Absolute Zero

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Absolute Zero and the Conquest of Cold by Tom ShachtmanABSOLUTE ZERO AND THE CONQUEST OF COLD. Available in paperback, and also as an e-book.

In a sweeping yet marvelously concise science adventure story, rich with historical characters, including Galileo, Newton, and Einstein, ABSOLUTE ZERO AND THE CONQUEST OF COLD takes the reader on a journey in which the extraordinary secrets of cold are teased apart and mastered, bringing advances in civilization and comfort. Starting in the 1600s with an alchemist’s attempt to air-condition Westminster Abbey, the story unfolds over several centuries, as early nineteenth-century merchants sell Walden Pond ice to tropical countries, and late nineteenth-century competing scientists pursue absolute zero with as much fervor as the contemporary races toward the North and South Poles. Today, as the final part of the book shows, ultracold remains one of sciences most important frontiers.

“A lovely, fascinating book which brings science to life.” — Alan Lightman, author of Einstein’s Dreams.

“Analyzes the social impact of the chill factor, explains the science of cold and tells the curious tales behind inventions like the thermometer, the fridge and the thermos flask …. Excellent use of analogies … [an] astonishing observation … a fascinating finale …. Recounts the history of cold with passion and clarity.” –- New York Times Book Review

“Intriguing … a disarming portrait of an exquisite, ferocious, world-ending extreme.” — Kirkus “An absorbing account to chill out with.” –- Booklist

“The pursuit of absolute zero may not, at first, seem important or exciting … But Shachtman –- who has a gift for telling scientific adventure stories –- has done a wonderful job of conveying the excitement …. This is a truly wonderful book: purchase this before it becomes an episode of Nova. –- Library Journal (starred review)

“Shachtman … holds the reader’s attention with the skill of a novelist as he relates the 400-year effort to fill out what scientists have called ‘the map of Frigor.’” –- Scientific American

“This esoteric scientific adventure story –- as keenly pursued as the simultaneous quest for the arctic regions –- is masterfully told …. In many ways an absolute delight, chock-full of quirky characters questing for ever-lower temperatures and discovering fundamental properties of matter along the way …. Shachtman has achieved an enormous feat, combining science, biography and analysis into a compelling narrative full of explosions, obsessed experimentalists and unexpected revelations.” – Atlanta Journal-Constitution

“For a subject bound to leave many readers, well, cold, [Shachtman] has compiled here a surprisingly fascinating account of what cold is and the role it has played and plays in our lives and nature.” — Copley News Service

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Terrors and Marvels

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Terrors and Marvels by Tom ShachtmanTERRORS AND MARVELS: How Science and Technology Changed the Character and Outcome of World War II. In papeback as LABORATORY WARRIORS.

“There was more to WWII science than the atomic bomb, demonstrates Shachtman (Absolute Zero and the Conquest of Cold) in his fascinating history of the use of intelligent machines in the conflict. He traces the development of scientifically engineered weapons such as poison gases, encoding devices (like ENIGMA), rockets, radar and early heat-seeking defenses, showing how both sides relied to an unprecedented extent on the work of scientists. Germany’s defeat on the scientific front, Shachtman argues, was due largely to Hitler’s sluggishness in making full use of his researchers and to the Third Reich’s predilection for flashy, impractical weapons over the more mundane, efficient ones that could counter Allied bombs. Moving back and forth between Allied and Axis advances, Shachtman dramatically captures the breakneck pace of research and the charged atmosphere of the WWII lab. He examines the effects of scientific developments on pivotal battles, and he also profiles individual engineers, chemists, physicists and biologists in Europe and Japan. In addition, Shachtman shows how developments during the period would later improve the lot of postwar consumers. The impeccably researched, taut volume maintains its focus on the role of science without drowning in voluminous WWII historical material. This effortlessly readable text will be of interest to fans of history and science, and to the casual reader as well.” — Publishers Weekly

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