Only the Longest Threads
by Tasneem Zehra Husain

Price at time of review: $16.95
222 pp.
Paul Dry Books, Inc.
Philadelphia, PA
ISBN: 9781589880887

Grade Level: College

Reviewed by Cary Seidman
Science Teacher

A number of prominent scientists, such as Stephen Hawking and Steven Weinberg, and many leading science writers (think Brian Greene or Timothy Ferris), have produced histories of cosmological theory and modern physics. Several have been best sellers, but the suspicion lingers that many people, science teachers included, begin reading these books but become lost in arcane, complex abstractions and never finish them.

In Only the Longest Threads, Tasneem Zehra Husain, a theoretical physicist, provides accounts of many of the ground–breaking discoveries of modern physics with an imaginative twist. Beginning with the discovery of the Higgs boson, a topic to which she returns later in the book, Husain tells the story of modern physics by recreating the moments of discovery by pre–twentieth century physicists as well as the insights of Einstein, Heisenberg, Pauli, Dirac, and others.

Like many writers who try to clarify complex science for the lay reader, Husain avoids equations and much mathematical analysis. Through a literary technique that consists mostly of fictional letters, emails, diary pages, and memos, she dwells instead on imagining herself as a student and observer of these great figures of science. The science is rigorous and the phenomena described are complicated, but Husain’s style is accessible, and her writing gives the reader some understanding of the frustrations and emotional rewards of cutting edge science. We learn how each scientist framed questions about physical reality in a different way. In creating fictional literary connections through time and geographical distance among all of the figures she describes, Husain does exercise a bit of license, but the relationships never seem forced or artificial.

There is plenty of science content in this book, but its real strength is the way in which Husain offers insights into how breakthroughs take place. Writing in an expressive, sometimes poetic style, she introduces us to the great figures of physics as human beings. As Husain weaves her stories within the personal, historic, and cultural setting unique to each scientist, the reader learns about their distinct problem solving methods as well as their passions, failures, and eventual successes.

Review posted on 2/2/2015

Customer Reviews

This resource has not yet been reviewed by a customer.

If you wish to review this resource, click here.