Head First Physics
A learner's companion to mechanics and practical physics (AP Physics B - Advanced Placement)
Publisher: O'Reilly Media
Released: September 2008
Pages: 942

Wouldn't it be great if there were a physics book that showed you how things work instead of telling you how? Finally, with Head First Physics, there is. This comprehensive book takes the stress out of learning mechanics and practical physics by providing a fun and engaging experience, especially for students who "just don't get it."

Head First Physics offers a format that's rich in visuals and full of activities, including pictures, illustrations, puzzles, stories, and quizzes -- a mixed-media style proven to stimulate learning and retention. One look will convince you: This isn't mere theory, this is physics brought to life through real-world scenarios, simple experiments, and hypothetical projects. Head First Physics is perfect for anyone who's intrigued by how things work in the natural world.

You'll quickly discover that physics isn't a dry subject. It's all about the world we live in, encompassing everything from falling objects and speeding cars, to conservation of energy and gravity and weightlessness, and orbital behavior. This book:

  • Helps you think like a physicist so you can understand why things really work the way they do
  • Gives you relevant examples so you can fully grasp the principles before moving on to more complex concepts
  • Designed to be used as a supplement study guide for the College Board's Advanced Placement Physics B Exam
  • Introduces principles for the purpose of solving real-world problems, not memorization
  • Teaches you how to measure, observe, calculate -- and yes -- how to do the math
  • Covers scientific notation, SI units, vectors, motion, momentum conservation, Newton's Laws, energy conservation, weight and mass, gravitation and orbits, circular motion and simple harmonic motion, and much more

If "Myth Busters" and other TV programs make you curious about our physical world -- or if you're a student forced to take a physics course -- now you can pursue the subject without the dread of boredom or the fear that it will be over your head. Head First Physics comes to rescue with an innovative, engaging, and inspirational way to learn physics!

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oreillyHead First Physics
 
3.3

(based on 3 reviews)

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(10 of 11 customers found this review helpful)

 
4.0

Replies to some criticisms

By Glorious Ruler Of All Spacetime

from Stanford

Verified Reviewer

Pros

  • Easy to understand
  • Helpful examples
  • Well-written

Cons

    Best Uses

    • Novice
    • Student

    Comments about oreilly Head First Physics:

    I have been examining this text for an advanced middle school physics course. I have not gone through the entire text but the approach is definitely what is needed more in physics education. I hope to adopt this as an optional text. But reading the two reviews posted I feel some response from a Phd physicist might be helpful.

    Edmonton's comments:

    -Discussion of guard digits. This is a computer science methodology that is not practiced in physics. It should not appear in a text like this. Seeing the "Edmonton" is a Linux developer, his criticisms are clearly indicating that insufficient computer science norms are used in a physics text.

    -The comment that that 20 has two sigfigs is entirely incorrect (within the realm of physics). Unfortunately, some other sciences (or teaching of such ) employ an ambiguous method of using the explicit decimal. In physics, if you write a number such as 20, 230000, or 2000000, all digits are assumed significant. In the last case, in order to express it to an intermediate number (say 4) then you must use scientific notation (i.e. 2.000 x 10^6).
    I do add my own criticism of the treatment of sigfigs at the end of this post.

    - The comment "I think this book provides a good background on physics, but it isn't going to make a physicist out of you." requires some parsing. Clearly a book can not transform you into a physicist, if it could I would become a magician. However, the text does make an effort to make the reader think critically about the universe around them. This is what a physicist is. Even if simply looking at a pendulum bob go back and forth. Deriving solutions of Sturm-Louiville equations does not make you a physicist. Understanding the model and how it ties to reality is what makes a physicist.
    This text is an attempt to get readers to look beyond the equations. Whether they are successful I can not tell, but the goal is to be lauded.

    Anonymous comments:

    - I do agree that a simple graphic explaining precision versus accuracy would be nice.

    - Secondly, on the lack of inclusion of the "scientific method" I would say that it has been widely discussed in the Physics Education Research (PER) community that the rote memorization of the scientific method is not a good idea. Real scientists often do not follow the model. (A more realistic model would include writing grants!) Of course some discussion of the process is necessary, just note that it is not the antiquated "Hypothesis, experiment etc" model.

    Ok now my one criticism:

    Again, I have not gone through this text closely, I admire the approach and think it could resonate with many first-time learners of physics. Flipping through the pages I was drawn to the significant figure section. The only criticism I would give is the "3 sigfig" rule. There is no such rule. I believe this was created by physics textbook writers to avoid tedious analysis of the questions they ask at the end of each chapter. (And even with such, they violate the rules of treating sigfigs all over the place). I don't think it should be emphasized that you should be shooting for 3 sigfigs. There is a proper method to determine how results should be reported, and would not detract too much from this text's approach.

    So, until further review is completed I would recommend this text for first time learners of physics. I can make the reader into a physicist if they come away with what the author intends.

    (2 of 2 customers found this review helpful)

     
    3.0

    Good, but will not make a you physicist

    By Edmonton Linux Users Group

    from Edmonton

    Comments about oreilly Head First Physics:

    All of the Head First series are written in a new style, which is supposed to be more effective at teaching. There are many different kinds of things going on in the book, and for the most part the mix seems to work well.

    I think this book provides a good background on physics, but it isn't going to make a physicist out of you. If we are lucky, maybe readers of this book will be better drivers on icy roads, as they will better appreciate how momentum works.

    Successive refinement of models is a good thing for people to learn. Throwing in a little fluid mechanics was nice to see. Good assortment of demonstration problems.

    Criticism:

    * I think people who read this book will have a tendency to fall into the "kilograms-force" type of sloppy thinking.

    * Significant digits is a good thing to learn, it might be nice to talk about guard digits in calculations.

    * A person might get the idea that extrapolating of straight lines is okay. This would require discussing how to look for possible changes in behavior.

    * There are a few inconsistencies, which are likely just typographical errors. For instance, while they discussed significant zeros in a number, at another place they say that "20" (without the explicit decimal) has 2 significant digits.

    Ummm, there is a slight hazard involved in firing cannons at an angle that is depressed from the horizon. :-) But, that is probably more of an engineering problem.

    http://elug.ca/reviews/head_first_physics.shtml (http://elug.ca/reviews/head_first_physics.shtml)

    (4 of 4 customers found this review helpful)

     
    3.0

    I recommend this book to any physics student

    By Anonymous

    from Undisclosed

    Comments about oreilly Head First Physics:

    My introduction to physics occurred a long time ago. At that time, I had decided I wanted to be an engineer. I didn't really know what an engineer did, but I knew I wanted to be one.

    I also knew that physics was a requirement for engineers. For me (looking back), physics was knowledge necessary to reach my end goal, plus I was fascinated with the subject.

    That may not be the case for all students. For those students with a need for an introductory level of physics knowledge, the Head First Physics book will be a helpful supplement to any text associated with a formal course in physics, which can be initially intimidating--there are so many topics to cover. There is an interesting graphic on page 2 of the Head First Physics book that list over 60 topics. That graphic also appears on page 861--at the end of the book--and elsewhere throughout the book.

    Most of the topics listed in that graphic are discussed in the Head First Physics book, in a way that is informal and non-threatening. To use the author's (and publisher's) words, the book is written in a "conversational style" and uses "multiple learning styles." This approach is effective, in my opinion, provided that the student recognizes that the book should be used as a supplement, as mentioned above.

    I have two minor criticisms of this book. First, in Chapter 2, Units and Measurements, the author provides a useful discussion of significant digits and rounding for measurements. What is missing, in my opinion, is a least an introductory discussion of resolution versus accuracy.

    Second, there is a discussion of experimentation in Chapter 5. However, what is missing, again in my opinion, is at least an introductory discussion of the scientific method: hypothesis, experiment, analysis, conclusion, new hypothesis, etc. The book is, after all, a science text.

    Despite those criticisms, I recommend this book to any physics student.

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