As an engineer, the title of this book intrigued me. It’s called The Physics of Everyday Things: The Extraordinary Science Behind an Ordinary Day and the striking red cover bears the universal symbol of science – electron orbitals surrounding an atom – except where the atom’s nucleus is usually pictured, it’s been replaced with a slice of toast, a toaster resting somewhere below it. The extraordinary science behind an ordinary day, is what the author, James Kakalios promises.
The book takes the entire physics curriculum and shows how each principle is at work in our current world and normal, even if not quite everyday, experiences. Kakalios runs the gamut from the pendulum principle behind the clocks and timers we rely on to wake us up to the magnetic resonance theory that’s used to perform MRI scans and the credit card technology we use to pay for it all. What makes this book different from a standard science course is that the author first describes the event then explains the principles at work. Many textbooks (or at least the ones I’ve studied) introduce and explain a theory then try to fit it to an example you might have encountered in normal life. Kakalios’ way, I think, is much more effective.
What I Liked About The Book
- I appreciated the almost complete review of everything I learned in basic college physics in a single, easy-to-read hardcover.
- I learned some trivia that will come in useful during the completely geeky conversations I often engage in, like why resting your cell-phone on a wooden bowl improves the speaker quality while you listen to music.
- The book length is very appealing – just over 200 pages to cover topics usually explained in 1000 page textbook series.
- I liked the diversity of commonplace activities that were included and then the scientific background explained – from Joule heating in toasters to photocopiers to fitness monitors.
What I Didn’t Like About The Book
- I am accustomed to science being explained through illustrations. Contrary to what many people say, I have great spatial reasoning and learn from diagrams, even if I often translate the pictures into text. So while I think this was a good introductory text (or revision), I felt like the book could have included slightly more than the 7 diagrams that he did.
- I think the cover could’ve been more attractive.
- The target audience for this book is a little unclear. The opening sentence on the inside flap addresses people who are clueless about how the world works. However, I don’t believe that “clueless” people pick up books with Physics in the title. Further, in a footnote on page 82, the author introduces MRI (technically NMRI until the first letter was dropped for marketing purposes). He addresses the issues purists might raise for his version of events but then writes, But if you know all this – why are you reading this book? This tells me the book is not intended for people like me but that the author, being the professor that he is, was hoping to teach me these theories. However, my interest in Kakalios’ book is borne out of my a priori knowledge, not a substitute for it. It was a little off-putting to feel like the book wasn’t meant for me, even though it clearly was.
Author: James Kakalios
Rating: 3.5 stars
I received a free copy of The Physics of Everyday Things from Blogging For Books to complete my review.