Charles Darwin is generally remembered as the guy who came up with the theory of evolution. Only, he wasn’t the first– his own grandfather wrote poetry about evolution in the 1790’s. So why is Charles an icon of science? It all comes down to stamp collecting…
A short video explaining how the astronomer Vera Rubin discovered dark matter through the same process you use when playing a few hands of bridge.
I’ll be at the Open Door bookstore in downtown Schenectady, NY, on Sunday, December 14, 2014 signing Eureka: Discovering Your Inner Scientist from noon to 1:30pm. If you’re in town, stop by and support a great little independent bookstore.
My third book, published December 2014 by Basic Books.
Audio edition (March 2015): Audible
Even in the twenty-first century the popular image of a scientist is a reclusive genius in a lab coat, mixing formulas or working out equations inaccessible to all but the initiated few. The idea that scientists are somehow smarter than the rest of us is a common, yet dangerous, misconception, getting us off the hook for not knowing—or caring—how the world works. How did science become so divorced from our everyday experience? Is scientific understanding so far out of reach for the non-scientists among us?
As science popularizer Chad Orzel argues in Eureka, even the people who are most forthright about hating science are doing science, often without even knowing it. Orzel shows that science isn’t something alien and inscrutable beyond the capabilities of ordinary people, it’s central to the human experience. Every human can think like a scientist, and regularly does so in the course of everyday activities. The disconnect between this reality and most people’s perception is mostly due to the common misconception that science is a body of (boring, abstract, often mathematical) facts. In truth, science is best thought of as a process: Looking at the world, Thinking about what makes it work, Testing your mental model by comparing it to reality, and Telling others about your results. The facts that we too often think of as the whole of science are merely the product of this scientific process. Eureka shows that this process is one we all regularly use, and something that everybody can do.
By revealing the connection between the everyday activities that people do—solving crossword puzzles, playing sports, or even watching mystery shows on television—and the processes used to make great scientific discoveries, Orzel shows that if we recognize the process of doing science as something familiar, we will be better able to appreciate scientific discoveries, and use scientific facts and thinking to help address the problems that affect us all.
People Saying Nice Things About It:
“This fun, diverse, and accessible look at how science works will convert even the biggest science phobe.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Similar to Richard Rhodes or Dava Sobel, Orzel makes complicated scientific narratives accessible to lay readers.” —Library Journal
“In writing that is welcoming but not overly bouncy, persuasive in a careful way but also enticing, Orzel reveals the ‘process of looking at the world, figuring out how things work, testing that knowledge, and sharing it with others.’” —Kirkus Reviews
“I know, I know, you think you’re just not smart enough to be a scientist. Chad Orzel might convince you otherwise with Eureka. Drawing on basketball, stamp collecting, Angry Birds, Iron Chef, and Antiques Roadshow among his many colorful examples, he ably demonstrates that science is not a rarefied alien endeavor performed solely by those with genius IQs. It’s a process, and a way of thinking about the world available to all. Surprise! You’re probably committing acts of science every day.”—Jennifer Ouellette, author of The Calculus Diaries and Me, Myself and Why
“Chad Orzel is absolutely right: everyone has a scientist inside them, eager to burst out and look at the world in a new way. This book provides great examples that will inspire you to let your inner scientist free.”—Sean Carroll, theoretical physicist at Caltech and author of The Particle at the End of the Universe
“Many people are curious about the natural world, but few consider themselves scientists. Using an engaging array of examples of scientific discovery—some recent, others drawn from history—Chad Orzel takes readers on a wonderful tour of how scientists think.”—David Kaiser, Germeshausen Professor of the History of Science, MIT and author of How the Hippies Saved Physics: Science, Counterculture, and the Quantum Revival
“Chad Orzel’s previous two books were just fine and dandy. However, this one is awesome. If anyone wants an insight into nature and the process of science, this is the book to get. Chad uses his witty writing style along with historical stories to show that science is part of our human nature.
Do you have a non-scientist friend? They will love this book. Or maybe your friend is a scientist—yup, it’s for scientists too.”—Rhett Allain, Professor of Physics at Southeastern Louisiana University and author of WIRED Magazine’s Dot Physics
Published by Basic Books, 2012.
Physics professor Chad Orzel and his inquisitive canine companion, Emmy, tackle the concepts of general relativity in this irresistible introduction to Einstein’s physics. Through armchair —and sometimes passenger-seat —conversations with Emmy about the relative speeds of dog and cat motion or the logistics of squirrel-chasing, Orzel translates complex Einsteinian ideas — the slowing of time for a moving observer, the shrinking of moving objects, the effects of gravity on light and time, black holes, the Big Bang, and of course, E=mc2 —into examples simple enough for a dog to understand.
A lively romp through one of the great theories of modern physics, How to Teach Relativity to Your Dog will teach you everything you ever wanted to know about space, time, and anything else you might have slept through in high school physics class.
For more information, visit How to Teach Physics to Your Dog.
Published by Scribner, 2009; cover redesign in 2014.
When physics professor Chad Orzel went to the pound to adopt a dog, he never imagined Emmy. She wasn’t just a friendly mutt who needed a home. Soon she was trying to use the strange ideas of quantum mechanics for the really important things in her life: chasing critters, getting treats, and going for walks. She peppered Chad with questions: Could she use quantum tunneling to get through the neighbor’s fence and chase bunnies? What about quantum teleportation to catch squirrels before they climb out of reach? Where are all the universes in which Chad drops steak on the floor?
With great humor and clarity, Chad Orzel explains to Emmy, and to human readers, just what quantum mechanics is and how it works—and why, although you can’t use it to catch squirrels or eat steak, it’s still bizarre, amazing, and important to every dog and human.
For more information, visit How to Teach Physics to Your Dog…
A short video based on Chapter 8 of Eureka, explaining how the history of quantum physics is like solving a crossword puzzle:
A dramatic reading of the dog dialogue from Chapter 3 of How to Teach Quantum Physics to Your Dog.
A dramatic reading of the dog dialogue from Chapter 5 of How to Teach Quantum Physics to Your Dog.
A dramatic reading of Chapter 4 of How to Teach Quantum Physics to Your Dog.