On the Shoulders of Giants:

The Great Works of Physics and Astronomy

 

Stephen Hawking, ed. (Running Press)

 

This giant 1266 page book is a collection of the original writing (in translation, of course) of five true giants of physics and astronomy: Nicolaus Copernicus, the first to name the sun as the center of our solar system; Galileo Galilei, the great physicist and astronomer who supported Compernicus leading to his troubles with the Catholic Church; Johannes Kepler, who provided the theories for our elliptical planetary orbits around the sun; Isaac Newton, who connected gravity on earth with that in space; and Albert Einstein, whose relativity theories have formed the basis for modern astronomy. To this Hawking has contributed just 40 pages of commentary. The selections are pure physics hot from the cow with no interpretive notes whatsoever. Thus you find sentences like this one (selected at random from Newton): "Therefore if the motions are directed towards the same parts, whatever is added to the motion of the preceding body will be subducted from the motion of that which follows, so that the sum win be the same as before." As if that isn't tough enough going, that "win" is surely a misprint for "will." Such errors occur even in Hawking's brief, but otherwise quite good, introductory bios. Like Hawking's other books, this one will appear, pages uncut, on coffee tables across the country. I identify no other use for it.-- Gerry Rising