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Mr. Tompkins in Paperback

af George Gamow

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508735,681 (3.98)4
Since his first appearance over sixty years ago, Mr Tompkins has become known and loved by many thousands of readers as the bank clerk whose fantastic dreams and adventures lead him into a world inside the atom. George Gamow's classic provides a delightful explanation of the central concepts in modern physics, from atomic structure to relativity, and quantum theory to fusion and fission. Roger Penrose's foreword introduces Mr Tompkins to a new generation of readers and reviews his adventures in light of recent developments in physics.… (mere)
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  pszolovits | Feb 3, 2021 |
George Gamow (during his "three decade vacation" in the USA) wrote a number of articles and books featuring Mr. Tompkins, a bank clerk with an especially easily influenced dream-life. The dreams have a funny way of becoming stories and adventures that explain features of fundamental physics and cosmology (as of the 1960s). Many of the illustrations are also by Gamow. A foreword to this edition by Roger Penrose indicates where theory has moved on since Gamow's time and the few, slight inaccuracies in the description of Relativity.

Mr. Tompkins' adventures are charming - delightful, in fact, though they show signs of the time/culture they were written in. The appearances by Father Paulini (Pauli) and Maxwell's Demon (dressed as a Butler but never without his tennis-racquet) are particular fun for me. No-one would consider writing a popular science book via this approach these days and so this will remain a unique classic of the genre. Strongly recommended to everyone just for the fun of it. You might learn something along the way but nevermind if you don't - just wait for the bit where Tompkins turns into an electron! ( )
  Arbieroo | Jul 17, 2020 |
Interesting. It's a bit dated but still highly relevant and entertaining. ( )
  jefware | May 30, 2013 |
This is a very readable and amusing book on relativity, the universe, quantum theory, and atomic structure. It is based around the adventures of a character called Mr Tompkins, who is interested in learning more about physics. He attends lectures on physics, in which he often falls asleep, and then experiences the physical phenomena (such as space time dilation, quantum coherence, particle annihilation et cetera) on a scale that is directly observable, during dreams.
This book is non-technical, and written for a general audience, and though there are a few equations, to completely understand them is not essential. The book does a good job of making difficult concepts easy to understand partly by scaling them up to every day life, and partly by involving the character in them (such as when he is changed into an electron). The illustrations are also good, and fit the light-hearted nature of the stories.
The separate parts that make up this book were originally published 50 to 60 years ago, so some of the things on elementary particles are a bit out of date, and a small amount of progress has been made in quantum physics, but the stuff on the universe and relativity still holds up well. There are other books that do just as good a job of explaining some of these concepts (A Brief History of Time, for example), but the way that Gamow writes is at times hilarious, and I think worth reading this for in itself. ( )
1 stem P_S_Patrick | Feb 24, 2012 |
Changing the conditions of the real world in order to demonstrate the effect of scientific principles has been a traditional tool since Flatland by Edwin Abbott Abbott. I have to disagree with the other reviewers and say that this book taught me to understand relativity, which only became less clear when reading Stephen Hawking. This is a book of its time in the same way as Flatland is a book of its time, the language and style of both have dated, but the underlying metaphors and explanations in both remain clear. Stephen, though undoubtedly clever, remains dense and unclear.
  BobH1 | Dec 2, 2009 |
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Since his first appearance over sixty years ago, Mr Tompkins has become known and loved by many thousands of readers as the bank clerk whose fantastic dreams and adventures lead him into a world inside the atom. George Gamow's classic provides a delightful explanation of the central concepts in modern physics, from atomic structure to relativity, and quantum theory to fusion and fission. Roger Penrose's foreword introduces Mr Tompkins to a new generation of readers and reviews his adventures in light of recent developments in physics.

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