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Understanding Physics (Undergraduate Texts in Contemporary Physics) Hardcover – September 10, 2002

ISBN-13: 978-0387987569 ISBN-10: 0387987568 Edition: 2002nd

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Product Details

  • Series: Undergraduate Texts in Contemporary Physics
  • Hardcover: 851 pages
  • Publisher: Springer; 2002 edition (September 10, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0387987568
  • ISBN-13: 978-0387987569
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 1.8 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #580,386 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

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From the reviews:

"Understanding Physics provides a thorough grounding in contemporary physics while placing physics into its social and historical context...develops facility in critical thinking, reasoned argumentation, evaluation of evidence, mathematical modelling, and ethical values."

--Meteorology and Atmospheric Physics

"The writing is clear and...precise...it would be possible to assemble a very interesting and exciting course using this text. The general university undergraduate needs to be acquainted with these basic ideas - and this might be just the place to start!"

--The Physicist

"If a book is required which develops the basic concepts of physics in a detailed but completely readable and always interesting way from first principles, then this could certainly be a candidate. It uses the rather outdated historical approach to each chapter’s material, but far from obscuring the important physical results, the approach as used here has been so carefully constructed that one is led to an understanding of the concepts without really noticing that one has arrived!" (Prof. F. W. Bullock, Contemporary Physics, Vol. 44 (6), 2003)

"Understanding Physics is an integrated introductory physics course written primarily for undergraduate college students … . I was much impressed by the quality of this textbook. I think that one could recommend it … as supplementary reading for undergraduate students in physics. ... Professor G. Holton, one of the three authors, is well known for his numerous contributions to the history of science and to epistemology. His influence has left a clear imprint on the style of presentation of Understanding Physics." (Freddy Binon, Physicalia, Vol. 25 (4), 2003)

"Understanding Physics provides a thorough grounding in contemporary physics while placing physics into its social and historical context. Based in large part on the highly respected Project Physics Course developed by two of the authors, it also integrates the results of recent pedagogical research. The text thus teaches the basic phenomena in the physical world and the concepts developed to explain them; … develops facility in critical thinking, reasoned argumentation, evaluation of evidence, mathematical modelling, and ethical values." (Meteorology and Atmospheric Physics, Vol. 84 (1-2), 2003)

"Basic laboratory experiments are also included in this guide that would be a valuable aid for anyone presenting this course. … The writing is clear and … precise. The presentation is generally good with many interesting photos and clear drawings. … In all cases the field is developed slowly and carefully which would be appreciated by students new to the concepts of physics. … The general university undergraduate needs to be acquainted with these basic ideas – and this might be just the place to start!" (L. Peak, The Physicist, Vol. 40 (2), 2003)

"This is a revised and updated version of


More About the Author

Historian of science at Hofstra University, Hempstead, NY. For more information, see http://www.dcassidybooks.com/dc.html

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A.Reader1 on January 26, 2010
Format: Hardcover
This really is an excellent book.

I believe it's aimed at first year university/college students who require a broad CONCEPTUAL overview of the field of classical & modern physics and how they came to be that way. At over 800 pages it gets chest deep in the key experiments and their interpretation. Basically, shows you the logic behind how we've come to understand the modern technical world starting with the Greeks up to modern day.

The information contained in this work is what every person graduating from a high school physics course should know from a qualitative POV. However, it does not contain the math/problem solving parts of physics required for high school. Overall, book is similar to "Physics for Poets" by March.

small complaints: because it's so thick the spine is easily cracked/broken. Why not divide the book into 2 volumes? Chapter 9 seems out of sequence with preceding material. At the end of chapter 9 the Michelson-Morley diagram for the interferometer is not explained.

Some chapters are too long - # 8 on wave motion for e.g. Also, some material is over-explained but I can live with that.
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15 of 19 people found the following review helpful By D. Schotman on August 23, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I spend most of my hours reading philosophy. So I never had taken any classes in Physics or any Exact Science. Since more and more Im into the philosophy of Immanuel Kant, I keep on being confronted with a Mechanical worldview and bringing back everything to laws. Kants hero in this way was Isaac Newton. So there you go trying to understand ones philosophy that was one of the few who actually was abble to understand Newton. So I more and more thought about reading myself into Pysics. But the problem was that I could not find a proper introduction. So I went to a store in Amsterdam to find something or atleast gain some information. In the end I walked out with this book.
The book has a historical based way of dealing with everything, so they begin in Ancient Greece and work their way up. Since Im mainly interested in the astronomical part and the mechanical side of Physics I did not read the rest, but since that what I read is covering about half of the book. And since that is extremely we'll written (half is about Mechanics and the other half about Atoms) I think that the second part pf the book is very good too.
Anyway if you are a leek in this field. And you want to learn sometging about Physics including the historical development, so not only just the laws and the mathmantical parts of physics, but learn who the poiners really were and how theu came to their thoughts, this book is for you. However if you do want to learn something about the mathmatical side, and go really deep into the abstracts, then I think you beter pass. Anyway for every beginner or someone that wants to pollish op their knowledge, its a great recomandation.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By NYC Book Buyer on March 24, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a good introduction to physics for high school students and non-science college students. It has very little math and a lot of explanation. I would say it is a stepping stone to true college freshman physics. The main drawback is that to see most of the simple math derivations you need to buy the Student Guide and I think that should be in the main text.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Peanuts on August 17, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I purchased this book to review some basic concepts in physics. It is really well written and very interesting. It did go over all the topics that I needed very well (and sometimes gave a bit more). I purchased it from Amazon and it arrived in great condition. It's really one of the best!
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