Short works

Books : reviews

Tom McLeish.
The Poetry and Music of Science: comparing creativity in science and art.
OUP. 2019

What human qualities are needed to make scientific discoveries, and which to make great art? Many would point to ‘imagination’ and ‘creativity’ in the second case but not the first. This book challenges the assumption that doing science is in any sense less creative than art, music or fictional writing and poetry, and treads a historical and contemporary path through common territories of the creative process. The methodological process called the ‘scientific method’ tells us how to test ideas when we have had them, but not how to arrive at hypotheses in the first place. Hearing the stories that scientists and artists tell about their creative projects reveals commonalities: the desire for a goal, the experience of frustration and failure, the incubation of the problem, moments of sudden insight, and the experience of the beautiful or sublime. Selected themes weave the practice of science and art together: visual thinking and metaphor, the transcendence of music and mathematics, the contemporary rise of the English novel and experimental science, and the role of aesthetics and desire in the creative process.

Tom McLeish.
Soft Matter: a very short introduction.
OUP. 2020

Soft Matter science explores materials such as polymers, colloids, liquid crystals, and foams. Drawing on physics, chemistry, mathematics and engineering, soft matter links fundamental scientific ideas to everyday phenomena such as ‘inkiness’ and ‘stickiness’, with a rich history and philosophy.

This Very Short Introduction delves into the field of soft matter, looking beneath the appearances of matter into its inner structure. Tom McLeish shows how Brownian Motion—the random molecular motion underlying ‘heat’—is an underpinning principle of soft matter. From rubber to shampoo, he discusses how common characteristics of these materials shape their behaviour and applications.