Keith Douglas' Web Page

About me Find out who I am and what I do.
My resumé A copy of my resumé and other documentation about my education and work experience for employers and the curious.
Reviews, theses, articles, presentations A collection of papers from my work, categorized and annotated.
Current research projects What I am currently working on, including some non-research material.
Interesting people People professionally "connected" to me in some way.
Interesting organizations Organizations I am "connected" to. (Some rather loosely.)
Intellectual/professional influences Influences on my work, including an organization chart. Here you can also buy many good books on philosophy and other subjects via I have included brief reviews of hundreds of books.
Professional resources Research sources, associates programs, etc.
What is the philosophy of computing? A brief introduction to my primary professional interest.
My intellectual heroes A partial list of important people. Limited to the dead.
My educational philosophy As a sometime teacher I've developed one. Includes book resources.

Book Influences - Physics

Purchase / Enjoy Cover
700 Science Experiments For Everyone UNESCO Some experiments perhaps usable as science fair projects.
A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes Hawking Hawking's famous book. I understand that I am in the minority of owners - I actually read the thing. His notorious bit about "imaginary time" seems unfortunately to be a bit of reification; the rest of the book is to the best of my knowledge more or less reasonable.
A Model of the Universe: Space - time, Probability and Decision McCall Another book by a teacher of mine. Storrs McCall's cosmology is my second favourite (to Vic Stenger's - see below), but I am not convinced it is consistent with general relativity.
A Treatise on Electricity and Magnetism, vol. 1 Maxwell This is the first of two volumes of Maxwell's masterpiece as reprinted by Dover. Includes notes from various editions correcting errors and referring to further research. Readers looking for the famed Maxwell's Equations will not find them in their form using "quaternions" here, which is a shame. Philosophers might note his realist attitude: he says repeatedly he is trying to understand the way nature operates. This volume comprises two parts: Electrostatics and Electrokinematics.
A Treatise on Electricity and Magnetism, vol. 2 Maxwell This is the first of two volumes of Maxwell's masterpiece as reprinted by Dover. Includes notes from various editions correcting errors and referring to further research. Readers looking for the famed Maxwell's Equations will not find them in their form using "quaternions" here, which is a shame. Philosophers might note his realist attitude: he says repeatedly he is trying to understand the way nature operates. This volume includes two parts: magnetism and electromagnetism. The latter has some of the historical beginning of the discussion of what is sometimes (inaccurately, as one can see here) called the Einstein constant or "the speed of light".
Astronomy: Journey to the Cosmic Frontier Fix The textbook from the astronomy and astrophysics course I took. My edition included a pair of 3D glasses for better visualizing certain diagrams.
De Magnete Gilbert (trans. by Mottelay) Some of the translations in this edition are likely contentious (the use of "field" prior to Faraday?), so be warned. Also confusing are footnotes by the translator referring to things both before and after Gilbert wrote.) However, this is still a cheap copy of an important book. Not only does it introduce the magnet and magnetism as important areas of study, it also shows the importance of literature reviews, defends a limited Copernicanism (before Galileo and Kepler) and also includes a brief study of a number of other fields related to magnets: "electrics" - amber, the geography of finding lodestones, their chemistry and even iron and loadstone's (supposed) medicinal qualities. I cannot tell if any of the conditions Gilbert lists would benefit from iron, so I cannot judge if any of these actually make sense. Gilbert also doesn't take what his predecessors say on face value and examines them: however, for better or worse, he is a bit more gullible about his own views. Also interesting historically is his insistence that nature "her"self creates. A few times this is stated as being with the concurrence of God, but sometimes not.
Dialogues Concerning Two New Sciences Galileo Galileo's famous physics book introduces mechanics, the study of strengths of materials and related matters.
Electrodynamics Pauli A rather pedistrian textbook of the subject matter that includes a few editor's notes and Pauli's perceptive but brief remark concerning some conceptual difficulties in the notion of a field.
Encyclopedia of Ignorance Duncan As this book is now decades old, an interesting project would be to go through it and see which areas in it are no longer areas of ignorance as well as to produce a new edition with new topics. This might illustrate how ignorance in a sense increases or at least does not decrease simply with the process of inquiry. (It is good to know we shll not run out of work!) I bought it used because the title seemed fascinating and the contents scientifically respectable.
Essentials of Nuclear Chemistry Arnikar I have no idea how good this book is, really, but I wanted to get a nuclear chemistry and physics book. Hence ...
Fearful Symmetry: The Search For Beauty in Modern Phyiscs Zee Symmetry is big in philosophy of science these days, and I thought this volume looked interesting at a local bookstore. It can be viewed as the less technical version of Stenger's Comprehensible Cosmos. Includes some important remarks about Madame Wu, the "experimentalist" without whom much of the brilliant theoretical work many have remarked on would never have been vindicated.
Feynman Lectures on Physics (3 volumes) Feynman The famous Feynman lectures grace my shelves. Feynman is a bit disparging of philosophers, but his "all" can be transformed to "most" and then what he says is basically on the money. A lot of very interesting presentations of physics is found here. Calculus is needed, as these are university level lectures, albeit basic ones.
Flying Circus of Physics Walker A series of curious physics experiments and observations to make.
Forces of Matter Faraday Some of Faraday's famous popular lectures.
How is Quantum Field Theory Possible? Auyang An e-colleague on Vic Stenger's mailing list recommended this to me when I was studying events. It did not serve much purpose, though not none in that respect. It is a fascinating discussion of ontological and epistemological questions centered around quantum field theory and includes an introduction to this branch of physics.
Lectures on Gas Theory Boltzmann One of the crowning achievements of one of the giants of physics who worked in this crucial area. Gases by themselves are not necessarily very interesting, but they lead to views about the nature of matter, chemical combination, the possibility void, infinity and much else. While it is true that Boltzmann does provide detailed derivations of many important "physical theorems", what are of more interest, at least philosophically, are how he explicitly recognizes the more general consequences alluded to previously. Boltzmann was also a realist when it was unfashionable but shows how such an attiude allows for more discovery. Also fascinating is his discussion of the use of probability, something of an innovation at the time. Additionally, this edition has many additional references (supplied by the translator) and a good introduction.
Life of the Cosmos Smolin Cosmology has more metaphysical content than some realize, though not in the way theists would like. Smolin's book is an illustration of this.
Matter and Motion Maxwell Yes, this is by that Maxwell. I am slowly collecting classics important to the history of science. While this is not quite on that theme, it is by a famous author and contains some methodological remarks on the nature of matter and so forth that might prove useful.
Matter Myth Davies and Gribbin Davies and Gribbin claim that modern physics shows that materialism is false. Ridiculous.
Lectures on Quantum Mechanics Dirac Dirac's 1961 lectures at Yeshiva University. Not terribly exciting, really - more mathematical methods in quantum mechanics than anything else, even if some of the math would give mathematicians fits. (The delta function has derivative 0 at 0?) It is valuable for showing the transition from classical to quantum mechanics in one particular way and as an introduction to Poisson brackets. I'm not too up on the calculus of variations, so this review should be also taken with a grain of salt.
Modern Physics Dull This book was my mother's high school textbook and as such it isn't very modern either as a textbook or in terms of the physics it treats. Some stuff in here I haven't got anywhere else, though, such as more engineering related topics like the transmission range of attenae, etc. Of course, a lot of these relations are given underived and with many purely phenomenalistic constants whose interpretation and even units can be unclear.
Opticks Newton Newton's second most famous book contains more than just discussions of his work on purely optical matters. It also includes some speculations and inferences about the composition of matter, which no doubt reflects Newton's alchemical interests. This Dover edition also includes some introductory commentary by slightly more contemporary thinkers.
Physics of Immortality Tipler Despite Tipler's crazy (and now, falsified, it seems) thesis and insufferable arrogance there are a few things of positive note in this book. One is a good physical argument to the effect that all elementary particles of a species are, in fact, equivalent ("identical") or "exchangable". Another concerns the ultimate discreteness of reality via the Bekenstein bound.
Physics and Psychics: The Search for a World Beyond the Senses Stenger An informal discussion of various supernaturalistic claims and their support (or lack their of) by physics. Dated, but still relevant, though with the level of argument (without reading further references) is likely unconvincing. Also commits the perennial mistake of considering mass and matter identical and hence perpetuating a common falsehood about the mass-energy equation. It, however, is also very accessibly written and humourous, two features that a good skeptical volume should have.
Principles of Mechanics Synge and Griffith A fast-paced mechanics textbook which presupposes calculus to the PDE level, at least in parts. (Oddly, for today's reader, it does not presuppose knowledge of geometric vectors.) Of interest are: (a) its very ecclectic ordering of topics, (b) its "foundational" chapter which explains what physics is and some basic matters and (c) its brief introduction to Lagrangian and Hamiltonian mechanics. These are useful later in quantum mechanics, although the topics in this book are strictly classical.
Quantities, Units and Symbols in Physical Chemistry Mills Not exactly what you'd call rivetting reading, but a useful reference. I got mine free as a guide at the 1997 IChO.
Radioactive Substances Curie This is a small Prometheus Books reproduction of Marie Curie's 1904 graduate thesis. Amazingly, this physicist and chemist of renown won the Nobel (for the first time) prior to being awarded her degree! In it she attempts to discover what radioactivity (a term she coined) is and what causes it, the physics and chemistry of the situation, etc. Interesting remarks to look for: certain substances being characterized as beautiful; the discussion of "emanations" (I wonder if she had read about the neoplatonists?); the (partial) chemical characterization of radium and polonium. We can almost see the discovery of radon. This would prove to be difficult as radon is radioactive AND quite chemically inert. Alas, this reprint is also marred with few equations being totally mangled towards the end of the volume.
The Comprehensible Cosmos Stenger See my review.
The Principia Newton Newton's physics and mathematics work of genius. I have no idea why Prometheus Books used this version of the title. Warning to the modern reader: following Newton's purely geometric (for the most part) proofs is extremely difficult for those of us raised on calculus.
Theory of Heat Maxwell Another clearly written classic by Maxwell. This one is an elementary introduction aimed at labourers who used various sorts of heat engines and other machines. Subsequently there is almost no calculus, but lots of other interesting stuff. For example: praise of Fourier, allusions to Darwin, the use of dimensional analysis as a means of investigation, blending of theoretical ideas with experimental investigation, refutation of the caloric hypothesis and much else. This particular edition is a Dover reprint and as such also includes a brief introduction, some textual notes and a discussion of differing editions of the work.
Thermodynamics and Statistical Mechanics Wilson Since the notion of "entropy" is of perennial concern, I bought this book used to have a basic refernce beyond the elementary introductions I have in general physics books.
Time's Arrow and Archimedes' Point Price Is the direction of time a relational property? Price thinks so. Read this and learn why.
Time's Arrow: The Origins of Thermodynamic Behavior Mackey Written by a physiologist (oddly), this book is not straightforward - in fact it arguably does not answer the question suggested by its subtitle. I found it very difficult to get physical understanding out of some of the arguments. Nevertheless, for a brief (<200 pages) rejection of some proposals on on its theme, it is worth having around.
Timeless Reality: Symmetry, Simplicity and Multiple Universes Stenger Stenger and I have been e-colleagues for quite some time now. I heard him speak in Pittsburgh a few years ago.
Understanding Einstein's Theories of Relativity Gibilisco Good for SR by itself. Not so good on GR (due to math limitations) or on the connections between SR and electrodynamics.
Universe Berganini   This was given to me by a friend of my mother as a child. It arguably got me interested in physics, since it discusses special relativity in a qualitative way.
University Physics Benson The book assigned in my university level physics courses. The level of exercises varies tremendously and more difficult ones do not reflect the level of explanation in the text much. Also suddenly adopts postulational format in the section on SR, which is confusing to some students.
Van Norstrand's Scientific Encyclopedia Aroiam (editor)   I bought a used, ancient (1958) version of this because it contains many articles that are still useful. Still discusses computers that were humans!


Finished with this section? Go back to the list of book subjects here.