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About Brian Clegg
Born in Rochdale, Lancashire, UK, Brian read Natural Sciences (specializing in experimental physics) at Cambridge University. After graduating, he spent a year at Lancaster University where he gained a second MA in Operational Research, a discipline developed during the Second World War to apply mathematics and probability to warfare and since widely applied to business problem solving.
From Lancaster, he joined British Airways, where he formed a new department tasked with developing hi-tech solutions for the airline. His emphasis on innovation led to working with creativity guru Dr. Edward de Bono, and in 1994 he left BA to set up his own creativity consultancy, running courses on the development of ideas and the solution of business problems. His clients include the BBC, the Met Office, Sony, GlaxoSmithKline, the Treasury, Royal Bank of Scotland and many others.
Brian has also written regular columns, features and reviews for numerous magazines and newspapers, including The Observer, Playboy, Nature, The Times, Personal Computer World, BBC Focus, BBC History, Good Housekeeping and House Beautiful. His books have been translated into many languages, including German, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Japanese, Polish, Norwegian, and Indonesian.
Brian has given sell-out lectures at the Royal Institution in London and has spoken at venues from Oxford and Cambridge Universities to Cheltenham Festival of Science. He has also contributed to radio and TV programs, and is a popular speaker at schools. Brian is also editor of the successful www.popularscience.co.uk book review site. Brian lives in Wiltshire with his wife and twin children. When not writing, he spends time on music, having a passion for Tudor and Elizabethan church music.
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All the matter and light we can see in the universe makes up a trivial 5 per cent of everything. The rest is hidden. This could be the biggest puzzle that science has ever faced.
Since the 1970s, astronomers have been aware that galaxies have far too little matter in them to account for the way they spin around: they should fly apart, but something concealed holds them together. That ’something' is dark matter – invisible material in five times the quantity of the familiar stuff of stars and planets.
By the 1990s we also knew that the expansion of the universe was accelerating. Something, named dark energy, is pushing it to expand faster and faster. Across the universe, this requires enough energy that the equivalent mass would be nearly fourteen times greater than all the visible material in existence.
Brian Clegg explains this major conundrum in modern science and looks at how scientists are beginning to find solutions to it.
Until then, investigation of the universe had depended on electromagnetic radiation: visible light, radio, X-rays and the rest. But gravitational waves – ripples in the fabric of space and time – are unrelenting, passing through barriers that stop light dead.
At the two 4-kilometre long LIGO observatories in the US, scientists developed incredibly sensitive detectors, capable of spotting a movement 100 times smaller than the nucleus of an atom. In 2015 they spotted the ripples produced by two black holes spiralling into each other, setting spacetime quivering.
This was the first time black holes had ever been directly detected – and it promises far more for the future of astronomy. Brian Clegg presents a compelling story of human technical endeavour and a new, powerful path to understand the workings of the universe.
The book is divided into five eras and explores the leading scientific pioneers, discoveries and books within them:
- Ancient World – looks at the beginnings of language, plus the first ever scientific documents produced and translated
- Renaissance in Print – explores the effects of the invention of the printing press and the exploration of the seas and skies
- Modern Classical – surveys the nineteenth century and the development of science as a profession
- Post-Classical – dissects the twentieth century and the introduction of relativity, quantum theory and genetics
- The Next Generation – reviews the period from 1980 to the modern day, showing how science has become accessible to the general public
From carvings and scrolls to glossy bound tomes, this book beautifully illustrates the evolution of scientific communication to the world. By recounting the history of science via its key works – those books written by the keenest minds our world has known – this book reflects the physical results of brilliant thought manifested in titles that literally changed the course of knowledge.
Acclaimed science writer Brian Clegg builds up reality piece by piece, from space, to time, to matter, movement, the fundamental forces, life, and the massive transformation that life itself has wrought on the natural world. He reveals that underlying it all is not, as we might believe, a system of immovable absolutes, but the ever-shifting, amorphous world of relativity.
From religion to philosophy, humanity has traditionally sought out absolutes to explain the world around us, but as science has developed, relativity has swept away many of these certainties, leaving only a handful of unchangeable essentials – such as absolute zero, nothingness, light – leading to better science and a new understanding of the essence of being human.
This is an Ascent of Man for the 21st century, the gripping story of modern science that will fill you with wonder and give you a new insight into our place in the universe.
A history of gravity, and a study of its importance and relevance to our lives, as well as its influence on other areas of science.
Physicists will tell you that four forces control the universe. Of these, gravity may the most obvious, but it is also the most mysterious. Newton managed to predict the force of gravity but couldn't explain how it worked at a distance. Einstein picked up on the simple premise that gravity and acceleration are interchangeable to devise his mind-bending general relativity, showing how matter warps space and time. Not only did this explain how gravity worked – and how apparently simple gravitation has four separate components – but it predicted everything from black holes to gravity's effect on time. Whether it's the reality of anti-gravity or the unexpected discovery that a ball and a laser beam drop at the same rate, gravity is the force that fascinates.
The phenomenon that Einstein thought too spooky and strange to be true
What is entanglement? It's a connection between quantum particles, the building blocks of the universe. Once two particles are entangled, a change to one of them is reflected---instantly---in the other, be they in the same lab or light-years apart. So counterintuitive is this phenomenon and its implications that Einstein himself called it "spooky" and thought that it would lead to the downfall of quantum theory. Yet scientists have since discovered that quantum entanglement, the "God Effect," was one of Einstein's few---and perhaps one of his greatest---mistakes.
What does it mean? The possibilities offered by a fuller understanding of the nature of entanglement read like something out of science fiction: communications devices that could span the stars, codes that cannot be broken, computers that dwarf today's machines in speed and power, teleportation, and more.
In The God Effect, veteran science writer Brian Clegg has written an exceptionally readable and fascinating (and equation-free) account of entanglement, its history, and its application. Fans of Brian Greene and Amir Aczel and those interested in the marvelous possibilities coming down the quantum road will find much to marvel, illuminate, and delight.
Their efforts would win the 2010 Nobel Prize for Physics, and now the applications of graphene and other ‘two-dimensional’ substances form a worldwide industry.
Graphene is far stronger than steel, a far better conductor than any metal, and able to act as a molecular sieve to purify water. Electronic components made from graphene are a fraction of the size of silicon microchips and can be both flexible and transparent, making it possible to build electronics into clothing, produce solar cells to fit any surface, or even create invisible temporary tattoos that monitor your health.
Ultra-thin materials give us the next big step forward since the transistor revolutionised electronics. Get ready for the graphene revolution.
Maxwell, an unassuming Victorian Scotsman, explained how we perceive colour. He uncovered the way gases behave. And, most significantly, he transformed the way physics was undertaken in his explanation of the interaction of electricity and magnetism, revealing the nature of light and laying the groundwork for everything from Einstein’s special relativity to modern electronics.
Along the way, he set up one of the most enduring challenges in physics, one that has taxed the best minds ever since. ‘Maxwell’s demon’ is a tiny but thoroughly disruptive thought experiment that suggests the second law of thermodynamics, the law that governs the flow of time itself, can be broken. This is the story of a groundbreaking scientist, a great contributor to our understanding of the way the world works, and his duplicitous demon.
The ancient Greeks were so horrified by the implications of an endless number that they drowned the man who gave away the secret. And a German mathematician was driven mad by the repercussions of his discovery of transfinite numbers.
Brian Clegg and Oliver Pugh’s brilliant graphic tour of infinity features a cast of characters ranging from Archimedes and Pythagoras to al-Khwarizmi, Fibonacci, Galileo, Newton, Leibniz, Cantor, Venn, Gödel and Mandelbrot, and shows how infinity has challenged the finest minds of science and mathematics. Prepare to enter a world of paradox.
The popular science equivalent of Who Do You Think You Are?
Popular science master Brian Clegg’s new book is an entertaining tour through the science of what makes you you.
From the atomic level, through life and energy to genetics and personality, it explores how the billions of particles which make up you – your DNA, your skin, your memories – have come to be.
It starts with the present-day reader and follows a number of trails to discover their origins: how the atoms in your body were created and how they got to you in space and time, the sources of things you consume, how the living cells of your body developed, where your massive brain and consciousness originated, how human beings evolved and, ultimately, what your personal genetic history reveals.
Have you ever wondered what humans did before numbers existed? How they organized their lives, traded goods, or kept track of their treasures? What would your life be like without them?
Numbers began as simple representations of everyday things, but mathematics rapidly took on a life of its own, occupying a parallel virtual world. In Are Numbers Real?, Brian Clegg explores the way that math has become more and more detached from reality, and yet despite this is driving the development of modern physics. From devising a new counting system based on goats, through the weird and wonderful mathematics of imaginary numbers and infinity, to the debate over whether mathematics has too much influence on the direction of science, this fascinating and accessible book opens the reader’s eyes to the hidden reality of the strange yet familiar entities that are numbers.
Back in thirteenth-century Europe, in the early years of the great universities, learning was spiced with the danger of mob violence and a terrifyingly repressive religious censorship. Roger Bacon, a humble and devout English friar, seems an unlikely figure to challenge the orthodoxy of his day - yet he risked his life to establish the basis for true knowledge.
Born c.1220, Bacon was passionately interested in the natural world and how things worked. Such dangerous topics were vetoed by his Order, and it was only when a new Pope proved sympathetic that he began compiling his encyclopaedia on everything from optics to alchemy - the synopsis took a year and ran to 800,000 words and he was never to complete the work itself. Sadly, the enlightened Pope died, and Bacon was tried as a magician and incarcerated for ten years.
Legend transformed Bacon into a sorcerer, 'Doctor Mirabilis', yet he taught that all magic was based on fraud, and his books were the first flowering of the scientific thinking that would transform our world. He advanced the understanding of optics, made geographical breakthroughs later used by Columbus, predicted everything from horseless carriages to the telescope, and stressed the importance of mathematics to science, a significance ignored for 400 years. His biggest contribution was to insist that a study of the natural world by observation and exact measurement was the surest foundation for truth.
Clegg uncovers the realities of life in a medieval university and friary, setting out the shadowy facts of Bacon's life alongside his writings. The result is both a fascinating biography and a picture of the age.