Professor Maxwell's Duplicitous Demon

The Life and Science of James Clerk Maxwell
Narrated by: Simon Mattacks
Length: 7 hrs and 8 mins
4.6 out of 5 stars (113 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Asked to name a great physicist, most people would mention Newton or Einstein, Feynman or Hawking. But ask a physicist and there’s no doubt that James Clerk Maxwell will be near the top of the list. 

Maxwell, an unassuming Victorian Scotsman, explained how we perceive color. He uncovered the way gases behave. And, most significantly, he transformed the way physics was undertaken in his explanation of the interaction of electricity and magnetism, revealing the nature of light and laying the groundwork for everything from Einstein’s special relativity to modern electronics. 

Along the way, he set up one of the most enduring challenges in physics, one that has taxed the best minds ever since. "Maxwell’s demon" is a tiny but thoroughly disruptive thought experiment that suggests the second law of thermodynamics, the law that governs the flow of time itself, can be broken. This is the story of a groundbreaking scientist, a great contributor to our understanding of the way the world works, and his duplicitous demon.

©2019 by Brian Clegg. (P)2019 Brilliance Publishing, Inc., all rights reserved.

What listeners say about Professor Maxwell's Duplicitous Demon

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Science writing done right

In 2018, I read The Hunt for Vulcan and it was one of the top reads of the year. It was the story of how scientists discovered Uranus, Neptune, and tried to discover Vulcan before Einstein put an end to that silly idea. This one was similar in style, except that I’m embarrassed to say that this one is a lot harder to follow along with. I’ve never had a firm grasp on magnetism or electricity, so a lot of the technical details went over my head. Actually, I think the author did a good job of dumbing it down, I just need to have a firmer grasp. Long story short, Faraday was Maxwell’s hero and Faraday found that there was a connection between magnetism and electricity. Maxwell is regarded as one of the greatest scientists in history because he pulled the magic trick that all scientists are constantly trying to pull- unify disparate natural phenomena with a simple equation. This is what Maxwell did with magnetism and electricity, and it took a combination of expertise in math and physics. The physicists of the day couldn’t understand it because it was too math based and mathematicians couldn’t understand it because it was too physics based. Hence, we have a genius on our hands. The author pulls the interesting trick of making Maxwell’s demon the narrator of the story. It’s a quirky idea, but I’m still not completely sure about what Maxwell’s demon is, besides the fact that he likes to make fun of the miniscule understanding of humans. What I got from this book is that Maxwell’s demon has the appearance of reversing entropy in unpredictable ways. I still don’t have the whole story about why this is important or how it connects to everything else, but you can only do so much in one book. First, I’m going to do some reading about magnetism, electricity, and the second law of thermodynamics. Then I’m going to read this one again. That annoying little demon is taunting me.

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Good book about the life and work of Maxwell.

Very well written book. Very original way to tell the story. It is a biography and high level explanation of Maxwell 's work.

2 people found this helpful

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Bio With a Twist

A peek into 19th Century scientific life (and evolution), and a biography of Maxwell, as told by his demon (the twist).

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Great biography, well read, would listen again

Great foray into the life of an enormously influential physicist. I am an electrical engineer and I learned things about Maxwell I didn't know. Splendid book.

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The Dawn of Modern Science

This is a biography of Maxwell, whose unification of electricity and magnetism marks the end of the era of classical physics and the beginning of modern era. It works as: biography, science history and cultural history. It is a requirement for anyone aspiring to cultural literacy. A bonus is that it’s an easy and entertaining read.

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Breathtaking

Captivating and Informative, this amazing book is delights in so many ways...Get this book. You will not be disappointed

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Edutainment at its best

Having Maxwell’s demon narrate his biography just works. The story telling proceeds at a lively pace, never slowing down, as you would not expect that from a demon.

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  • Goronwy-Wyn
  • 12-03-19

An Engineers dream book.

JCM, originated my field of study, having studied automatic control 40 years ago this book was a welcome trip down memory lane! Excellent work, more like this please.