Sky in a bottle /
Peter Pesic.
imprint
Cambridge, Mass. : MIT Press, 2005.
description
262 p.
ISBN
0262162342 (alk. paper)
format(s)
Book
Holdings
More Details
author
imprint
Cambridge, Mass. : MIT Press, 2005.
isbn
0262162342 (alk. paper)
catalogue key
5650516
 
Includes bibliographical references and index.
A Look Inside
About the Author
Author Affiliation
Peter Pesic is Tutor and Musician-In-Residence at St. John's College, Santa Fe.
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Choice on 2006-05-01:
Ask Pesic (St. John's College, Santa Fe) an apparently simple question, "Why is the sky blue?" and the answer may be a book-length examination starting before Aristotle, touching the likes of Newton, Faraday, Clerk Maxwell, and others, and ending somewhat inconclusively late in the 20th century. Moreover, because it is Pesic responding, the question is examined in fascinating, erudite detail, touching on a wide range of related subjects and written in a delightful, elegant style. Indeed, the answer to the question is not simple--only late in the 19th century did scientists come upon the elements of an explanation, which began with Rayleigh scattering and molecular size and was later enhanced by quantum theory considerations, the effect of the ozone layer, etc. Pesic attributes to Aristotle a precedent for modern field theory, also precedent for present understanding that, physiologically, the eye sees some colors better than others, hence the particular blue of the sky. The title derives from 19th-century scientist John Tyndall's efforts to replicate sky light with a bottled water/gas mixture containing mineral particles. (A quote of Tyndall's is misattributed on the book jacket!) In its many dimensions, a book from which to learn. ^BSumming Up: Highly recommended. General readers; lower-division undergraduates through faculty. M. Schiff CUNY College of Staten Island
Appeared in Publishers Weekly on 2005-09-19:
Ever since Plato, at least, the color of the sky has puzzled children, adults and philosophers alike. Why is it blue and not white, like the clouds, or gray, or violet? In this colorless study, Pesic, tutor and musician-in-residence at St. John's College in Santa Fe, N.Mex., catalogues ancient and modern attempts by artists as well as scientists to answer this question Aristotle, for example, concluded that the fading of daylight gives the evening sky its deep shade of blue. Later scientists and philosophers developed theories of refraction and reflection, wavelength and particles. Newton argued that the sky's color derives from the fact that blue's characteristic wavelength is longer than that of other colors. Pesic also records the efforts of artists and writers to capture the blue color of the sky in their paintings and writings. Kandinsky, for instance, exalted blue as a spiritual color: "the deeper the blue becomes, the more strongly it calls man toward the infinite...." Pesic's sometimes entertaining study fails to answer the eternal question, "Why is the sky blue?" It's more of a catalogue (a little repetitious, too) than an artful exploration, but it offers a workmanlike survey of attempts to answer it. (Dec.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Reviews
Review Quotes
" Why is the daytime sky blue? Why isn't it violet? Why is the nighttime sky black? Here is a surprising romp through history, art, and physics, replete with beguiling twists and turns. A fascinating, well-focused investigation!" --Owen Gingerich, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, author of "The Book Nobody Read: Chasing the Revolutions of Nicolaus Copernicus"
& " With the simple question 'Why is the sky blue?' Peter Pesic opens the door to observations and thoughts about light, color, vision, and atmosphere, from earliest times to the present. He decorates his account with biographical sketches and suggests experiments for readers, and at the end he even comes up with the answer.& " --David Park, Professor Emeritus of Physics, Williams College, author of The Fire within the Eye and The Grand Contraption
"A remarkable and beautiful book, as lyrical as it is learned." -Oliver Sacks, author of The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat
"Blue is a theme throughout the book-and not just sky blue. Each of the ten chapters has blue in its title, from the opening "Out of the Blue" to the concluding "The Perfect Blue." Pesic not only traces the scientific legacy of concepts and discoveries that have led to our current understanding of the sky's usual color, he also weaves into his tale cultural uses of the color blue.... A delightful and informative read." - Science
"If only Tyndall could have put his hands on an advance copy of science historian Peter Pesic's luminous new book, Sky in a Bottle . In 10 cleanly written, well-paced chapters, Pesic traces the progression of our understanding of atmospheric hue through dozens of scientists, philosophers, and artists. His smartest move was to structure Sky in a Bottle like a mystery story, coaxing us puzzle by puzzle through the (very) uneven advances of knowledge over the centuries." - The Boston Sunday Globe
"If only Tyndall could have put his hands on an advance copy of science historian Peter Pesic's luminous new book, Sky in a Bottle. In 10 cleanly written, well-paced chapters, Pesic traces the progression of our understanding of atmospheric hue through dozens of scientists, philosophers, and artists. His smartest move was to structure Sky in a Bottlelike a mystery story, coaxing us puzzle by puzzle through the (very) uneven advances of knowledge over the centuries." - The Boston Sunday Globe
"In tireless pursuit of the mundane mystery of the blue sky, Pesic takes us on a thrilling 2,000-year scientific treasure hunt, turning up profound questions, surprising answers, unexpected connections, and-always-more questions. Scholarly, sophisticated, yet broadly accessible. A little sapphire of a book!" -Hans Christian von Baeyer, Chancellor Professor of Physics, College of William and Mary, author of Information: The New Language of Science
"Nimbly stepping from Goethe to Einstein, Peter Pesic takes us to awesome mountain peaks and into darkened laboratories to see where the blue in the sky comes from. This is an adventure of the mind, using observation, inspiration, and measurement to show how simple things come from subtle sources." -Robert P. Kirshner, Clowes Professor of Science, Harvard University, author of The Extravagant Universe
"Pesic, a musician who holds a doctorate in physics, sets out on an enthralling and entertaining journey.... I commend this book to those who want to read about truly significant discoveries linked together through the need to answer what seems to be a simple question. Unlike many other attempts to popularize science, this book has managed not to garble the facts or sensationalize them. It is well worth reading." - Nature
"Pesic provides an elegant synopsis of the scientific investigation into the sky's color as well as an appendix of experiments for readers seeking to explain some of the sky's mystery for themselves." - Science News
"The question explored by this truly delightful book is 'Why is the sky blue?'.... The genius of this book, apart from the fact that Pesic writes like an angel, is that it actually brings the question alive.... The scholarship is remarkable and the long journey of discovery is really a sublime study of the endlessly inquisitive nature of the human mind." - The Age
"There be mysteries in the simple air above us. Not the least of them is the color of the sky, the color of hope. Peter Pesic, a master expositor of science, here recounts (with experiments!) the lively story of how we came to know why the sky, our sky, is blue." -Roald Hoffmann, Nobel Laureate in Chemistry (1981), author of The Same and Not the Same
"Why is the daytime sky blue? Why isn't it violet? Why is the nighttime sky black? Here is a surprising romp through history, art, and physics, replete with beguiling twists and turns. A fascinating, well-focused investigation!" -Owen Gingerich, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, author of The Book Nobody Read: Chasing the Revolutions of Nicolaus Copernicus
"With the simple question 'Why is the sky blue?' Peter Pesic opens the door to observations and thoughts about light, color, vision, and atmosphere, from earliest times to the present. He decorates his account with biographical sketches and suggests experiments for readers, and at the end he even comes up with the answer." -David Park, Professor Emeritus of Physics, Williams College, author of The Fire within the Eye and The Grand Contraption
"With the simple question 'Why is the sky blue?' Peter Pesic opens the door to observations and thoughts about light, color, vision, and atmosphere, from earliest times to the present. He decorates his account with biographical sketches and suggests experiments for readers, and at the end he even comes up with the answer." -David Park, Professor Emeritus of Physics, Williams College, author of The Fire within the Eyeand The Grand Contraption
& " In tireless pursuit of the mundane mystery of the blue sky, Pesic takes us on a thrilling 2,000-year scientific treasure hunt, turning up profound questions, surprising answers, unexpected connections, and -- always -- more questions. Scholarly, sophisticated, yet broadly accessible. A little sapphire of a book!& " --Hans Christian von Baeyer, Chancellor Professor of Physics, College of William and Mary, author of Information: The New Language of Science
& " Nimbly stepping from Goethe to Einstein, Peter Pesic takes us to awesome mountain peaks and into darkened laboratories to see where the blue in the sky comes from. This is an adventure of the mind, using observation, inspiration, and measurement to show how simple things come from subtle sources.& " --Robert P. Kirshner, Clowes Professor of Science, Harvard University, author of The Extravagant Universe
--Oliver Sacks, author of "The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat"
" Pesic, a musician who holds a doctorate in physics, sets out on an enthralling and entertaining journey.... I commend this book to those who want to read about truly significant discoveries linked together through the need to answer what seems to be a simple question. Unlike many other attempts to popularize science, this book has managed not to garble the facts or sensationalize them. It is well worth reading." -- "Nature"
" Pesic provides an elegant synopsis of the scientific investigation into the sky's color as well as an appendix of experiments for readers seeking to explain some of the sky's mystery for themselves." -- "Science News"
--Roald Hoffmann, Nobel Laureate in Chemistry (1981), author of "The Same and Not the Same"
--Robert P. Kirshner, Clowes Professor of Science, Harvard University, author of "The Extravagant Universe"
& " The question explored by this truly delightful book is 'Why is the sky blue?'.... The genius of this book, apart from the fact that Pesic writes like an angel, is that it actually brings the question alive.... The scholarship is remarkable and the long journey of discovery is really a sublime study of the endlessly inquisitive nature of the human mind.& " -- The Age
" There be mysteries in the simple air above us. Not the least of them is the color of the sky, the color of hope. Peter Pesic, a master expositor of science, here recounts (with experiments!) the lively story of how we came to know why the sky, our sky, is blue." --Roald Hoffmann, Nobel Laureate in Chemistry (1981), author of "The Same and Not the Same"
" A remarkable and beautiful book, as lyrical as it is learned." --Oliver Sacks, author of "The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat"
& " Blue is a theme throughout the book-and not just sky blue. Each of the ten chapters has blue in its title, from the opening & " Out of the Blue& " to the concluding & " The Perfect Blue.& " Pesic not only traces the scientific legacy of concepts and discoveries that have led to our current understanding of the sky's usual color, he also weaves into his tale cultural uses of the color blue.... A delightful and informative read.& " -- Science
--David Park, Professor Emeritus of Physics, Williams College, author of "The Fire within the Eye" and "The Grand Contraption"
--Hans Christian von Baeyer, Chancellor Professor of Physics, College of William and Mary, author of "Information: The New Language of Science"
"If only Tyndall could have put his hands on an advance copy of science historian Peter Pesic's luminous new book, "Sky in a Bottle," In 10 cleanly written, well-paced chapters, Pesic traces the progression of our understanding of atmospheric hue through dozens of scientists, philosophers, and artists. His smartest move was to structure "Sky in a Bottle" like a mystery story, coaxing us puzzle by puzzle through the (very) uneven advances of knowledge over the centuries." -- "The Boston Sunday Globe"
This item was reviewed in:
Publishers Weekly, September 2005
Los Angeles Times, December 2005
Boston Globe, January 2006
Guardian UK, March 2006
Choice, May 2006
To find out how to look for other reviews, please see our guides to finding book reviews in the Sciences or Social Sciences and Humanities.
Summaries
Main Description
Children ask, "Why is the sky blue?" but the question also puzzled Plato, Leonardo, and even Newton, who unlocked so many other secrets. The search for an answer continued for centuries; in 1862 Sir John Herschel listed the color and polarization of sky light as "the two great standing enigmas of meteorology." In Sky in a Bottle , Peter Pesic takes us on a quest to the heart of this mystery, tracing the various attempts of science, history, and art to solve it. He begins with the scholars of the ancient world and continues through the natural philosophers of the Enlightenment, the empiricists of the scientific revolution, and beyond. The cast of characters includes Aristotle, Leonardo da Vinci, Kepler, Descartes, Euler, Saussure, Goethe, Rayleigh, and Einstein; but the protagonist is the question itself, and the story tells how we have tried to answer it. Pesic's odyssey introduces us to central ideas of chemistry, optics, and atomic physics. He describes the polarization of light, Rayleigh scattering, and connections between the appearance of the sky and Avogadro's number. He discusses changing representations of the sky in art, from new styles of painting to new pigments that created new colors for paint. He considers what the sky's nighttime brightness might tell us about the size and density of the universe. And Pesic asks another, daring, question: Can we put the sky in a bottle? Can we recreate and understand its blueness here on earth? This puzzle, he says, opens larger perspectives; questions of the color and brightness of the sky touch on secrets of matter and light, the scope of the universe in space and time, the destiny of the earth, and deep human feelings.
Bowker Data Service Summary
In 'Sky in a Bottle' the author traces the various attempts of science, history and art to solve the mystery of the color of the sky. He begins with the scholars of the ancient world and continues through the natural philosophers of the Enlightenment, the empiricists of the Scientific Revolution, and beyond.
Main Description
Children ask, "Why is the sky blue?" but the question also puzzled Plato, Leonardo, and even Newton, who unlocked so many other secrets. The search for an answer continued for centuries; in 1862 Sir John Herschel listed the color and polarization of sky light as "the two great standing enigmas of meteorology." In Sky in a Bottle, Peter Pesic takes us on a quest to the heart of this mystery, tracing the various attempts of science, history, and art to solve it. He begins with the scholars of the ancient world and continues through the natural philosophers of the Enlightenment, the empiricists of the scientific revolution, and beyond. The cast of characters includes Aristotle, Leonardo da Vinci, Kepler, Descartes, Euler, Saussure, Goethe, Rayleigh, and Einstein; but the protagonist is the question itself, and the story tells how we have tried to answer it. Pesic's odyssey introduces us to central ideas of chemistry, optics, and atomic physics. He describes the polarization of light, Rayleigh scattering, and connections between the appearance of the sky and Avogadro's number. He discusses changing representations of the sky in art, from new styles of painting to new pigments that created new colors for paint. He considers what the sky's nighttime brightness might tell us about the size and density of the universe. And Pesic asks another, daring, question: Can we put the sky in a bottle? Can we recreate and understand its blueness here on earth? This puzzle, he says, opens larger perspectives; questions of the color and brightness of the sky touch on secrets of matter and light, the scope of the universe in space and time, the destiny of the earth, and deep human feelings.
Table of Contents
Introductionp. 1
Out of the Bluep. 3
Ultramarinep. 17
Peacock Bluep. 33
Shades of Bluep. 53
The Blue Flowerp. 71
True Bluep. 95
Blue Lawsp. 119
Blue Ridersp. 129
Midnight Bluep. 149
The Perfect Bluep. 161
Experimentsp. 179
Letters on Sky Blue between George Gabriel Stokes, John Tyndall, and William Thomsonp. 189
Notesp. 197
Acknowledgmentsp. 245
Indexp. 247
Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.

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