The Penultimate Curiosity: How Science Swims in the Slipstream of Ultimate Questions

When young children first begin to ask ‘why?’ they embark on a journey with no final destination. The need to make sense of the world as a whole is an ultimate curiosity that lies at the root of all human religions. It has, in many cultures, shaped and motivated a more down to earth scientific interest in the physical world, which could therefore be described as penultimate curiosity.

These two manifestations of curiosity have a history of connection that goes back deep into the human past. Tracing that history all the way from cave painting to quantum physics, this book (a collaboration between a painter and a physical scientist that uses illustrations throughout the narrative) sets out to explain the nature of the long entanglement between religion and science: the ultimate and the penultimate curiosity.

Learn more:

Acoustic Microscopy


Acoustic microscopy enables you to image and measure the elastic properties of materials with the resolution of a good microscope. By using frequencies in the microwave range, it is possible to make the acoustic wavelength comparable with the wavelength of light, and hence to achieve a resolution comparable with an optical microscope. The contrast gives information about the elastic properties and structure of the sample. Since acoustic waves can propagate in materials, acoustic microscopy can be used for interior imaging, with high sensitivity to defects such as delaminations. Solids can support both longitudinal and transverse acoustic waves. At surfaces a combination of the two known as Rayleigh waves can propagate, and in many circumstances these dominate the contrast in acoustic microscopy. Contrast theory accounts for the variation of signal with defocus, V(z). Acoustic microscopy can image and measure properties such as anisotropy and features such as surface boundaries and cracks. A scanning probe microscope can be used to detect ultrasonic vibration of a surface with resolution in the nanometre range, thus beating the diffraction limit by operating in the extreme near‐field. This 2nd edition of Acoustic Microscopy has a major new chapter on the technique and applications of acoustically exited probe microscopy.

Learn more: