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The Physics of Everyday Things: The…

The Physics of Everyday Things: The Extraordinary Science Behind an… (edition 2017)

by James Kakalios (Author)

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Title:The Physics of Everyday Things: The Extraordinary Science Behind an Ordinary Day
Authors:James Kakalios (Author)
Info:Crown (2017), 256 pages
Collections:Your library

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The Physics of Everyday Things: The Extraordinary Science Behind an Ordinary Day by James Kakalios



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This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I received this book from the LibraryThing's distribution of books for review. As an Emeritus Professor of Physical Chemistry, i bring a lot of baggage to a book like this, which is not written for me, but for the average "man on the street".. The author makes up a supposedly typical day, and proceeds to disclaim a carefully curated selection of physics phenomena that arise. In my opinion, the physics that is described corresponds not so much to questions that woul occur to the reader, but correlates perfectly with the physics that the author wanted to write about all along. He talks about the physics the alarm clock on his coffee maker as if it were the same as the physics of the pendulum clock on the wall. In fact, they are very different; he would like to talk about the pendulum, so he does. But explaining how the alarm in his coffee maker works would be much harder, so that is never explained, even though the average citizen likely relies on the smartphone alarm, and may not even own a pendulum clock. His analog between the clock and an electric generator is both flawed and confusing. He says, for example, that a pendulum with a small charge on the bob would eventually come to rest because energy would be radiated as electromagnetic waves. However, an ordinary, uncharged pendulum also comes to rest, because it loses energy due to friction with the air or on its pivot. He points out that the electric grid in the US runs at 60 Hz, but does not explain why 50 Hz is the standard in other countries, or exactly how that is related to the clock rate. He also implies that electric companies use permanent magnets, but then says that the 60 cycle per second alternating current results from the changing magnetic field, with no further explanation. He ask how the coffee maker can keep time when it is unplugged, but never answers the question. I found objections like these to his descriptions of physics throughout the book. He explains what he wants to, but not particularly well, and leaves the harder (and more interesting) questions alone. I found the book frustrating because I could see the errors and the huge omissions, but a more naive reader likely would not be troubled, and could at least get some physics out of it. ( )
  hcubic | Jul 18, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I am a little bit of a science geek and I spend a lot of time wondering how everyday things work, so I was excited about The Physics of Everyday Things: The Extraordinary Science Behind as Ordinary Day, by James Kakalios. I was not disappointed. I especially enjoyed the explanation of traffic flow, as well as the description of a car’s self-parking feature. I would recommend this book for people interested in the science and technology of everyday life. ( )
  LTietz | May 6, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I couldn't really get into this book. The explanations of the physics were somehow... just words, but not leading to my greater understanding of the concepts. It just slid by, without going in. I feel like I don't have the right brain for this type of exposition.
  magid | Apr 28, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I was expecting this to read like a textbook or a bunch of science articles, but it was actually written in a story format. The protagonist (second person “you”) goes through a morning routine, drives to a doctor appointment, gets an x-ray, takes a plane to another location to give a presentation, and retires in a hotel room for the night. Each small step of the day is described by a paragraph of narrative, which is followed by a few pages explaining the science behind a technology or other scientific principle the protagonist encounters (toasters, traffic jams, motion detectors, touch screens, the device the TSA uses to test for traces of explosives, etc.). I think this was a fun format that flowed well.

The science explanations were clear and fairly easy to understand. (I’ll admit that I did need to reread some new-to-me concepts two or three times to totally absorb and process them. For reference, I only have a high-school-level physics background.) Definitely an information-dense book, so while not a slow read, I did need a couple sittings to get through it to avoid information overload.

I take the technology behind modern life for granted since it’s always been there for me, so it was interesting to see nuts and bolts of how everyday things work and also amazing to see how it’s all simultaneously simple and complex. I’m now more grateful to be benefiting from the centuries of scientific study that led to modern life!

I enjoyed this book enough that I’d recommend it to friends and plan to read the author’s other books. The only thing I’d change is I’d add some more diagrams/figures since I find visuals helpful when learning something new.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. ( )
  PencilStubs | Apr 23, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
It's okay. Hard to get into. Its premise consists of outlining a day in "your" life. Which is probably a bad idea in general because an average day in the life of the 7 billion people on this planet is far from universal so the author should have avoided this perspective. It probably would have been better if it just listed an object in your life, such as an alarm clock, and described how it works. I can't dislike the book though. When I took physics in college professors would try to relate lessons to every day things and that was my favorite part of the course. I know the author spent time as a professor as well. In general its just hard to make physics engaging for people who have a hard time grasping it but this was a good effort. ( )
  wolfeyluvr | Mar 30, 2017 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0770437737, Hardcover)

Physics professor, bestselling author, and dynamic storyteller James Kakalios reveals the mind-bending science behind the seemingly basic things that keep our daily lives running, from our smart phones and digital “clouds” to x-ray machines and hybrid vehicles.
Most of us are clueless when it comes to the physics that makes our modern world so convenient. What’s the simple physics behind motion sensors, touch screens, and toasters? How do we glide through tolls using an E-Z Pass, or find our way to new places using GPS?  In The Physics of Everyday Things, James Kakalios takes us on an amazing journey into the wild subatomic world that underlies so much of what we use and take for granted.
Breaking down the world of things into sections that outline a single day, Kakalios satisfies our curiosity about how our refrigerators keep our food cool, how a plane manages to remain airborne, and how our wrist fitness monitors keep track of our steps. Each explanation is coupled with a story showing the astonishing science at work and revealing the interplay of the invisible forces that surround us. Through this “narrative physics,” The Physics of Everyday Things demonstrates that—far from the abstractions conjured by phrases like the Higgs Boson, black holes, and gravity waves—sophisticated science is also quite practical. With his signature clarity and cleverness, Kakalios enthralls us with the principles that make up our lives and opens our imaginations. 

(retrieved from Amazon Fri, 20 Jan 2017 14:37:51 -0500)

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