Mr Tompkins

Mr Tompkins

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The eponymous character of Mr Tompkins appears in a series of four books by the physicist
Physics is a natural science that involves the study of matter and its motion through spacetime, along with related concepts such as energy and force. More broadly, it is the general analysis of nature, conducted in order to understand how the universe behaves.Physics is one of the oldest academic...

 George Gamow
George Gamow
George Gamow , born Georgiy Antonovich Gamov , was a Russian-born theoretical physicist and cosmologist. He discovered alpha decay via quantum tunneling and worked on radioactive decay of the atomic nucleus, star formation, stellar nucleosynthesis, Big Bang nucleosynthesis, cosmic microwave...

 in which he aims to explain modern scientific theories to a popular audience.

The books are structured as a series of dream
Dreams are successions of images, ideas, emotions, and sensations that occur involuntarily in the mind during certain stages of sleep. The content and purpose of dreams are not definitively understood, though they have been a topic of scientific speculation, philosophical intrigue and religious...

s in which Mr Tompkins enters alternate worlds where the physical constants have radically different values from those they have in the real world. This results in the counterintuitive results of the theory of relativity
Theory of relativity
The theory of relativity, or simply relativity, encompasses two theories of Albert Einstein: special relativity and general relativity. However, the word relativity is sometimes used in reference to Galilean invariance....

 and quantum mechanics
Quantum mechanics
Quantum mechanics, also known as quantum physics or quantum theory, is a branch of physics providing a mathematical description of much of the dual particle-like and wave-like behavior and interactions of energy and matter. It departs from classical mechanics primarily at the atomic and subatomic...

 becoming obvious in everyday life.

Mr Tompkins' adventures begin when he chooses to spend the afternoon of a day's holiday attending a lecture on the theory of relativity. The lecture proves less comprehensible than he had hoped and he drifts off to sleep and enters a dream world in which the speed of light is a mere 30 miles an hour. This becomes apparent to him through the fact that passing cyclists are subject to a noticeable Lorentz-Fitzgerald contraction.

Despite this inauspicious beginning to his scientific education, Mr Tompkins becomes acquainted with the Professor delivering the lectures and ultimately marries the Professor's daughter, Maud. Later chapters in the books deal with atom
The atom is a basic unit of matter that consists of a dense central nucleus surrounded by a cloud of negatively charged electrons. The atomic nucleus contains a mix of positively charged protons and electrically neutral neutrons...

ic structure (Mr Tompkins spends time as a conduction electron, returning to consciousness when he is annihilated in an encounter with a positron
The positron or antielectron is the antiparticle or the antimatter counterpart of the electron. The positron has an electric charge of +1e, a spin of ½, and has the same mass as an electron...

) and thermodynamics
Thermodynamics is a physical science that studies the effects on material bodies, and on radiation in regions of space, of transfer of heat and of work done on or by the bodies or radiation...

 (the Professor expounds an analogy between the second law of thermodynamics
Second law of thermodynamics
The second law of thermodynamics is an expression of the tendency that over time, differences in temperature, pressure, and chemical potential equilibrate in an isolated physical system. From the state of thermodynamic equilibrium, the law deduced the principle of the increase of entropy and...

 and the bias towards the casino in gambling before being confounded by a local reversal of the second law through the intervention of Maxwell's demon
Maxwell's demon
In the philosophy of thermal and statistical physics, Maxwell's demon is a thought experiment created by the Scottish physicist James Clerk Maxwell to "show that the Second Law of Thermodynamics has only a statistical certainty." It demonstrates Maxwell's point by hypothetically describing how to...

 who has introduced himself to Maud in one of her dreams).

Later books in the series tackled biology (a subject taken up by the son of Mr and Mrs Tompkins who has inherited the Professor's academic leanings) and advanced cosmology.

In 2010 the first volume of a proposed ten-issue comic book
Comic book
A comic book or comicbook is a magazine made up of comics, narrative artwork in the form of separate panels that represent individual scenes, often accompanied by dialog as well as including...

 series, The Adventures of Mr. Tompkins, was created by Igor Gamow
Igor Gamow
Rustem Igor Gamow , son of physicist George Gamow, is a microbiology professor and inventor. His best known inventions include the Gamow bag and the Shallow Underwater Breathing Apparatus.- Youth :...

, George Gamow's son, and illustrator Scorpio Steele. In the book Tompkins learns about relativity from Albert Einstein
Albert Einstein
Albert Einstein was a German-born theoretical physicist who developed the theory of general relativity, effecting a revolution in physics. For this achievement, Einstein is often regarded as the father of modern physics and one of the most prolific intellects in human history...

, radioactivity from Marie Curie
Marie Curie
Marie Skłodowska-Curie was a physicist and chemist famous for her pioneering research on radioactivity. She was the first person honored with two Nobel Prizes—in physics and chemistry...

 and the structure of the atom from Ernest Rutherford
Ernest Rutherford
Ernest Rutherford, 1st Baron Rutherford of Nelson OM, FRS was a New Zealand-born British chemist and physicist who became known as the father of nuclear physics...

. A second volume, in which Tompkins meets Charles Darwin
Charles Darwin
Charles Robert Darwin FRS was an English naturalist. He established that all species of life have descended over time from common ancestry, and proposed the scientific theory that this branching pattern of evolution resulted from a process that he called natural selection.He published his theory...

, Gregor Mendel
Gregor Mendel
Gregor Johann Mendel was an Austrian scientist and Augustinian friar who gained posthumous fame as the founder of the new science of genetics. Mendel demonstrated that the inheritance of certain traits in pea plants follows particular patterns, now referred to as the laws of Mendelian inheritance...

 and James D. Watson
James D. Watson
James Dewey Watson is an American molecular biologist, geneticist, and zoologist, best known as one of the co-discoverers of the structure of DNA in 1953 with Francis Crick...

, is scheduled for release in Summer 2011.