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Instant Egghead Guide: Physics – Brian Clegg ***

Physics is a strange subject. It should be exciting, but all too often it’s dull. This little book is an attempt to make physics interesting. I’m not quite clear whether it’s aimed at older children or adults – it would work for either, but it could have been clearer. The pocket-sized book is divided into sections on matter, quantum theory, light, relativity, forces and energy. What’s neat about it is that it doesn’t start with the boring stuff – it plunges in with modern physics, and only pulls in the classical where necessary.
The format is 100 short articles, each of which has ‘the basics’, ‘on the frontier’ and one or two ‘cocktail party tidbits’, which works quite well. They’re all very readable and presented in a breezy style that makes it easy to keep going.
However, just as I’m not sure who the book is aimed at, I’m not sure what it’s for either. You could read it through from beginning to end – it works better than most short article based books in this respect – but equally you could dip in here and there as an introductory reference.
It’s frustrating, because this is a well-written book on an essential subject. I think it makes a really good background reading book for a school science student – it’s highly recommended for this – or an entertaining overview for the general reader. But with a different format it would have been even better.

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Review by Jo Reed
Please note, this title is written by the editor of the Popular Science website. Our review is still an honest opinion – and we could hardly omit the book – but do want to make the connection clear.

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