Other books byGeorge Johnson
Miss Leavitt's Stars
The Untold Story of the Woman Who Discovered...
How big is the universe? In the early twentieth century, scientists took sides. One held that the entire universe was contained in the Milky Way galaxy. Their champion was the strong-willed astronomer Harlow Shapley. Another camp believed that the universe was so vast that the Milky Way was just one galaxy among billionsâthe view that would prevail, proven by the equally headstrong Edwin Hubble. Almost forgotten is the Harvard Observatory "computer"âa human number cruncher hired to calculate the positions and luminosities of stars in astronomical photographsâwho found the key to the mystery. Radcliffe-educated Henrietta Swan Leavitt, fighting ill health and progressive deafness, stumbled upon a new law that allowed astronomers to use variable starsâthose whose brightness rhythmically changesâas a cosmic yardstick. Miss Leavitt's Stars is both a masterly account of how we measure the universe and the moving story of a neglected genius
A Shortcut Through Time
The Path to the Quantum Computer
In this remarkably illustrative and thoroughly accessible look at one of the most intriguing frontiers in science and computers, award-winning New York Times writer George Johnson reveals the fascinating world of quantum computing—the holy grail of super computers where the computing power of single atoms is harnassed to create machines capable of almost unimaginable calculations in the blink of an eye. As computer chips continue to shrink in size, scientists anticipate the end of the road: A computer in which each switch is comprised of a single atom. Such a device would operate under a different set of physical laws: The laws of quantum mechanics. Johnson gently leads the curious outsider through the surprisingly simple ideas needed to understand this dream, discussing the current state of the revolution, and ultimately assessing the awesome power these machines could have to change our world. From the Trade Paperback edition.
Murray Gell-Mann and the Revolution in...
With a New Afterword "Our knowledge of fundamental physics contains not one fruitful idea that does not carry the name of Murray Gell-Mann."--Richard Feynman Acclaimed science writer George Johnson brings his formidable reporting skills to the first biography of Nobel Prize-winner Murray Gell-Mann, the brilliant, irascible man who revolutionized modern particle physics with his models of the quark and the Eightfold Way. Born into a Jewish immigrant family on New York's Lower East Side, Gell-Mann's prodigious talent was evident from an early age--he entered Yale at 15, completed his Ph.D. at 21, and was soon identifying the structures of the world's smallest components and illuminating the elegant symmetries of the universe. Beautifully balanced in its portrayal of an extraordinary and difficult man, interpreting the concepts of advanced physics with scrupulous clarity and simplicity, Strange Beauty is a tour-de-force of both science writing and biography. From the Trade Paperback edition.
Fire in the Mind
Science, Faith, and the Search for Order
Are there really laws governing the universe? Or is the order we see a mere artifact of the way evolution wired the brain? And is what we call science only a set of myths in which quarks, DNA, and information fill the role once occupied by gods? These questions lie at the heart of George Johnson's audacious exploration of the border between science and religion, cosmic accident and timeless law. Northern New Mexico is home both to the most provocative new enterprises in quantum physics, information science, and the evolution of complexity and to the cosmologies of the Tewa Indians and the Catholic Penitentes. As it draws the reader into this landscape, juxtaposing the systems of belief that have taken root there, Fire in the Mind into a gripping intellectual adventure story that compels us to ask where science ends and religion begins. "A must for all those seriously interested in the key ideas at the frontier of scientific discourse."--Paul Davies