen, uninformed by any scientific principle whatsoever.

Hooke demonstrated the cell structure of living tissue and his book Micrographia is one of the great visual revelations of our culture. His latest book is The Water Kingdom: There has been a noticeable shift in his work, from his magnum opus on form in nature, The Self-Made Tapestry now available as three handy paperbacks: A Secret History of China Topics.

The very idea of black holes seemed to many astrophysicists to be an affront to reason until a renaissance of interest in general relativity in the s — which the young Hawking helped to boost — got them taken seriously.

We were there not so much to learn about black holes and cosmology as to pay respects to an important cultural presence.

Philip Ball

His survival for more than half a century after his diagnosis with motor neurone disease shortly after his 21st birthday seemed to give him only a few years to live is one of the most remarkable feats of determination and sheer medical marvels of our time.

Ball recounts many amusing examples of reactionary jeers at the expense of the early scientists. It was also that his physical manifestation — the immobile body in customised wheelchair, the distinctive voice that pronounced with the oracular calm of HAL from His death brings such limits into focus.

He made seminal contributions to physics, wrote bestselling books, appeared in television shows, and commanded attention and awe at his every pronouncement.

Perhaps Ball is able to do especial justice to Hooke because he is an expert on nanoscience and Hooke was the man who, with the microscope, first opened up the world of the very small. It supplied a neat title for the biopicbut most physicists have fallen out of love with this ambitious project.

Without that performance, Hawking the scientist would be destined to become like any other after their death: Share via Email As I sat in the audience for his Reith Lectures, it felt that we were there not so much to learn about black holes as to pay respects to an important cultural presence.

He was, of course, not only mortal but precariously so. Bacon, Galileo, Boyle and Newton were all doing different things, appropriate to their respective disciplines. Philip Ball is an immensely prolific science writer. As Ball puts it, the complaints of the naysayers can be summed up as: Read it as The Age of Curiosity: It was centuries before maths could be applied to the behaviour of matter on a small scale and, when it was, Newtonian maths was shown by quantum theory to be inadequate.

It was only with the harnessing of electricity in that pure science began to drive technological innovation. Mimicry and Camouflage is published by Yale University Press.

The journal of the Royal Society in its first years had as many reports of "strange creatures and events lately observed in foreign parts" as it did of what we now recognise as science. Shapes, Flow and Branchestowards a more philosophical and less technical approach, exemplified in this wonderfully nuanced and wise study of the scientific revolution.

This work became a central pillar in research that has now linked several key, and hitherto disparate, areas of physical theory: The lack of a Nobel seemed to trouble him; but he was, without question, in with a shout for one. The romanticising of Hawking brings, for a scientist, the temptation to want to cut him down to size.

We saw Stephen Hawking as an oracle. In fact, he was wonderfully human

Martin Godwin We now take it for granted that knowledge forever increases and that there should be very few limits to its scope, but in the history of settled human societies from around 10, years agothe Curious Era has so far lasted for only around years. Equally astonishing was the life that Hawking wrought from that excruciatingly difficult circumstance.

Newton was lucky in applying his new maths to the only problem it might have been good for — planetary motion. That paper in Nature will be one of the most enduring, offering a memorable contribution to our understanding of black holes.

But Hooke, always overshadowed by his fierce rivals Newton and Wren, is the hero of this book. What was meant to concern us, according to this view, was the scriptures and the received wisdom of the ages.

Now the power of those small and distant trifles is everywhere apparent and the wisdom of the ancients stands revealed as a tissue of arbitrary fabrications.

Science is usually thought of as concerned with measuring things, but the Royal Society in its early days was resistant to any such procedure.

As his Reith Lectures in demonstrated, he was not in fact a natural communicator — all those feeling guilty at never having finished A Brief History of Time need not feel so bad, as he was no different from many scientists in struggling to translate complex ideas into simple language.

The Nobel committee never found his work quite met the mark — partly, perhaps, because it dealt in ideas that are difficult to verify, applying to objects like black holes — not easy to investigate. Even the prodigiously gifted Robert Hooke — who enunciated one of the first mathematical laws of nature, the law of elasticity, which states that the extension of a stretched spring or wire is directly proportional to the force exerted on it — believed that nature was generally too fuzzy and loose in its workings to be subject to precise mathematical laws.

But as we read of the tentative steps of the pioneers we are led to wonder again that science ever emerged in human culture. These are created when massive objects such as stars undergo runaway collapse under their own gravity to become what general relativity insists is a singularity: As Ball points out, it was no use at the time in chemistry, geology or biology.

To the world at large it was not so much what he said that mattered, but the manner and miracle of its delivery.Elegant Solutions: Ten Beautiful Experiments in Chemistry [Philip Ball] on *FREE* shipping on qualifying offers.

Devising and performing a scientific experiment is an art, and it is common to hear scientists talk about the 'beauty' of an experiment.2/5(1). Philip Ball (born ) is a British science writer. For over twenty years he has been an editor of the journal Nature for which he continues to write regularly.

[1] He now writes a regular column in Chemistry World. Curiosity: How Science Became Interested in Everything by Philip Ball – review Philip Ball is an immensely prolific science writer.

That conservative icon, Addison of. Philip Ball / May 17, Earlier this year Prospect science writer Philip Ball had his own “mini-brain” grown in a laboratory.

Curiosity: How Science Became Interested in Everything by Philip Ball – review

Researchers now plan to put the method to different use, and in doing so learn more about an. Philip Ball is a writer. Most of his books are concerned with science in some form or another: its history, its interactions with the arts and society, its achievements, delights and detours.

He is a regular columnist for several magazines and an occasional radio presenter and broadcaster. His death allows us to see past the fairytale, says science writer Philip Ball.

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Philip ball science writer twitter icon
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