|If you do build a cloud, start small.|
|Imagine the weight of this cumulus congestus cloud! A veritable stampede of pachyderms in the sky!|
First You Build a Cloud and Other Reflections on Physics as a Way of Life is the full title of K.C. Cole's marvelous book--one that makes "general audience" readers like me feel less intimidated by a book with the word "physics" in it.
Cole was a longtime science writer for the Los Angeles Times and now teaches at USC's Annenberg School of Journalism. In her book, she brings out the lighter sides of physicists such as Richard Feynman, Victor Weisskopf, Albert Einstein, J. Robert Oppenheimer and Frank Oppenheimer (former director of the Exploratorium who appears in the book as 'my friend the physicist").
"Some people say that subjects like gravity or the states of matter [or clouds!] are too fundamental to be interesting," Cole writes. "People today are too sophisticated. Yet it's amazing how easy it is to be clueless even in this most technical of modern worlds. 'Most of us are in daily contact with at least as much that we do not understand as were the Greeks or early Babylonians,' my friend the physicists liked to say. 'Yet we have learned not to ask questions about how the power steering on our cars works or how polio vaccine is made or what is involved in the freezing of orange juice [or why clouds are pink at sunset!]. We end up in the paradoxical situation in which one of the effects of science is to dampen curiosity.'"
Cole writes with clarity and ease and her book (published in 1999) will spark your curiosity and make you feel as though Einstein, Newton, Kepler, Oppenheimer, and the gang were all your chums.