Monday, June 12, 2017

Book Review: EIGHT LECTURES ON THEORETICAL PHYSICS

'EIGHT LECTURES ON THEORETICAL PHYSICS' by MAX PLANCK is a treatise on some of the fundamental questions of the world. In the frst lecture, the many facets of consciousness is discussed. Unlike popular perception, the book proposes a different look. We must continue to say that man thinks, reads, writes, loves, hates, starts wars, fights, and so on. Actually, all this happens. 
Next lecture continues from there. Different states of consciousness is introduced, like, sleep, 'waking consciousness,' self-consciousness and 'objective consciousness'. The idea of man as a conscious machine is what is covered next. The book speaks of man living under two kinds of influences. The first kind consists of interests and attractions created by life itself: interests of one's health, safety, wealth, pleasures, amusements, security, vanity, pride, fame, etc. The second kind consists of interests of a different order aroused by ideas which are not created in life but come originally from schools. These influences do not reach man directly. They are thrown into the general turnover of life, pass through many different minds and reach a man through philosophy, science, religion and art, always mixed with influences of the first kind and generally very little resembling what they were in their beginning. 
Taking each of these as a centre which directs man's vision, next lecture investigates into the arrangement and functioning of these centres. All that we have learned goes into man's development, proceeding simultaneously in each and every aspect of human personality. Hence we have two lines of possible development, which are knowledge and being. 
This book discusses at length, one question that interested me a lot. Why are we what we are? Though the answers are not clear enough, the usual pitfall of excessive slant towards philosophy being the culprit, this book identifies it as a critical question.
Third lecture reflects on mcro and macro states, and the relationship of entropy, in the atomic theory of matter. Next lecture describes the calculation of entropy of an ideal monatomic gas in a given state, how S=k log W is to be computed. Which is followed by derivation of equations governing heat radiation, which take as a basis the electro—magnetic
theory of heat radiation, taking the rays as electromagnetic waves of the same kind as light rays. Further reflections about thermal action, followed by a discourse on relativity brings the book to a close.
This is an intersting book, and tells how, many of the fundamental notions are to be challenged. Like the prevailing ideas mention, "that a stone can only fall downwards, that water flows not up hill, but down, that electricity flows from a higher to a lower potential, and so on. This is a mistake.  A stone can just as well rise in the air as fall downwards ; water can likewise flow upwards, as, for example, in a spring; electricity can flow very well from a lower to a higher potential, as in the ease of oscillating discharge of a condenser". A very informative book, especially for those interested in the history of science.

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