Review of Sleeping Beauties in Theoretical Physics: 26 Surprising Insights by Thanu Padmanabhan

Phillip Helbig

The Observatory, 136, 1250, 39–41 (February 2016)


This is a book review of Sleeping Beauties in Theoretical Physics: 26 Surprising Insights by Thanu Padmanabhan. This is a rare book: written in a breezy, witty, conversational style, yet about mathematical physics and containing almost 800 equations. The emphasis is indeed on insight; some of the topics are well known while others are not (although, as the author remarks on a few occasions, some of them should be), but all are interesting. There are 26 chapters, about half of which have obvious connections to astronomy, though after reading the book I'm sure that most or all have some connection to astronomy and/or other branches of physics. The examples make it clear that physics as known today is in many respects a very unified discipline, though most are probably not aware of this in their day-to-day work. A common theme, reversing the usual direction, both of teaching and of history, is to start from the correct theory and then derive approximations. Good knowledge of mathematics (e.g., tensor calculus) is needed, though, probably limiting this work to those who have studied physics and/or maths. For those, though, I recommend it highly.


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