I mostly ignored everything having to do with physics during my educational years. I would hear or read something that attempted to explain why black holes exist, and I automatically tuned out. But people change, and since becoming a serious Doctor Who fan, I no longer tune out. I realize that most of the physics in Doctor Who is not accurate, but you have to admit: that show does plant seeds of interest and works to make physics accessible, even to the most average viewer.
I started looking around for books that make physics accessible to a person who used to tune out. I soon realized that it’s difficult to find books about physics that aren’t over most peoples’ heads within the first paragraph. Here are four physics books that seem like good reads and one that may be great but I won’t read because I don’t like being called dumb.
Dr. Rhett Allain, Associate Professor of Physics at Southeastern Louisiana University, recommends a book that sound informative and entertaining called How to Teach Physics to Your Dog by Chad Orzel. And although it isn’t a book, you might want to check out Dr. Allain’s blog, .dotphysics, which he regularly updates with real-world physics problems and examples.
Equally popular to Orzel’s books, Frank Close’s series of books about physics, logic, and other such subjects also appeals to readers who do not have much in the way of prior physics knowledge. Particle Physics: A Very Short Introduction looks like a promising starting book for those looking to get into the series.
Schaum’s Solved Problems are available in a handy book titled 3000 Solved Problems in Physics by Alvin Halpern. Science communities recommend it as a means of viewing examples of the concepts that one is learning from other texts. It’s a companion sort of book, but I included it so that you can go ahead and pick it up while you’re at the library getting the others.
Michio Kaku seems to have found the way to interest people in physics with Physics of the Impossible. Kaku is a professor at City University of New York, and the book is a place where science fiction meets science. Kaku uses technologies and concepts that only exist in sci-fi and uses physics to explain what is truly impossible, what is possible, and what happens every day.
Though I am personally not a fan of the series (why would I use a book that insults me from its spot on the shelf?), I respect that the Dummies series does work for many people. So, while it is unlikely that I will ever read it, Physics for Dummies might be the basic place to start in a search for knowledge.
What geeky titles are on your summer reading list? What physics books would you recommend for the average Doctor Who fan? Share your lists and recommendations in the discussion.
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