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Rats ... I should have read this 30 years ago!

  • Dec 29, 2009
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"Prove that a uniform body with three mutually perpendicular axes of symmetry cannot rotate stably about the axis of intermediate length"

I remember it like it was yesterday. This was a question I faced on a second year classical mechanics exam. I got the question right, by the way. As a matter of fact, I scored a perfect 100% on the entire exam but it bothered me immensely that I should be able to prove something mathematically without having the foggiest inkling as to "why" it should be so at a much more fundamental level.

In fact, it troubled me so deeply that after I received my undergraduate degree in Physics, I declined to pursue any further education in the field and went on to a career in business and finance.

In "The Dancing Wu Li Masters", Gary Zukav has written a superb explanation as to why my lack of understanding was so normal and why I should have embraced that lack of understanding as opposed to running away from it. In very clear prose, completely devoid of the baffling language of mathematical equations, he has written a story for those of us interested in exploring the mind-expanding (nay, mind-blowing) discoveries of modern advanced physics and cosmology -quantum mechanics; black holes; time travel; entanglement; action at a distance; special and general relativity; the nuclear particle zoo; and much, much more.

I reveled in the discovery that even Einstein struggled with the notion that he would never be able to compare his mathematical models with the "real" mechanism. Indeed, he couldn't even imagine the meaning of such a comparison.

A magnificent blend of philosophy, eastern mysticism and modern physics, Zukav's "The Dancing Wu Li Masters" is perhaps best summarized by a single sentence from a New York Times Book Review:

"Stripped of mathematics, physics becomes pure enchantment ... "

While this isn't a book that would likely be accessible to someone without a foot already inside physics' door, it is a breathtaking, joyous revelation to people like myself who have that basic grounding and are looking to increase their knowledge.

What the heck, if I had read this in the 1970s instead of waiting until now ... who knows, my entire life and career path might have been changed.

Highly recommended.

Paul Weiss

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October 09, 2010
I bought this one shortly after I read the Tao of Physics and I loved them both immensely and it was books like these that made my decide to study Philosophy at the University.
October 09, 2010
Never read THE TAO OF PHYSICS. I'll definitely have to look it up. Thanks for the heads up on a new title for me.
About the reviewer
Paul Weiss ()
Ranked #15
   A modern day dilettante with widely varied eclectic interests. A dabbler in muchbut grandmaster of none - wilderness camping in all four seasons, hiking, canoeing, world travel,philately, … more
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