A Kopek in the Dust by Arnold D. Pickar

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Synopsis

"Abe Roth is just eight years old in 1901, when he leaves his home in a Polish shtetl with his mother and siblings, to travel by ship to America. His father, Jake, has gone ahead to find a job and secure housing for his family, as he feels there is trouble brewing in Poland. At this time, opportunities in America abound, and it is rapidly ascending as a world power.

A Kopek in the Dust follows Abe as he maneuvers his way through life and achieves his American dream as an academic physicist. Even so, he struggles to find a spiritual identity that is compatible with both his commitment to reason and his loyalty to his Jewish heritage. In his search, he finds a sustaining spirituality rooted in the natural world and strengthened by a great and tender love and his links to a Unitarian congregation and its minister.

As Abe’s journey unfolds against the backdrop of the often tragic history of the first half of the twentieth century, he discovers some surprising connections to his roots in Europe. Multifaceted, this
historical novel narrates an immigrant tale, provides a reflection on religion, gives a view of the physicist’s world, and tells a love story. "
 

About Arnold D. Pickar

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Before beginning his teaching career in 1963, Arnold Pickar made his connections with physics in a variety of contexts. He was an engineering officer in the merchant marine at the end of World War II and for several years thereafter. Later, working out of the Naval Research Laboratory, he helped develop airborne submarine detection devices and also built instrumentation for rocket-borne ionosphere studies. At the National Bureau of Standards, he studied spin interactions in paramagnetic substances at liquid helium temperatures. Finally, during his tenure at Portland State University, in connection with the Environmental Sciences and Resources Program, he investigated mechanisms of charge transport across lipid bilayer membranes induced by pesticides and other environmental toxins.At PSU, besides this teaching and research in physics, he taught liberal arts courses on the history and social implications of science and technology. He also helped develop courses integrating physics, chemistry, and biology at both the high school and college science-majors levels.It was in his teaching of general physics that he became acutely aware of the barriers that cause many otherwise excellent students to stumble pitifully when they encounter their first course in college physics. In response, he developed an evolving series of mini-courses which emphasized not only basic mathematical skills, but the ability to deal with word problems and to think pictorially and graphically. These remedial courses were the genesis of his books, Preparing for General Physics.Arny is now retired but maintains an active association with Portland State - at least when he's not volunteering for a variety ofcauses or skiing and hiking.
 
Published March 29, 2012 by iUniverse. 303 pages
Genres: History, Literature & Fiction. Fiction

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When asked what is the greatest mystery to a physicist, Abe responds, “why there is something, instead of nothing.” Contemplating the relationship between God and nature, Abe is drawn toward the Unitarian-Universalist Church, where he finds a harmonious balance of science and faith.

Feb 21 2013 | Read Full Review of A Kopek in the Dust

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