In our scientific age an understanding of physics is part of a liberal education. Lawyers, bankers, governors, business heads, administrators, all wise educated people need a lasting understanding of physics so that they can enjoy those contacts with science and scientists that are part of our civilization both materially and intellectually. They need knowledge and understanding instead of the feelings, all too common, that physics is dark and mysterious and that physicists are a strange people with incomprehensible interests. Such a sense of understanding science and scientists can be gained neither from sermons on the beauty of science nor from the rigorous courses that colleges have offered for generations; when the headache clears away it leaves little but a confused sense of mystery. Nor is the need met by survey courses that offer a smorgasbord of tidbit--they give science a bad name as a compendium of information or formulas. The non-scientist needs a course of study that enables him to learn real science and make its own--with delight.
For lasting benefits the intelligent non-scientist needs a course of study that enables him to learn genuine science carefully and then encourages him to think about it and use it. He needs a carefully selected framework of topics--not so many that learning becomes superficial and hurried; not so few that he misses the connected nature of scientific work and thinking. He must see how scientific knowledge is built up by building some scientific knowledge of his own, by reading and discussing and if possible by doing experiments himself. He must think his own way through some scientific arguments. He must form his own opinion, with guidance, concerning the parts played by experiment and theory; and he must be shown how to develop a taste for good theory. He must see several varieties of scientific method at work. And above all, he must think about science for himself and enjoy that. These are the things that this book encourages readers to gain, by their own study and thinking. Physics for the Inquiring Mind is a book for the inquiring mind of students in college and for other readers who want to grow in scientific wisdom, who want to know what physics really is.