How Everything Works: Making Physics out of the Ordinary / Edition 1

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Overview

A user’s manual for our everyday world!

“Whether a curious layperson, a trained physicist, or a beginning physics student, most everyone will find this book an interesting and enlightening read and will go away comforted in that the world is not so strange and inexplicable after all.” ––From the Foreword by Carl Wieman, Nobel Laureate in Physics 2001, and CASE/Carnegie US University Professor of the Year 2004

If you didn’t know better, you might think the world was filled with magic––from the household appliances that make our lives easier to the CDs and DVDs that fill our world with sounds and images. Even a simple light bulb can seem mysterious when you stop to think about it.

Now in How Everything Works, Louis Bloomfield explains the physics behind the ordinary objects and natural phenomena all around us, and unravels the mysteries of how things work. Inside, you’ll find easy-to-understand answers to scores of fascinating questions, including:

  • How do microwave ovens cook food, and why does metal sometimes cause sparks in a microwave?
  • How does an iPod use numbers to represent music?
  • How do CDs and DVDs use light to convey information, and why are they so colorful?
  • How can a CT or MRI image show a cross-sectional view of a person without actually entering the body?
  • Why do golf balls have dimples?
  • How does a pitcher make a curveball curve and knuckleball jitter about in an erratic manner?
  • Why is the sun red at sunrise and sunset?
  • How does a fluorescent lamp produce visible light?

You don’t need a science or engineering background to understand How Everything Works, all you need is an active curiosity about the extraordinary world all around you.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Books on how things work often adopt a format that gives equal space to each device described. So the flush toilet, say, might get the same number of words devoted to it as the internal-combustion engine, even though the latter is far more complicated. In How Everything Works: Making Physics Out of the Ordinary, Louis Bloomfield avoids that trap by taking just as long as he needs to explain things. And that's exactly what he does, explain things, his chapters having such titles as "Things That Involve Light," "Things That Move With Fluids, "Things That Involve Chemical Physics" and so forth. The result is something of a cross between those familiar (and often less-than-satisfying) how-it-works guides and a full-blown physics textbook.

Although Bloomfield demonstrates considerable knowledge about the history of science and technology, his aim is clearly to explain how things work rather than how they were developed. Thus his treatment of the transistor very appropriately jumps straight to the field-effect transistor, which is fairly easy to understand, without first explaining its more complex predecessor, the bipolar transistor.

Bloomfield also shows excellent judgment about how far to dive in. (One exception here is his cursory treatment of magnetic resonance imaging, a technology that is admittedly very difficult to explain in anything other than a superficial manner.) His section on the microwave oven, for example, helped me finally to understand how a cavity magnetron works. Bloomfield also straightened me out on the difference between a turbojet engine (above, right) and a turbofan engine (left), a distinction I hadn't at all appreciated. And he even clued me in on why the front fork of a child's bike isn't curved forward. All but the most hard-core technophile should find many similar moments of enlightenment in this delightfully informative book.—David Schneider

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780470170663
  • Publisher: Wiley
  • Publication date: 8/24/2007
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 736
  • Sales rank: 296,021
  • Product dimensions: 8.30 (w) x 10.90 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Louis A. Bloomfield is Professor of Physics at the University of Virginia. He also works extensively with professional societies and the media to explain physics to the general public.  Bloomfield received his Ph.D. from Stanford and was a postdoctoral fellow at AT&T Bell Laboratories. Widely recognized for his teaching of physics and science to non-science students at the University of Virginia, Bloomfield is the recipient of a 1998 State of Virginia Outstanding Faculty Award and the 2001 Pegram Medal of the Southeastern Section of the American Physical Society. He is the author of almost 100 publications in the fields of atomic clusters, autoionizing states, high-resolution laser spectroscopy, nonlinear optics, computer science, and general science literacy, and of the successful introductory textbook How Things Work: The Physics of Everyday Life, 3rd Edition (Wiley 2006).  Bloomfield is the co-host of a new Discovery Channel television show called Some Assembly Required that will premiere in the fall of 2007.
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Table of Contents

Chapter 1. Things That Move.

Chapter 2. More Things That Move.

Chapter 3. Mechanical Things.

Chapter 4. More Mechanical Things.

Chapter 5. Things Involving Fluids.

Chapter 6. Things That Move With Fluids.

Chapter 7. Thermal Things.

Chapter 8. Things That Work With Heat.

Chapter 9. Things with Resonances and Mechanical Waves.

Chapter 10. Electric Things.

Chapter 11. Magnetic and Electromagnetic Things.

Chapter 12. Electronic Things.

Chapter 13. Things That Use Electromagnetic Waves.

Chapter 14. Things That Involve Light.

Chapter 15. Optical Things.

Chapter 16. Things That Use Recent Physics.

Chapter 17. Things That Involve Materials.

Chapter 18. Things That Involve Chemical Physics.

Appendix A: Relevant Mathematics.

Appendix B: Units, Conversion of Uints.

Glossary.

Photo Credits.

Index.

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