Mr. Tompkins

From Academic Kids

The eponymous character of Mr. Tompkins appears in a series of books by the physicist George Gamow in which he aims to explain modern scientific theories to a popular audience.

The books are structured as a series of dreams 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 and quantum mechanics becoming obvious in everyday life.

Other chapters in the books deal with atomic structure and thermodynamics. In particular, Mr. Tompkins makes the personal acquaintance of Maxwell's demon. Later books tackled biology and advanced cosmology.

A figure named Mr. Tompkins appears also in Tom DeMarco's work The Deadline: A Novel about Project Management. The author admitts that he was inspired by Gamow's books and uses this method to introduce the non-insiders to the issues of (software) project management. Instead of dreaming, this Mr. Tompkins is kidnapped and brought to the imaginary ex-Communist country Moravia, where he becomes the manager of a major project and has to fight various difficulties common for his position including human conflicts, unsufficient time, inefficient bureaucracy, and others.

References

  • George Gamow, John Hookham (Illustrator), Mr. Tompkins in Wonderland, The Macmillan Company, 1946, ASIN B0007DKC30
  • George Gamow, Mr. Tompkins explores the atom, The University Press, 1951, ASIN B0007FOR4S
  • George Gamow, Mr. Tompkins inside himself: Adventures in the new biology, Viking Press, 1967, ASIN B0006BQXKE
  • George Gamow, Roger Penrose (Foreword), Mr. Tompkins in Paperback (Omnibus of Mr. Tompkins in Wonderland and Mr. Tompkins Explores the Atom), Cambridge University Press, 1993, ISBN 0521447712
  • George Gamow, Russell Stannard (Editor), Michael Edwards (Illustrator), The New World of Mr. Tompkins, Cambridge University Press, 2001 (revised and updated edition), ISBN 0521639921
  • Tom DeMarco, The Deadline: A Novel about Project Management, Dorset House Publishing Company, Incorporated, 1997, ISBN 0932633390
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