A collection of offbeat, entertaining and primarily nontechnical essays on physics and those who practice it, from eminent theoretical physicist N. David Mermin. Bringing together for the first time all thirty of his columns published in Physics Today's Reference Frame series from 1988 to 2009, with updating commentary, this humorous and unusual volume includes thirteen other essays, many of them previously unpublished. Mermin's lively and penetrating writing illuminates a broad range of topics, from the implications of bad spelling in a major science journal, to the crises of science libraries and scientific periodicals, the folly of scientific prizes and honors, the agony of getting funding, and how to pronounce 'quark'. His witty observations and insightful anecdotes gleaned from a lifetime in science will entertain physicists at all levels, as well as anyone else interested in science or scientists at the turn of the twenty-first century.
N. David Mermin is Horace White Professor of Physics Emeritus at Cornell University. He is known throughout the scientific world as co-author of Solid State Physics, and for his columns in Physics Today. He was awarded the Julius Edgar Lilienfeld Prize of the American Physical Society for 'outstanding contributions to physics' in 1989, and is a member of the American Philosophical Society, the US National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Part I. Reference Frame Columns, Physics Today, 1988-2009: 1. What's wrong with this Lagrangean? April 1988; 2. What's wrong with this library? August 1988; 3. What's wrong with these prizes? January 1989; 4. What's wrong with this pillow? April 1989; 5. What's wrong with this prose? May 1989; 6. What's wrong with these equations? October 1989; 7. What's wrong with these elements of reality? June 1990; 8. What's wrong with these reviews? August 1990; 9. What's wrong with those epochs? November 1990; 10. Publishing in computopia, May 1991; 11. What's wrong with those grants, June 1991; 12. What's wrong in computopia, April 1992; 13. What's wrong with those talks? November 1992; 14. Two lectures on the wave-particle duality, January 1993; 15. A quarrel we can settle, December 1993; 16. What's wrong with this temptation, June 1994; 17. What's wrong with this sustaining myth, March 1996; 18. The golemization of relativity, April 1996; 19. Diary of a Nobel guest, March 1997; 20. What's wrong with this reading, October 1997; 21. How not to create tigers, August 1999; 22. What's wrong with this elegance? March 2000; 23. The contemplation of quantum computation, July 2000; 24. What's wrong with these questions? February 2001; 25. What's wrong with this quantum world? February 2004; 26. Could Feynman have said this? May 2004; 27. My life with Einstein, December 2005; 28. What has quantum mechanics to do with factoring? April 2007; 29. Some curious facts about quantum factoring, October 2007; 30. What's bad about this habit, May 2009; Part II. Shedding Bad Habits: 31. Fixing the shifty split, Physics Today, July 2012; 32. What I think about Now, Physics Today, March 2014; 33. Why QBism is not the Copenhagen interpretation, lecture, Vienna, June 2014; Part III. More from Professor Mozart: 34. What's wrong with this book? Unpublished, 1992; 35. What's wrong with these stanzas? Physics Today, July 2007; Part IV. More to be said: 36. The complete diary of a Nobel guest, unpublished, 1996; 37. Elegance in physics, unpublished lecture, Minneapolis, 1999; 38. Questions for 2105, unpublished lecture, Zurich, 2005; Part V. Some People I've Known: 39. My life with Fisher, lecture, Rutgers University, 2001; 40. My life with Kohn, 2003, updated 2013; 41. My life with Wilson, lecture, Cornell University, 2014; 42. My life with Peierls, unpublished lecture, Santa Barbara, 1997; Part VI. Summing It Up: 43. Writing physics, lecture, Cornell University, 1999.