139 of 146 people found the following review helpful
on September 2, 2005
This is a pleasant, conversational book on solving freshman-level physics problems (albeit interesting ones). The goal, of course, is to pick up physical intuition though Feynman's commentary; and for the most part, it does this well. Feynman's wit and charm come through very well, making this a pleasant read for anyone.
However, for those looking for a timeless classic like The Feynman Lectures on Physics, one might be a little disappointed. Feynman's insights in this book are genuine and instructive, but they lack the depth of his Feynman Lectures. Where the Feynman Lectures are volumes to be kept, cherished, and re-read occasionally (certainly during one's undergradaute career) because of their ability to enlighten even after one has learned the subject from traditional means, Feynman's Tips on Physics offer very little for those who have mastered introductory physics.
This, of course, is not a fault--it is exactly the goal that the book (and Feynman's original recitation sections) set out to fulfill, but Feynman-aficionados might be slightly disappointed all the same.
To its credit, the introduction by Matt Sands and the closing question and answer transcript were a very nice read and earned this book its place among The Feynman Lectures and Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman.
39 of 43 people found the following review helpful
on January 2, 2007
Feynman is one of my favorite authors, along with scientists like Gould and Dawkins. I own and have read most of his books, including his lectures on physics. I particularly like his way of teaching, and the way he puts explanations at the student's level. I've spent too much time around bellicose instructors who mistook for knowledge a vocabulary full of multi-syllable words and long tortured sentences; Feynman is their antithesis.
Ralph Leighton and Michael A. Gottlieb are co-authors of "Feynman's Tips on Physics." In addition to editorial work associated with assembling Feynman's lectures, Leighton wrote the Forward, and Gottlieb the Introduction. There's also a Memoir by Matthew Sands describing the origins of the Feynman Lectures on Physics. Leighton and Gottlieb hunted for and found the (nearly lost) tapes and photographs and were the ones who negotiated (for about 5 years) with Caltech, the Feynman heirs and Addison-Wesley to arrange the book's execution. They also edited and illustrated the book.
Feynman's lectures in this book had their genesis in his concern, and among scientists and educators at Caltech, regarding the way they were teaching physics. Feynman's lectures in "Tips on Physics" came about as a consequence of Feynman giving additional help to students, particularly those who were having trouble keeping up. There's more to the book than Feynman's lectures, however, including Matt Sands memoir, and exercises in chapter 5.
While Gottlieb and Leighton are co-authors of "Tips," the part I liked best was purely Feynman. My thanks go to them primarily for making Feynman's teachings more accessible through their historical research into archived material. One of the things I like best about Feynman is his sense of humor. Take, for example, this snippet from page 17:
"...we've found a very serious problem [with grading]: no matter how carefully we select the mean, no matter how patiently we make the analysis, when they [the incoming students at Caltech] get here something happens: it always turns out that approximately half of them are below average!"
This was part of Feynman's explanation to the struggling students, explaining that even though they had been the best and brightest in their high schools, when they all came together half of them were going to be below average for the first time in their lives.
I consider "Tips on Physics" to be a good book, but it's probably the book I like least of all those devoted to Feynman's work. I suppose part of the reason is that the book isn't composed in a particularly logical way, and doesn't flow naturally from foundational concepts to derived topics. That's probably due to the circumstances in which the book was written; it's something of a hodgepodge of lectures given to struggling students, combined with material from the other authors in a form that doesn't flow as well as I'd like, with topics bounce around a bit.
Subjects include vectors (adding, subtracting, line, etc.) and the laws of gravity and motion. There are also solved problems that show how to use these various concepts. The end of the book consists of somewhat lengthy and quite interesting discussions about dynamics, including practical uses of gyroscopes and accelerometers. There's interesting practical material here, including the use of gyroscopes in stabilizing various platforms, and navigational systems using gyroscopes and accelerometers (see figure 4-21 on page 116).
The discussions about gyroscopes were the most interesting to me. These devices represent some of the most amazing mechanical inventions/designs of all time. Combined with accelerometers they form a complete navigational system. Such systems were critically important during the cold war, and were closely guarded secrets, since they were essential for targeting and delivery of nuclear weapons - both by intercontinental ballistic missiles as well as bombers. For example, on page 117 the book explains that an error of just 10^-5 g results, after integrating twice over an hour, in a positional error of over half a kilometer. Integrating twice for 10 hours increases the error to 50 kilometers.
Even though this isn't Feynman's best work I enjoyed it very much and consider it well worth reading.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on July 18, 2008
As a Feynman completist, I felt compelled to pick up this latest addition to the canon of one of science's greatest expositors, which is made up largely of excised review lectures from the course that generated some of the most highly regarded physics books ever printed (The Feynman Lectures on Physics including Feynman's Tips on Physics: The Definitive and Extended Edition).
Whereas those lectures are voyages of discovery that make the reader feel that he is a true participant in the enterprise of science, those contained in this volume are generally more straightforward, and the reader is again but a lowly student ... albeit a student of one of the subject's greatest teachers. But that switch in mood is part of this book's appeal, for even as the reader trades the laboratory for the classroom in some of the more mundane aspects of problem solving, Feynman does so along with him. In fact, Feynman's admissions of the variety of mistakes he made while working out problems (some of which he admits to having to do several times in order to get them right while preparing for the lecture) made for some of the most entertaining and encouraging parts of the book. Feynman, one of the 20th century's greatest physicists, is grinding it out along with us, revealing himself to be vulnerable to the same little pitfalls that can haunt and discourage students in any hard science.
Beyond that, there are some true practical gems in the book, including a wonderfully simple method of differentiation that I had not seen presented Feynman's way until I read this book. Rounding out the lectures are some problems and solutions (not presented by Feynman) that solidify the book's practical aim. None of it is absolutely essential, and the book is arguably a bit pricey for its length. But it is certainly a worthwhile read, further enhanced, perhaps, by imagining Feynman's Far Rockaway accent as you read to make the experience of being his student seem a little more real.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on April 22, 2013
Feynman's fans, and there are so many of us scientists, are grateful to have access to any bit of paper or tape he produced. Why? He was bright and generous and attentive, and he had that little vanity that we cherish because it is human and funny. We love the man the same way that you love the three musketeers when you are young. We love him because he had no respect for authority - in the sense that nobody could intimidate him or tell him what to do - because he always looked for the truth and most of all, because he remained curious all his life. This is the man who was only bored once in his life; he thought that dying was pretty boring.
If you never read any Feynman, do not start here, start with his great (serious stuff)The Feynman Lectures on Physics, boxed set: The New Millennium Edition or the stories he liked to tell (very funny stuff) Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman and What Do You Care What Other People Think?
This little book introduces you to people who really liked him, so it is good. There are interesting comments from Feynman, for instance he addresses the feelings of the students who have always been the brightest in their local high school and find out in college that there are brighter students still. For students: no nonsense tips could save your bacon.
35 of 43 people found the following review helpful
on November 9, 2006
I purchased this, thinking I needed it when purchasing the lectures, but it was already included in that purchase.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on November 3, 2013
I really enjoyed this book. The authorship of the red books included Leighton and Sands, and I always wondered who they were and what their involvement with the Lectures were. The first 30-some pages of the Tips on Physics includes a memoir by Matthew Sands and interviews with Feynman, Robert Leighton, and Rochus Vogt. All the backstory and personal involvement are all explained and, for me, just this was worth the price of the book.
All the chapters are interesting, however Chapter 4 (Dynamical Effects) is pure delight. It was a lecture Feynman gave to cover some everyday objects. In particular, he wonderfully describes how gyroscopes and accelerometers work, particularly having to do with inertial guidance. It is one thing to talk about ideal gyros and how you'd use them for these purposes, but he breaks down real devices and how they're constructed and used.
I have had many years of training and practice in mathematics and physics, so I have seen and worked all the physics problems given in the book. However, it doesn't mean I didn't learn anything. One of the things that jumped out at me was a relationship for taking derivatives of complex functions. I won't call it a trick, because it is a mathematical relationship, but it is one that I've either never seen before, or one that maybe I was shown but its usefulness was never pointed out. Feynman not only tells you what it is (Equation 1.8 on page 42), but works an example or two. It made me slap my forehead and bemoan all the wasted pages from my mathematical youth spent carrying term after term due to square roots in denominators, etc.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on April 1, 2012
'Feynman's Tips on Physics' - actually assembled by Michael A. Gottleib and Ralph Leighton, is a gem that may well be in disguise, because too many may believe it's only of benefit to first year Calculus Physics students. This is emphatically not so, because as any of us who've taken the Physics GRE know, the bulk of the questions arrive from 1st and 2nd year undergrad courses, and thus Chapter Five ('Selected Exercises') is terrific preparation, say along with using GRE Test booklets for drills.
Before Chapter Five, one has the solid basis for approaching physics problems thoughtfully as opposed to mechanically. Too often, physics students are tempted (when confronted with the problem sections at the end of chapters) to just want to grab the nearest formula or equation and pump in numbers. Despite the fact we may teach or try to impart the underlying principles, say in the principle of the rocket (Ch. 3. pp. 80-88), students inevitably want to take short cuts....especially in our hyper-tech culture with Facebook, Twitter beckoning for attention.
Feynman bids the student 'Slow down!' and master the physical principles before jumping the gun. As noted above, this is beautifully illustrated with his examples of the 'rocket' problem. His "roller machine" thought experiments (Chapter Two, pp. 50 -63) are also wonderful in terms of stimulating class discussion, say as an introduction to Newtonian mechanics.
I also loved his treatment of escape velocity (pp. 64-66) and satellite motion (via Kepler's laws) on pp. 71-76, which is significantly better than that portrayed in many 1st year astronomy books.
As for his extensive Chapter Four, dealing with aspects of gyroscopic motion, while some may pooh-pooh it as overly obsessive about one form of dynamical motion, the payoff comes from p. 125 when we see the varied applications: to the Earth's nutation, to angular momentum of the planets (as it relates to the nebular hypothesis) and to angular momentum in quantum mechanics. In other words, the gyroscopic motion acts as the basis for forging a unifying theme.
I was also extremely gratified that the authors included Chapter One on 'Prerequisites' because to me they nailed most of the basic areas many students are deficient in. This includes differentiation of products and quotients (pp. 19-22), vectors (including writing vector notation - say for the components contributing to the Hall current, or other examples) and differentiating vectors. Perhaps other instructors haven't had such problems, but when I taught the Calc Physics courses I often found I had to go back to show the basics to all of these operations! The students had entered the course without having the math prerequisites!
To put it frankly, this is a book I wished had been available when I was teaching Calculus Physics for A-level 25 years ago.
But today I can see it would be a useful adjunct to any first year calculus physics course. Though line integrals (pp. 30-33) aren't usually taken at this stage. These are typically reserved for the first actual year of taking Classical Mechanics, say applied to the 'principle of least action'.
As is well known by most who've read or used Fenyman's 'Lectures on Physics', the original problem with them was that too many had perceived they were designed for a first year physics course at Caltech, but in the end this proved too ambitious. In fact, the (live)original Feynman lectures themselves (get hold of any of the available audio tapes and play them) could probably have been considered an ambitious honors approach to physics- and the published 'Lectures' as an advanced resource text. I certainly made use of many of its individual sections when I taught A-level physics and Calc physics - for example the fantastic section on planetary motion - to encourage student projects.
Having both the 'Lectures' and this book 'Tips on Physics', makes for an excellent repository of supplemental resource materials. In this sense I don't diss one (e.g. 'Tips') and extol the virtues of the other ('Lectures') but view them as complementary resources with the 'Tips' more immediately useful in getting 1st year physics students' problem -solving skills to the level they need to be to progress. Strategically-selected sections of the 'Lectures' can then assist in reinforcing the problem solving skills and completing higher level objectives.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on December 18, 2013
Description: A single set of lectures given to students who Feynman assumed were concerned about failing the class. In it, he discusses how to perceive success (and the lack thereof) in a successful way, how to quickly solve math problems and how to quickly analyze physics problems in general.
1. He shows a method of derivation (he calls "dispatch") which I was not aware of.
2. The psychological talk to failing students is great for *anyone*.
1. It's short, easy and not very difficult.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on December 13, 2011
It is not only a good suplement to the Feynman's Lessons, but also an independent book of iteresting exercises and a shows a excellent point of view on how to face the study of Physics
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on February 18, 2014
The reading is like watching a '50's TV show ... you can feel the gritty black and white in the words.
This is not deep stuff if you're looking for science ... it's about a CalTech intro physics course that Feynman descends from Olympus to graciously teach and leave us the legacy. Feynman's tiniest attention to student questions is the genius of the man. The child-like curiosity of the master to student is priceless. I was lucky enough to have apprenticed with a few Feynman co-workers. I was awed at the time and awed more now. There might never again be a set of physicists leading the way from the all-consuming experience of these Los Alamos and Oak Ridge boys. They were experts at what didn't work from experience.
If you enjoy explaining science or 'critical thinking' to curious seekers, this is a gold standard read.