Alan Chalmers, One Hundred Years of Pressure – Hydrostatics from Stevin to Newton Springer, 2017.
Alan Chalmers’ book really makes us wonder what we know about the physics of liquids and about how science got to this knowledge. The book provides a great historical reconstruction of the major episodes in the development of modern hydrostatics. It shows how the apparent familiarity of a physical concept mislead and continues to be misleading. The concept of pressure is usually presented as a ‘given’, but it’s far from being self-evident, and its hundred years of intellectual development attest this.
Think about the ordinary things in everyday life. Some of them seem to be as trivial and boring as things can get. They aren’t surprising in any way, and only rarely arouse any thoughts or reflections. We simply take them for granted. The behavior of liquids belongs here: everyone knows that liquids flow. It’s self-evident that water takes the shape of its container, that some objects float, or that the smallest crack in a filled vessel might cause a leak. Even my cat has a habit that suggests he’s perfectly aware he can spill all the water from his bowl. Continue reading The science of water