- Hardcover: 256 pages
- Publisher: Crown (May 16, 2017)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0770437737
- ISBN-13: 978-0770437732
- Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 0.9 x 8.6 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 47 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #289,733 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Physics of Everyday Things: The Extraordinary Science Behind an Ordinary Day
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“[A] vivid compendium of digestible science lessons…The pages constantly generate a pleasurable ‘Aha!’ at the connections the author reveals.” –Wall Street Journal
“Forget what people say, learning is cool. And The Physics of Everyday Things will have plenty to teach you... When you’re done, you can wow your friends the next time you meet them for drinks with your knowledge of how credit cards work.” –Stuff.tv
“Kakalios does a commendable job of recognizing the ways in which physics manifests itself in seemingly mundane objects and injects his own enthusiasm for the subject into his writing. And even when he addresses subject matter that appears to be well-trodden territory, he is able to bring a fresh perspective. . . . The Physics of Everyday Things is a welcome addition to any bookshelf: the engaging writing style is perfect for the casual physics enthusiast and the examples discussed will prove valuable to those who discuss physics with non-specialists.” –Physics World
“Readers will enjoy lucid explanations of dazzling yet quotidian technology, and those who remember a bit of high school–level science may appreciate them even more.” –Publishers Weekly
“From start to finish, this is a fun and comprehensive introduction to many of the forces that govern how we interact with each other and the world around us...Once again, Kakalios makes physics relatable, this time demonstrating how profoundly its principles enable our way of life.” –Kirkus Reviews
“Sure to awaken in readers a new awareness of science operating beneath familiar surfaces, this analysis also opens a historical perspective on the inventions that have reshaped the world—once dependent on little-understood steam engines, now exploiting ingeniously engineered semiconductors. A fascinating inquiry exposing hidden science.” –Booklist
“The clever format, following a person through a typical day (which includes air travel, hotel stays, and a business presentation), brings order to the mammoth topic of physics and makes it accessible to readers unfamiliar with how gravity affects ordinary objects....A great book for readers who want to learn more about the science hidden beneath the surface of their lives.”
“Jim Kakalios is recognized as the world's expert on the physics of superheroes, but apparently his talents also extend to the real world. We shouldn't be surprised: physics is at heart a search for basic underlying principles, whether in comic-book universes or our everyday lives. You won't find a better, more enjoyable tour guide to how the laws of physics explain the world all around us.” –Sean Carroll, physicist at Caltech and author of The Big Picture
“Think how much richer your life would be if you understood how the beloved devices that govern your daily life actually worked. You might be surprised to learn that even the most common ones–like your smartphone and GPS–depend on the wonders of modern physics, such as quantum mechanics and general relativity. A new world awaits you in this accessible and charming volume by James Kakalios, who takes you through an ordinary day that becomes extraordinary through his clear examples.” –Lawrence M. Krauss, Director of the Origins Project and author of A Universe from Nothing and The Greatest Story Ever Told—So Far
About the Author
JAMES KAKALIOS is the Taylor Distinguished Professor of Physics at the University of Minnesota and the author of the bestselling The Physics of Superheroes.
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Of course, you may not need to read everything in sequence, but you will get a good general impression of to what extent physics is involved in everyday life, whether it is the several machines one uses, or simple facts which one knows by experience, but the cause of which may remain obscure (why, for example, does blowing on your coffee cool it down? what happens when the traffic grinds to a halt? The book gives interesting explanations to such doubts).
Over all, a very nice book.
The setup is clever. A person (you) goes through a busy day involving getting up, making breakfast, going to a doctor’s appointment for a bad ankle and then flying on a commercial airliner to make a presentation finishing up your day watching some TV in a hotel. Along the way, the author notes and then explains (or tries to in my case) the technology behind the objects you use. These objects are many and vary from a digital alarm clock to a microwave to an X-Ray machine to airport scanners and much more.
I found in each explanation either it was something I knew or something didn’t and only grasped a piece of as I worked my way through the example. The simple stuff reminded me of an annoying illustration I saw when I was 8 years old labeled “How Television Works”.
The illustration was all in stick figures. There was a TV camera pointed at a personality. Lightning bolts came out of the camera, arced through the air landing on top of a TV. The TV screen showed the personality. See, now knowing that, you can make your own TV, kid! In this book, the author goes on to say things like you get an oscillating current and then this chip does this to it and that chip further does that so in the end, all you get is an oscillating current somehow manages to perform some magic feats.
Along the way the author mildly bugged me by some careless side issues. For example, he describes cars as still using carburetors and says to fly you need to have more air molecules pushing up than air molecules pushing down or words to that effect. That is true in the two specifics he uses – airplanes and hot air balloons but you can fly using a Saturn rocket as well which has more air molecules pushing down on it than up. Ditto any ballistic flight I can think of.
So this reader anyway put in several hours reading getting little from the investment. Others will likely get more or less. Not bad but not Sagan, Wilson, Dawkins, Asimov, Plait, Wilson or dozens of others I can name either.
The frame is that the author takes a hypothetical person through a typical day and describes and explains the physics behind all of the everyday technologies with which that person interacts. That allows for an organization of sorts, and it allows for a certain amount of amusing happy chat and joking. None of that did much for me, but it didn't detract either.
Outside of that frame the book consists of a number of discussions of particular technologies. We probably address maybe twenty or thirty big picture concepts and at least a hundred or more applications. Explanations run from a few paragraphs to a few pages to brief factoids. (Did you know that GPS satellites correct for the minute general relativity time differences caused by their speedy orbits in order to secure greater accuracy? Cool.) Some of the topics are pretty basic - how do toasters work? Some are unexpected - your car lock remote generates a new password code every time it's used. Some stretch even a motivated amateur's ability to comprehend - magnetic resonance imaging.
This is where the tractor pull comes in. For each bit, I read it until I understood, lost my way, or lost interest. There is no final exam at the end of this book, (just as the tractor doesn't really have anywhere important to go), and getting stuck is just part of the experience. At a minimum you'll get this - a broad and general survey of the role physics plays in all of our technological "wonders", and a better and deeper understanding of things that may have intrigued you, (like, what's the deal with the quartz crystal in a quartz crystal watch? Answer: its vibration under electrical stimulation substitutes for a pendulum). Depending on your background, interests and level of commitment you may develop a nodding acquaintance with the quantum underpinnings of some of this.
For me, that's a lot to take away, and so for me the pull was worth it. (Please note that I received a free advance ecopy of this book without a review requirement, or any influence regarding review content should I choose to post a review. Apart from that I have no connection at all to either the author or the publisher of this book.)