In this post we will see a wonderful little book titled Universal Physical Constants by O. P. Spiridonov.This is a book that deals with history of science in a wonderful way. There are six stories to be told about the constants themselves and the way we found their values. The constants are:
- Gravitational Constant
- Boltzmann Constant and Avagadro’s Number
- Mass and Charge of electron
- Speed of Light
- Planck’s constant
- Masses of neutron, proton and other elementary particles
From the back cover:
The stern academical title of the book is somewhat misguiding tor this is, in fact, a fresh and exciting account of physics, tracing its experimental and conceptual development from the ancient Greeks up to the present day. In thorough studies and heated scientific controversies, it was through the endeavours of many remarkable men that the profound physical significance of the universal physical constants was revealed, sometimes with a complete revision of old views and formation of new physical disciplines. O. P. Spiridonov’s Universal Physical Constants appears to be the first book, both in the USSR and abroad, to be specifically concerned with a systematic discussion of the constants. A “case history” is given for each of them. In telling the story, the author places strong emphasis on logical continuity and the lucidity of his style is never achieved at the expense of scientific strictness.
The book was translated from Russian by Yevgeni Strelchenko and was first published by Mir in 1986.
You can get the book here.
Update: Posted link to Internet Archive 03 December 2015
Update: Posted a cleaned new copy on IA August 30, 2020
Milestones of Physics (9)
Strength and Weakness of a Giant or the Tale of Gravitational Constant (14).
Grandeur of Genius (17).
Gravitational Constant (25).
“There is not a Sufficient Number of Experiments” (28).
Lives of Hardship or the Tale of Avogadro’s and Boltzmann’s Constants (35)
Truth Foreseen (35). The Architect of Harmony (44).
How Are Atoms Counted? (56).
Guiding Star or the Tale of the Charge and Mass of the Electron (63)
Completed Theory of . . . Unknown (63).
Discovery of the Electron (Analysis and Synthesis) (72).
Nobel Prize to Every Student (78).
The Troublesome Mass (82).
The Puzzle or the Tale of the Speed of Light (89)
Have You Ever Solved Puzzles? (89).
A Victimless Duel (91).
Is the Speed of Light Constant? (104).
Michelson disagrees with Pushkin (113).
The World of Albert Einstein (119).
Space Full of Life (131).
Mysterious Messenger from Real World or the Tale of Planck’s Constant (140)
Ad Hoc Hypothesis (the Emergence of Planck’s Constant) (140).
Einstein’s Light Quanta (148).
“Highest Form of Musicality in the Sphere of Thought” (152).
Waves of Matter (160).
The Measure of Uncertainty (164).
Electron Spin (169).
Jig-saw in Earnest or the Tale of the Masses of the Proton, Neutron and Other Elementary Particles (173)
How to Disassemble an Atomic Nucleus? (173).
“Weighing” Energy (181).
Three Different Similar Discoveries (185).
At the Frontier of Knowledge (196).
An Endless Road (201).