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Head First Physics: A learner's companion to mechanics and practical physics (AP Physics B - Advanced Placement) Paperback – October 4, 2008

ISBN-13: 978-0596102371 ISBN-10: 0596102372 Edition: 1st

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Head First Physics: A learner's companion to mechanics and practical physics (AP Physics B - Advanced Placement) + Head First Algebra: A Learner's Guide to Algebra I + Head First 2D Geometry
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 9 and up
  • Series: Head First
  • Paperback: 895 pages
  • Publisher: O'Reilly Media; 1 edition (October 4, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0596102372
  • ISBN-13: 978-0596102371
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #480,286 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Whether you're struggling to pass the AP Physics B exam, fighting a headache from your college physics course, or just want to understand how the world around you really works, Head First Physics will give you what you need to master algebra-based mechanics and practical physics. Designed for the way your brain works instead of a text-heavy approach that puts you to sleep, this book offers a multi-sensory learning experience and encourages a deeper understanding of the material.

Hey! You want to pass, understand and ...yes...even enjoy physics, so...
Learn Physics the Head First way...

Physics textbooks or exam prep books usually present you with all the facts you might need to know, in a quick-fire overwhelming way. In Head First Physics, the pace is deliberately slower to give you space to explore and make your own discoveries. For example, you'll spend a chapter solving clues in a treasure hunt competition--as you go along you'll find out for yourself how vectors work, and how they help you to win! The interactivity and self-teaching style is a huge contrast to the usual textbook method of listing every possible "fact" about vectors as quickly as possible.

In Head First Physics, it's the exploration that makes things stick—and makes the physics easier to learn. You're immersing yourself in the scenario and taking part rather than "reading along and nodding" from the "outside" like you would for most books.

One area in particular where exploration is key is in the "crossover" between math and physics. Many students say that they can "use" equations or mathematical relationships in simple problems where it's possible to substitute values from the question into equations given on a sheet. But more complicated problems can be a real struggle, with students not knowing where to start, not knowing which values or equations to use, and feeling stuck in an "I don't get it" rut.

Overcome Past Learning Struggles...

In Head First Physics, you spend a lot of time building solid foundations and working out the "simple" equations for yourself. For example, you spend a chapter working out how to defend a castle--and by the end, you really understand how trigonometry works. And after implementing a training schedule for a thoroughbred hamster, radians and circular motion are no longer a mystery. The relationships between the math and the physics are clear when you go on to apply what you've learned to other areas, such as forces or orbits.

Spending time on the foundations gives you a new depth of understanding, far beyond "find an equation, plug in some values." Faced with a more complicated problem, you'll be able to spot the places where you can break it down into simpler problems that you already know how to do.

In Head First Physics, you find yourself in many different scenarios--designing a music player, fixing a pizza delivery website, helping the dingo catch the emu, going to Pluto - and so on! So instead of a problem set at the end of each chapter, you solve scenario-related problems as you go along so that there's always a direct application for what you're doing. Many of the problems have hints, and every time you flip the page, there are fully worked answers and explanations that you can compare with your own. No more wondering "where they got that answer from!"

Another element that hones your problem solving skills are the Question Clinics. Each Question Clinic gives an outline of a typical "type" of physics question, showing you the buzzwords that help you to work out what you're supposed to do, and giving you hints about how you should proceed.

Make Connections and See the Big Picture

Force... mass... weight... momentum... impulse... potential energy... kinetic energy...The typical textbook approach to these topics is to say: "Here are Newton's three laws, in order. Here are some other equations for momentum conservation and impulse. Here are a couple more equations for potential and kinetic energy." This makes it natural for students to treat each topic completely separately, with a list of unrelated equations that are difficult to memorise and even harder to apply.

In Head First Physics, it's the connections that are emphasized. You find out about momentum conservation while helping some pirates deal with a ghost ship, which you use to discover Newton's 2nd & 3rd laws and impulse. Your next assignment is for "Fakebusters" investigating a phoney "instant weight loss" machine, where you use what you already learned about forces to work out the difference between weight and mass and master the normal force. Being the physics consultant on a computer game helps you to consolidate what you know about forces, then you discover energy conservation while working out a way to lift the sword in the stone using physics.

Head First Problem Solving Tips

Don't try to memorize!
That's got to be the most important thing. Physics is like a sport — you learn best by doing rather than by memorizing. So the whole book's geared towards learning by doing, through solving problems as you go along.

Start with a sketch, and write down all the values you already know on it.
This gets the visual parts of your brain working and gives you a single reference on your page where you've collected together everything you know so far.

Ask: "What's it LIKE"?
Physics is about the world around you, and you already have plenty of experience there. Your sketch may remind you of a scenario you've seen before, or a similar problem you've previously solved, even if the "story" is different.

Don't be afraid to have a go.
The best way to solve a problem is to start it. You won't always see in advance how you're going to work your way through the problem, but as you sketch and write things down you'll often get ideas popping into your head that you can run with.

About the Author

Heather Lang has a physics degree, a PhD in the grey area between biochemistry and physics, and international caps at both chess and cricket. She has a great interest in educational and coaching methods and has run after-school chess clubs for a number of years, bringing many complete beginners on to national and international level.

Heather has been able to transfer many of these successful methods across to her book Head First Physics. She is also the co-author of the Babar Particle Physics Teaching Package (Manchester University Department of Physics and Astronomy, 1999) and joint first author of a 2002 Nature Immunology paper with a lot of jargon and some pretty pictures in it.

Customer Reviews

Written in a clear and easy to understand way.
Robert R. Hearsch
If you are young, in high school or just an adult that wants to learn more in a BETTER way this book is a gem.
Dan McKinnon
It's an AP Physics book and I recommend reading it on a nice big monitor as opposed to a Kindle.
Louis J. Fardhopper

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

33 of 35 people found the following review helpful By calvinnme HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 25, 2008
Format: Paperback
This book is as good any of the Head First books I have purchased and used. In this case I used it to tutor some kids in the mechanics portion of physics. However, be sure to read the ENTIRE title - "Head First Physics: A Learner's Companion to Mechanics and Practical Physics". Thus the emphasis is on the mechanics portion of physics and the tone is practical in nature. There is enough rigor there, but the tone is conversational as in all of the Head First books by O'Reilly.

If you are looking for a tutorial on optics, acoustics, electricity and magnetism, and the rest of what composes a college freshman two-semester sequence on general engineering physics prepare to be disappointed - very disappointed. However, that is not what the author is selling you. I wouldn't recommend this as a stand-alone text - I don't think it is rigorous enough to be that. However, as a supplement to a standard college physics text on the mechanics portion of physics, I think it does a great job. It turns the incomprehensible into something that a good student willing to put forth some effort can understand and turns all of the talk of vectors and forces into an approach to mechanics problems that the student can use to attack most mechanics problems. For that purpose I highly recommend it. The student doesn't need to know calculus. The highest mathematics used is trigonometry. The following is the table of contents that is currently unavailable in the product description:

Chapter 1. think like a physicist
Chapter 2. making it all MEAN something
Chapter 3. scientific notation, area, and volume
Chapter 4. equations and graphs
Chapter 5. dealing with directions
Chapter 6. Displacement, Velocity, and Acceleration
Chapter 7. Equations of motion (part 1)
Chapter 8.
Read more ›
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Dan McKinnon VINE VOICE on December 5, 2008
Format: Paperback
'Head First Physics: A Learner's Companion to Mechanics and Practical Physics' is a wonderful book for anyone that wants to learn physics in a fun and practical way. This book is geared toward new learners or basic ones that want to learn without knowing they are doing so. Instead of a bland 1,500+ page book with just text regarding Newton and the other great minds, you get a USABLE book that is FUN FUN FUN. I love the Head First books because they present subject matter in a way that is DIFFERENT. Written by an experienced academic, Heather Lang writes in a format that is truly a delight. If you are looking for a masters Physics book you will be disappointed. If you are young, in high school or just an adult that wants to learn more in a BETTER way this book is a gem.

***** HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
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Format: Paperback
If you're in high school or college and struggle with physics concepts, HEAD FIRST PHYSICS is a recommended pick. It provides a lively connection between physics theory and the world we live in, examining basic concepts, using the latest research in learning theory to enliven presentations, and covering math and physics concepts using lively black and white drawings, photos, and large-size graphs. An outstanding physics survey evolves.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By C. Whitesel on September 11, 2013
Format: Paperback
I am an engineer, and I teach an applied Physics class (among many others) at a community college. My students are the perfect audience for this book. Don't let the size of the book scare you, because it IS a huge book. Keep in mind that it is NOT a text, but is intended to be a learning companion/reference, which is exactly how I use it, and how I encourage my students to use it.

In my applied Physics class, we are not so concerned with "the numbers", as we are with the "big picture" (concepts) and how to apply what we know about the numbers. Don't get me wrong, we do have to do calculations, but for anyone who is afraid of math, this book does a good job explaining the physics concepts, while using real-world (or even fun) applications. In other words, you use your observations (typically prior knowledge) to set up the problem, then you do the calculations, then you ask yourself, "Does this make sense?". The author does a nice job with the examples, to make what is typically thought of as a very dry subject, kind of fun (or at least silly enough to make a group of community college students laugh at 8:00 am).

The book is not as detailed as a proper text, however, for my audience, it doesn't have to be. My only real issue with the book is how some of the examples are continuations of previous examples. While I would use continuous examples in a lecture, I would rather see more stand-alone examples in a reference, but as I said, the examples are still pretty good. If a 4.5 star rating was available (as opposed to 4 OR 5 stars), that's where I'd rate this. While this book does offer equations galore, if you are someone who is obsessed with finding an equation to solve a problem, and would prefer to plug-n-chug, then you may find this book touchy-feely. If you like to think about what is going on, THEN find the right equation, I recommend this as your reference.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By BluJai on December 22, 2008
Format: Paperback
I own several books in the Head First series. This is one of the best I've read. Each topic is discussed with meaningful examples that drive the points home--something many courses or teachers have difficulty with. If I had a tool like this in my arsenal back in school I'd have felt much differently about physics.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews


More About the Author

Heather Lang has a physics degree, a PhD in the grey area between biochemistry and physics, and international caps at both chess and cricket. She has a great interest in educational and coaching methods and has run after-school chess clubs for a number of years, making the game fun for everyone and bringing many complete beginners on to national / international level.

Heather has been able to transfer across many of these successful methods to her book Head First Physics. She is also the co-author of the Babar Particle Physics Teaching Package (Manchester University Department of Physics and Astronomy, 1999) and joint first author of a scarily popular 2002 Nature Immunology paper with a lot of jargon and some pretty pictures in it.

After five years doing research, analysis and writing on market intelligence in the water sector, she has recently started a new job working on public health policy.

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Head First Physics: A learner's companion to mechanics and practical physics (AP Physics B - Advanced Placement)
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