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# Back-of-the-Envelope Physics

Physicists use "back-of-the-envelope" estimates to check whether or not an idea could possibly be right. In many cases, the approximate solution is all that is needed. This compilation of 101 examples of back-of-the-envelope calculations celebrates a quantitative approach to solving physics problems. Drawing on a lifetime of physics research and nearly three

## Overview

Physicists use "back-of-the-envelope" estimates to check whether or not an idea could possibly be right. In many cases, the approximate solution is all that is needed. This compilation of 101 examples of back-of-the-envelope calculations celebrates a quantitative approach to solving physics problems. Drawing on a lifetime of physics research and nearly three decades as the editor of The Physics Teacher, Clifford Swartz provides simple, approximate solutions to physics problems that span a broad range of topics. What note do you get when you blow across the top of a Coke bottle? Could you lose weight on a diet of ice cubes? How can a fakir lie on a bed of nails without getting hurt? Does draining water in the northern hemisphere really swirl in a different direction than its counterpart below the equator?

In each case, only a few lines of arithmetic and a few natural constants solve a problem to within a few percent. Covering such subjects as astronomy, magnetism, optics, sound, heat, mechanics, waves, and electricity, the book provides a rich source of material for teachers and anyone interested in the physics of everyday life.

## Editorial Reviews

Choice

This delightfully broad spectrum of 104 familiar situations, each one or two pages long, includes the terminal velocity of falling objects, fatal impacts during car wrecks, timing to find the distance of lightning strikes, investigating the size and power of binoculars, and the height of Earth's atmosphere... For the well-grounded physics enthusiast.

Physics World

A physics educator's coffee-table book—a delightful and instructive accessory to an introductory physics course.

Physics Today - Robert K. Adair

Physicists young and old should follow Fermi and Swartz and hone a competency for back-of-the-envelope physics.

The Physicist - Colin Keay

An entertaining new book Back-of-the-Envelope Physics by Clifford Swartz nicely provides material to assist students (and teachers!) gain experience in handling real-world physics.

## Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780801881640
Publisher:
Johns Hopkins University Press
Publication date:
12/01/2004
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
176
File size:
20 MB
Note:
Age Range:
18 Years

## Related Subjects

Gregory N. Derry

This book is a treasure trove of fascinating calculations covering a wide range of physical principles, distance scales, and numerical orders of magnitude. Everyone with some curiosity about the natural world, from novice students to seasoned veterans, will find a variety of interesting cases in this wonderful collection.

Don S. Lemons

The book is fun to read. I look forward to mining it for examples with which to spice up my lectures.

Mark P. Silverman

If the physical world is to make sense to students (or even to professional scientists), then it must be understandable on the basis of broadly applicable principles and simple communicable reasoning. Long, dry calculations alone will not do, for they are as devoid of insight as they are impenetrable. Here, however, is a book of wide-ranging and aptly chosen topics—each brief glimpse conveying its (sometimes surprising!) lesson in one page with a short, physically insightful, quantitative argument. This is a book that will help make the study of physics fun and relevant.

## Meet the Author

Clifford Swartz is a professor emeritus of physics at State University of New York, Stony Brook. He was the editor of The Physics Teacher for twenty-nine years and has written numerous physics texts for students from kindergarten to graduate level. He was the recipient in 2007 of the Melba Newell Phillips Award and in 1987 of the Oersted Medal, the most prestigious award of the American Association of Physics Teachers.

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