Physics can explain many of the things that we commonly encounter. It can tell us why the night is dark, what causes the tides, and even how best to catch a baseball. With In Praise of Simple Physics, popular math and science writer Paul Nahin presents a plethora of situations that explore the science and math behind the wonders of everyday life. Roaming through a diverse range of puzzles, he illustrates how physics shows us ways to wring more energy from renewable sources, to measure the gravity in our car garages, to figure out which of three light switches in the basement controls the light bulb in the attic, and much, much more. How fast can you travel from London to Paris? How do scientists calculate the energy of an atomic bomb explosion? How do you kick a football so it stays in the air and goes a long way downfield? Nahin begins with simpler problems and progresses to more challenging questions, and his entertaining, accessible, and scientifically and mathematically informed explanations are all punctuated by his trademark humor. Readers are presumed to have some background in beginning differential and integral calculus.
Whether you simply have a personal interest in physics' influence in the world or you're an engineering and science student who wants to gain more physics know-how, this book has an intriguing scenario for you. In Praise of Simple Physics proves that if we look carefully at the world around us, physics has answers for the most astonishing day-to-day occurrences.
Paul J. Nahin is professor emeritus of electrical engineering at the University of New Hampshire. He is the author of many best-selling popular math books, including Digital Dice, Chases and Escapes, Dr. Euler's Fabulous Formula, When Least Is Best, Duelling Idiots and Other Probability Puzzlers, and An Imaginary Tale (all Princeton).
Foreword by T. M. Helliwell ix Preface with Challenge Problems xi 1 How's Your Math? 1 2 The Traffic-Light Dilemma 20 3 Energy from Moving Air 25 4 Dragsters and Space Station Physics 32 5 Merry-Go-Round Physics and the Tides 42 6 Energy from Moving Water 51 7 Vectors and Bad Hair Days 63 8 An Illuminating Problem 67 9 How to Measure Depth with a Stopwatch 74 10 Doing the Preface Problems 79 11 The Physics of Stacking Books 92 12 Communication Satellite Physics 103 13 Walking a Ladder Upright 110 14 Why Is the Sky Dark at Night? 115 15 How Some Things Float (or Don't) 126 16 A Reciprocating Problem 141 17 How to Catch a Baseball (or Not) 146 18 Tossing Balls and Shooting Bullets Uphill 153 19 Rapid Travel in a Great Circle Transit Tube 163 20 Hurtling Your Body through Space 177 21 The Path of a Punt 194 22 Easy Ways to Measure Gravity in Your Garage 200 23 Epilogue Newton's Gravity Calculation Mistake 218 Postscript 227 Acknowledgments