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Marcus Chown's Top Book Recommendations

Want to know what books Marcus Chown recommends on their reading list? We've researched interviews, social media posts, podcasts, and articles to build a comprehensive list of Marcus Chown's favorite book recommendations of all time.

Why is the sky dark at night?

The answer to this ancient and celebrated riddle, says Edward Harrison, seems relatively simple: the sun has set and is now shining on the other side of the earth. But suppose we were space travelers and far from any star. Out in the depths of space the heavens would be dark, even darker than the sky seen from the earth on cloudless and moonless nights. For more than four centuries, astronomers and other investigators have pondered the enigma of a dark sky and proposed many provocative but incorrect answers. Darkness at Night eloquently...
Recommended by Marcus Chown, and 1 others.

Marcus ChownWhen people think about darkness at night they take it as obvious that it’s because the sun isn’t shining on that side of the earth. But actually it’s a lot more mysterious… (Source)

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The Complete Cosmicomics

The Cosmicomics tell the story of the history of the universe, from the big bang, through millennia and across galaxies. It is witnessed through the eyes of 'cosmic know-it-all' Qfwfq, an exuberant, chameleon-like figure, who takes the shape of a dinosaur, a mollusc, a steamer captain and a moon milk gatherer, among others. This is the first complete edition in English of Italo Calvino's funny, whimsical and delightful stories, which blend scientific fact, flights of fancy, parody and wordplay to show the strangeness and the wonders of the world. less
Recommended by Marcus Chown, Adam Maloof, and 2 others.

Marcus ChownIt’s a series of short stories, or a novel really. But he’s doing something that no other novelist has ever done. He looks at the history of the universe, the history of life on Earth – all the major milestones – and he makes it human. (Source)

Adam MaloofIn Cosmicomics, Calvino takes huge scientific ideas, transmutes time, and describes spectacular geological and astrophysical processes through the senses of the intrepid protagonist Qfwfq – but with fairy tale mastery instead of Hollywood false realism. (Source)

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'A monumental achievement - one of the great scientific biographies.' Michael Frayn

The Strangest Man is the Costa Biography Award-winning account of Paul Dirac, the famous physicist sometimes called the British Einstein. He was one of the leading pioneers of the greatest revolution in twentieth-century science: quantum mechanics. The youngest theoretician ever to win the Nobel Prize for Physics, he was also pathologically reticent, strangely literal-minded and legendarily unable to communicate or empathize. Through his greatest period of productivity, his postcards home...

Eric Weinstein[Eric Weinstein recommended this book on Twitter.] (Source)

Marcus ChownGraham Farmelo said that he’d never met anyone – even in Bristol where Paul Dirac grew up and lived – who’d ever heard of him: the greatest English physicist since Newton! (Source)

Pedro G FerreiraOut of a fascination with mathematical beauty Dirac discovered the natural world. (Source)

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This acclaimed portrait of heroism and ingenuity captures a watershed moment in human history. The astronauts themselves have called it the definitive account of their missions. On the night of July 20, 1969, our world changed forever when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the moon. Based on in-depth interviews with twenty-three of the twenty-four moon voyagers, as well as those who struggled to get the program moving, A Man on the Moon conveys every aspect of the Apollo missions with breathtaking immediacy and stunning detail. less

Marcus ChownIt’s a series of interviews with all the astronauts that have been to the moon. (Source)

Christopher RileyAndrew Chaikin writes about all the difficulty of trying to invent all of this stuff at that time. He’s a brilliant writer and journalist. He took the time, back in the early 1990s, to go around and interview as many of the key players—including the astronauts themselves—who turned this dream into a reality. That, to me, is what makes A Man on the Moon the really definitive biography of Apollo,... (Source)

Philip PlaitIt’s a history of the Apollo missions, telling why we went to the moon, what happened when we got there, and why we stopped going after Apollo 17. I could not put it down. (Source)

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Famous the world over for the creative brilliance of his insights into the physical world, Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman also possessed an extraordinary talent for explaining difficult concepts to the nonscientist. QED--the edited version of four lectures on quantum electrodynamics that Feynman gave to the general public at UCLA as part of the Alix G. Mautner Memorial Lecture series--is perhaps the best example of his ability to communicate both the substance and the spirit of science to the layperson.

The focus, as the title suggests, is quantum...

Marcus ChownWhen Feynman was at Cal Tech, this wealthy couple who’d grown up in the same New York neighbourhood as he had said, Look, you’ve won this Nobel Prize, now explain to ordinary people what for. And Feynman said, No, it’s too complicated. But eventually he did this series of public lectures, and that was the book. It’s a tiny book and in it he describes the whole of quantum electrodynamics without a... (Source)

Ryan Shea@jaltma @AriannaSimpson Incredible book. Perhaps my favorite physics book. (Source)

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