Galileo’s Finger: The Ten Great Ideas of Science, by Peter Atkins

If civilization collapsed, and people in the future could rediscover a single work to get humanity back on track scientifically and technologically, this book would be a contender: Peter Atkins’ Galileo’s Finger: The Ten Great Ideas of Science, published in 2004.

If there are miracles, Atkins would argue that they are not found in the surreal conjectures of things unexplained, but in the tangible power of our otherwise small minds to achieve cosmic insights through experiment and mathematics. Here, he distills his choices for the most profound of those insights: “My aim has been to identify the ideas that illuminate and, in most cases, provide the foundation for technological advance… Ideas that are simple, but out of which spring a whole range of understanding… Ideas that had to be like an acorn, which if you plant in fertile minds grows into a forest of understanding.”

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