Motion Mountain - Light, Charges and Brains: Volume III of The Adventure of Physics
Christoph Schiller
Science & Math
Motion Mountain - Light, Charges and Brains: Volume III of The Adventure of Physics

This book series is for anybody who is curious about motion in nature. How do things, people, animals, images and empty space move? The answer leads to many adventures, and this volume presents the best ones when exploring everything electric. They lead from the weighing of electric current to the use of magnetic fields to heal bone fractures and up to the use of light to cut metals and the understanding of the human brain.

In the structure of physics, motion due to electricity is the most fascinating aspect of the starting point at the bottom. Indeed, almost everything around us is due to electric processes. The present introduction to electricity, magnetism, light and the brain is the third of a six-volume overview of physics that arose from a threefold aim that I have pursued since 1990: to present motion in a way that is simple, up to date and captivating.

Using this book
Advice for learners
Advice for teachers
Light, Charges and Brains
1 Liquid electricity, invisible fields and maximum speed
Fields: amber, lodestone and mobile phones
How can one make lightning?
Electric charge
Electric field strength
Pumping charge
What is electricity?
Can we detect the inertia of electricity?
Feeling electric fields
Magnets and other magnetic materials
How do animals feel magnetic fields?
Magnetism and electricity
How can one make a motor?
Which currents flow inside magnets?
Describing magnetic fields
The invariants and the Lagrangian of electromagnetic fields
The uses of electromagnetic effects
How do nerves work?
How motors prove relativity to be right
Curiosities and fun challenges about things electric and magnetic
A summary: three basic facts about electricity
2 The description of electromagnetic field evolution
The first field equation of electrodynamics
The second field equation of electrodynamics
The validity and the essence of Maxwell's field equations
Colliding charged particles
What is contact?
The gauge field – the electromagnetic vector potential
The Lagrangian of electromagnetism
The energy–momentum tensor and its symmetries of motion
Energy and momenta of the electromagnetic field
What is a mirror? Is nature parity-invariant?
What is the difference between electric and magnetic fields?
Could electrodynamics be different?
The brain: the toughest challenge for electrodynamics
Challenges and fun curiosities about electrodynamics
Summary on electromagnetic field motion
3 What is light?
What are electromagnetic waves?
Experiments with electromagnetic waves
Light as a wave
Light and other electromagnetic waves
Polarization of electromagnetic waves
The range of electromagnetic radiation
The slowness of progress in physics – and relativity
How does the world look when riding on a light beam?
Can we touch light?
War, light and lies
What is colour?
Fun with rainbows
What is the speed of light? What is signal speed?
Signals and predictions
Aether good-bye
Challenges and fun curiosities about light, polarization and the geometric phase
Summary on light
4 Images and the eye – optics
Ways to acquire images
Light sources
Why can we see each other? Black bodies and the temperature of light
Limits to the concentration of light
Measuring light intensity
Other light and radiation sources
Radiation as weapon
Is lightning a discharge? – Electricity in the atmosphere
Does ball lightning exist?
Planetary magnetic fields
Does gravity make charges radiate?
Matter, levitation and electromagnetic effects
All bodies emit radiation
Challenges and curiosities about electromagnetic effects
Images – transporting light
Making images with mirrors
Does light always travel in a straight line? – Refraction
From atmospheric refraction to mirages
From refraction to lenses
Bending light with tubes – fibre optics
200 years too late – negative refraction indices
Light around corners – diffraction
Beating the diffraction limit
Other ways to bend light
Using interference for imaging
How does one make holograms and other three-dimensional images?
Images through scanning
The eye and the brain: biological image acquisition and processing
Do we see what exists?
The human eye
Human versus other eyes
How can we make pictures of the inside of the eye?
How to prove you're holy
Displaying images
Hopping electrons and the biggest disappointment of the television industry
Challenges and fun curiosities about images and the eye
Summary on applied optics
5 Electromagnetic effects
6 Summary and limits of classical electrodynamics
Space is curved, not flat
Charge values are discrete, not continuous
How fast do charges move?
What motion occurs inside atoms?
Challenges and curiosities about charge discreteness
7 The story of the brain
Children, laws and physics
Polymer electronics
Why a brain?
Neurons and networks
What is information?
What is memory?
The capacity of the brain
Curiosities about the brain and memory
8 Language and concepts
What is language?
Language components and their hierarchy
Is mathematics a language?
What is a concept?
What are sets? What are relations?
Infinity – and its properties
Functions and structures
Is mathematics always useful?
Curiosities and fun challenges about mathematics
9 Observations, lies and patterns of nature
Are physical concepts discovered or created?
How do we find physical concepts, patterns and rules?
What is a lie?
What is a good lie?
Is this statement true? – A bit about nonsense
Curiosities and fun challenges about lies and nonsense
Observations and their collection
Did instruments collect enough observations?
Are all physical observables known?
Do observations take time?
Is induction a problem in physics?
What can move?
Properties of classical motion
The future of planet Earth
The essence of classical physics – the infinitely small and the lack of surprises
Summary: Why have we not yet reached the top of the mountain?
The quest for precision and its implications
What are interactions? – No emergence
What is existence?
Do things exist?
Does the void exist?
Is nature infinite?
Is the universe a set?
Does the universe exist?
What is creation?
Is nature designed?
What is a description?
Reason, purpose and explanation
Unification and demarcation
Pigs, apes and the anthropic principle
Do we need cause and effect in explanations?
Is consciousness required?
10 Classical physics in a nutshell
A Units, measurements and constants
SI units
The meaning of measurement
Precision and accuracy of measurements
Limits to precision
Physical constants
Useful numbers
Challenge hints and solutions
Film credits
Image credits
Name index
Subject index
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