Review: The Best Bits of Physics

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The Best Bits of Physics
The Best Bits of Physics by Alasdair C. Shaw
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I liked it. It’s split into two halves that don’t seem to have anything to do with one another. Half 1 is a short breeze through major concepts in physics. Half 2 is a list of do-it-yourself physics experiments. Half 1 takes a dozen or so physics concepts like thermodynamics, general relativity, absolute zero, and attempts to distill each to about a page of short, lay explanation. This does not succeed, not through any fault in the writer, but because it is an impossible task. I am well-read in these areas, but trying to read it from a lay perspective, I can see how none of these short walk-throughs add anything to understanding. The author is trying to do what the Michio Kakus, Carl Sagans, Stephen Hawkings, and Guy Murchies have been doing for years: teaching high level physics to laypeople. Perhaps this concept would work better as a Glossary of Physics Terms for reference, not explanation.

Half 2 has some wonderful experiments, for parents and teachers especially. Earlier, I mentioned a direction problem, because things that were explained in Half 1, like General Relativity can’t be demonstrated by household experiment. So there is a sharp disconnect between the two halves. Overall, this is a great reference for teachers & parents attempting to brief children on the subject and inspire them. But in terms of explanatory power, it just doesn’t touch the masters.

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Victor A. Davis has always loved reading and writing short stories. He is an avid hiker and even when away from the world of laptops and wifi, keeps a pocket paperback and a handwritten journal to keep him company on trail. He is the author of two short story collections, Grains of Sand and The Gingerbread Collection. Join his Mailing List for special announcements about upcoming works.