The Joy of Physics

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For those who have always wanted to discover the joy of physics, this is the book that they’ve been waiting for.

Many people remember their struggles with physics in high school and have wished for the right opportunity to gain an appreciation of this significant area of knowledge. Now is their chance not only to understand physics, but to do physics. The author provides the general reader with a fun-filled, entertaining, and truly educational tour of this all-important science.

What makes the study of physics so worthwhile? The author says that, despite its reputation for difficulty, physics has an enormously ambitious goal, which appeals to people’s innate curiosity: to understand the workings of the entire universe, from the smallest quarks to the largest galaxies. Learning and comprehending as much as we can about the inner and outer workings of the universe is what evokes the joy of physics. Taking a hands-on approach, he invites the reader to share the joy. Easy, practical experiments pepper the book and connect the ideas of physics with the reality of the universe. The yo-yo, flying disc, shake flashlight, laser pointer, LED, and even a microwave experiment with an edible result add to the fun.

Complete with lively, memorable cartoons by Sidney Harris—America’s premier science cartoonist—this book reveals the inherent fun, intellectual pleasure, and supreme importance of a subject that we can now finally tackle and enjoy.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"… makes genuine fun out of rigorous science… Wiggins’s friendly, stress-free approach will teach readers how to measure, observe and calculate, and he enriches his study with short history lessons and biographies of physics pioneers...With the exception of chapters on nuclear and astrophysics, each chapter contains quick-and-easy experiments … Clever cartoons by Sydney Harris and quotes from such worthies as Jeff Foxworthy provide laugh-out-loud moments, while the very human travails of pioneers like Tesla and Bernoulli remind us that life (and science) is seldom easy, even for geniuses. A welcome volume, Wiggins’ gentle but thorough text could do much to quell perennial student bellyaching over introductory physics courses."
-Publishers Weekly, Web-exclusive review, November 12, 2007

"Some people wouldn't think of linking joy and physics, but this book demonstrates that connection better than any book I've seen. It reveals the inner workings of physics in a way that should appeal to non-scientists as well as scientists."
—Dr. Charles M. Wynn, Sr., Professor of Chemistry, Eastern Connecticut State University

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781591025900
  • Publisher: Prometheus Books
  • Publication date: 10/28/2007
  • Pages: 416
  • Product dimensions: 6.29 (w) x 9.25 (h) x 1.06 (d)

Meet the Author

Arthur W. Wiggins (Bloomfield Hills, MI), is the coauthor, with Charles M. Wynn, of the critically acclaimed The Five Biggest Ideas in Science, Quantum Leaps in the Wrong Direction, The Five Biggest Unsolved Problems in Science, and the textbook Natural Science: Bridging the Gaps. Wiggins is a Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Physics, Oakland Community College.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments     9
Foreword     11
Introduction-The Scientific Method     13
Experiments     19
A Word About Calculators     20
Apparatus Needed for All Experiments     21
Identified Flying Objects     22
Updated Cannonballs     24
How Things Move-Position, Velocity, and Acceleration     27
Weight 'Til the Sun Shines, Nellie     33
Why Things Move-Forces and Their Effects     35
Dropsy     43
Sources of Forces-The Biggies in Nature     45
Horizontal Globalization     53
Round and Round It Goes, and Where It Stops...Circular Motion     55
Outgoing = Incoming     64
The Ultimate Four-Letter Word-Work     67
Follow the Bouncing Ball     73
Oops! Collisions-Impulse and Linear Momentum     75
You Say You Want a Revolution?     82
Spinning Wheels, Got to Go Round     83
Mo' Yo-Yo     92
Force with a Twist-Torque     95
Teeter-Totter     105
The Strange Case of the Body That Doesn't Move-Static Equilibrium     107
Stretchy Spring     113
Getting Bent Out ofShape-Elasticity     115
Gaze Intently at the Swinging Yo-Yo     119
Incredibly Repetitive     121
Back and Forth, Back and Forth...Simple Harmonic Motion and Waves     123
Magic Spring Tricks     130
Hey, Listen, What's That Sound?     131
Dive, Dive     144
Gooey and Gassy-Fluids at Their Finest     146
Soda Bottle Crush     159
Even Perfection Has Its Flaws-The Ideal Gas     161
Kitchen Physics     170
Some Like It Hot-Thermodynamics     171
Static Cling     190
Charge It-Electricity at Rest     191
Meter Reader     202
Who Let the Charges Out?-Electric Current     207
Resistance Is Futile     218
Silent Struggles in the Wires-Resistance     221
Do-It-Yourself Magnet     227
Approach/Avoidance-Magnetism     229
Battery-less Voltage     240
We Are Family-Electricity from Magnetism     241
All Shook Up     247
Big-Time Electricity-AC     251
LEDs Lead the Way     266
The Light Dawns-Electromagnetic Waves     267
Bent Light     274
Polar Opposites      276
Mirror, Mirror on the Wall-Reflection and Refraction of Light     277
Spreading the Beam     290
Compact Rainbow     292
Light's Strangest Tricks-Diffraction and Interference     293
Einstein's Prodigious Efforts-Special and General Relativity     299
LASER, not Phasor     311
Matter's Innards-Atoms and Quantum Mechanics     313
Half-Life Is Better Than No Life     322
Atoms' Innards-Nuclear Physics     323
Down to the Nitty-Gritty-The Standard Model of the Universe's Smallest Constituents     333
But Wait, There's Even More-The Universe's Biggest Constituents     343
Afterword     353
Additional Resources     355
Endnotes and Credits     355
Illustration Credits     365
Index     367
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