Skip to main content

50 Physics Ideas you Really Need to Know – Joanne Baker ***

I am not sure exactly what audience this book is intended for, as it isn’t quite a coffee table book and yet neither is it a reference work, indeed it falls somewhere between the two.
The title is an accurate description of the book’s content (although it could be argued if anyone really does need know these ideas or not!) – the author describes within the space of two or three pages each, 50 diverse concepts in physics such as Kepler’s laws of planetary motion, the EPR paradox, chaos theory, the photoelectric effect, Hooke’s law, etc. Baker does a fairly good job of describing the relevant physics behind each idea, however there are some silly errors here and there that distract from the text. In places it would appear that tighter editing would have improved things no end. However, the range of physics covered is admirable and all the big physics ideas that you would expect to find in such a book are all present, and by and large correct.
Along with each idea covered there is a timeline along the bottom that shows how the idea originated and was developed. There are also the occasional box outs which contain interesting little snippets about the physicists involved in discovering each idea, or showing how one idea is connected to the others covered in the book. Accompanying most ideas covered are nice, straightforward black and white diagrams that help clarify the physics.
One aspect of this title which I found soon became mildly irritating was the one or two word ‘condensed idea’ summary at the end of each concept’s description. Rather than being a punchy or memorable way of summarising things, this actually comes across as rather glib and flippant – undermining what the book sets out to do.
If you approach this book as a physics dictionary – albeit with lengthy definitions – then you will get the most out of it. It is not a title that is really designed to be picked up and read in a single sitting, it is the sort of book that you dip in to now and then to refresh your memory and as such would be a useful addition to a school library as a revision aid. However because it is written in a very accessible style it may well be of interest to the general reader who wishes to learn a bit more about the fundamental laws and concepts of physics.
Paperback:  
Also on Kindle:  
Review by Scotty_73

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Beyond Weird - Philip Ball *****

It would be easy to think 'Surely we don't need another book on quantum physics.' There are loads of them. Anyone should be happy with The Quantum Age on applications and the basics, Cracking Quantum Physics for an illustrated introduction or In Search of Schrödinger's Cat for classic history of science coverage. Don't be fooled, though - because in Beyond Weird, Philip Ball has done something rare in my experience until Quantum Sense and Nonsense came along. It makes an attempt not to describe quantum physics, but to explain why it is the way it is.

Historically this has rarely happened. It's true that physicists have come up with various interpretations of quantum physics, but these are designed as technical mechanisms to bridge the gap between theory and the world as we see it, rather than explanations that would make sense to the ordinary reader.

Ball does not ignore the interpretations, though he clearly isn't happy with any of them. He seems to come clo…

Jim Baggott - Four Way Interview

Jim Baggott is a freelance science writer. He trained as a scientist, completing a doctorate in physical chemistry at Oxford in the early 80s, before embarking on post-doctoral research studies at Oxford and at Stanford University in California. He gave up a tenured lectureship at the University of Reading after five years in order to gain experience in the commercial world. He worked for Shell International Petroleum for 11 years before leaving to establish his own business consultancy and training practice. He writes about science, science history and philosophy in what spare time he can find. His books include Atomic: The First War of Physics and the Secret History of the Atom Bomb (2009), Higgs: The Invention and Discovery of the ‘God Particle’ (2012), Mass: The Quest to Understand Matter from Greek Atoms to Quantum Fields (2017), and, most recently, Quantum Space: Loop Quantum Gravity and the Search for the Structure of Space, Time, and the Universe (2018). For more info see: www…

Quantum Space: Jim Baggott *****

There's no doubt that Jim Baggott is one of the best popular science writers currently active. He specialises in taking really difficult topics and giving a more in-depth look at them than most of his peers. The majority of the time he achieves with a fluid writing style that remains easily readable, though inevitably there are some aspects that are difficult for the readers to get their heads around - and this is certainly true of his latest title Quantum Space, which takes on loop quantum gravity.

As Baggott points out, you could easily think that string theory was the only game in town when it comes to the ultimate challenge in physics, finding a way to unify the currently incompatible general theory of relativity and quantum theory. Between them, these two behemoths of twentieth century physics underlie the vast bulk of physics very well - but they simply can't be put together. String theory (and its big brother M-theory, which as Baggott points out, is not actually a the…