WINNER 2009 CHOICE AWARD OUTSTANDING ACADEMIC TITLE! The typical introduction to physics leaves readers with the impression that physics is about 30 different, unconnected topics such as motion, forces, gravity, electricity, light, heat, energy, and atoms. More often than not, these readers are left to conclude that physics is mostly about boring, lifeless numbers.
Questioning the Universe: Concepts in Physics offers the nonscientist an alternative view: one that demonstrates how physics is perpetually evolving and shows how so many seemingly diverse concepts are intimately connected. In fact, one could argue that the most important ideas in modern physics are all about unification, and that these ideas are as fascinating as they are elegant.
Physicists today believe that Mother Nature is remarkably efficient and requires only a relatively small number of laws to keep her universe in working order. We may not yet know all of these laws; but at the center of physics is a faith that she is indeed understandable …and that someday, we will see her full beauty.
The purpose of this book is to tell readers the story of what we have learned about nature so far and how we have done it. Written to arouse curiosity, this compelling and readable work:
- Delves into the most basic laws regarding motion and energy, waves and particles
- Introduces modern theories, including relativity, quantum mechanics, and particle physics
- Describes the key role played by that elemental building block, the atom
- Discusses the evolution of the universe, including the formation of stars and the mystery of dark matter and dark energy
This book is not for those doing physics but is aimed at those who simply want to learn about physics, so it requires only the most minimal math. What it does require is a sense of curiosity, an appreciation of beauty, and the capacity for awe.
Table of Contents
UNITS AND POWERS OF TEN
PHYSICS AND ITS METHODOLOGY
What Is Physics?
The First Scientist
Why Do You Believe?
Back to the Questions
How Do We Answer the Questions?
The Need to Be Quantitative
Relating the Variables of Motion
Graphs of One-Dimensional Motion
The Fundamental Forces
A Specific Force Law: Newtonian Gravity
How Does Force Affect Motion? Newton’s Second Law
Newton, the Apple, and the Moon
Combining Two Laws
The Mass of the Earth
Newton’s First Law
What and Where Is the Force?
Newton’s Third Law
How Does a Horse Pull a Wagon?
How Can We Walk?
The Electric Force Law
Unifying Electricity and Magnetism
The Lorentz Force
Back to Ampere’s Law
Where Are the Moving Charges?
THE FIELD CONCEPT
What Is the Connection?
Action at a Distance
Is This a Legitimate Explanation?
The Field Concept
How Does This Help Explain Noncontact Forces?
Thinking Like a Physicist
Is There a Way to Tell the Difference?
Understanding the Time Delay
The Speed and Identity of the Kink
Back to Contact Forces
THE CHARACTER OF NATURAL LAWS
The Prime Directive
Symmetry and the Laws of Nature
Space Translation Symmetry
Time Translation Symmetry
Time Reversal (Reflection) Symmetry
Matter-Antimatter Symmetry (Matter Reflection)
Space Reflection Symmetry (Parity)
Conservation of Momentum
Conservation of Energy
The Different Forms of Energy
Conversion of Energy
A Specific Example: The Roller Coaster
A Nonconservation Law: The Second Law of Thermodynamics
THE HISTORY OF THE ATOM
The Greek Model
Thomson’s “Plum Pudding” Model
The Rutherford Experiment
The Planetary Model
What Do We Do Now?
The Atom Today
The Electron Volt: A Useful Energy Unit
Half-Life and Carbon Dating
The Full Beta Decay Story
The Experimental Results
What Do We Do Now?
Look Closely at the Theory
Look Closely at the Experimental Results
A Possible Explanation
THE NATURE OF LIGHT
Properties of Particles
Properties of Waves
Is Light Made Up of Waves or Particles?
Back to Diffraction
Why the Sky Is Blue
THE THEORY OF RELATIVITY
Frames of Reference and Relative Speeds
Maxwell and the Ether
The Speed of Waves
The Michelson Morley Experiment
An Analogy: Boats in a River
The Real Experiment
The Lorentz Contraction
Another Crazy Idea
Assumptions We Take for Granted
The Postulates of Special Relativity
Some Interesting Facts about Einstein and the
Birth of Relativity
Consequences of the Postulates of Relativity
The Relativity of Simultaneity
The Light Clock
Length and Lorentz Contraction
E = mc2 and All That
Back to Addition of Speeds
The Car in the Garage Paradox
The Twin Paradox and Space Travel
Relativity and You
Max Planck and the Beginnings of Quantum Theory
The Photoelectric Effect
The Bohr Atom
de Broglie Waves
Time to Stop and Catch Our Breath
The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle
The Schrodinger Equation: An Equation for the Waves
Does God Play Dice?
THE STANDARD MODEL OF ELEMENTARY PARTICLE PHYSICS
The Basic Ideas of the Standard Model
The Unification of Forces
Bosons: The Particles Associated with Forces
The Unification of Matter
Two Classes of Matter Particles
More about Quarks
More about Leptons
The Expansion of the Universe
Measuring Speeds Using the Doppler Effect
More Distant Stars: Standard Candles
Light from the Big Bang: CMB Radiation
The Evolution of the Universe
The Planck Time
The GUT Time
The Disappearance of Antimatter
Two Sticky Problems and a Solution
The Solution: Inflation
The Electroweak Time
The Formation of Particles
The Formation of Nuclei
The Formation of Atoms
The Formation of Stars and Galaxies
SUGGESTED FURTHER READINGS
Each chapter ends with a Guide to Key Ideas andQuestions/Problems
"I have been teaching introductory physics for non-science majors for a long time and have never been satisfied with the books on the market. Most of these texts are just watered-down versions of the general physics texts for science students. When I read through [these] three books, I really do get a sense that the authors have attempted to create book[s] that [are] somehow different from the normal algebra problem-based texts. I will be using Questioning the Universe: Concepts in Physics this fall for the science portion of a Science Fiction Learning Community. In the spring, I will be teaching a physics/art history hybrid course and will be using either Superstrings and Other Things: A Guide to Physics, Second Edition or From Atoms to Galaxies: A Conceptual Physics Approach to Scientific Awareness. … both are great books. … I really feel that for conceptual physics courses, CRC Press currently has the three strongest titles. I anticipate a fun teaching experience while using these texts and hope to use them again in the future."
—Steve Zides, Wofford College, Spartanburg, South Carolina, USA
WINNER OF 2009 CHOICE AWARD FOR BEST ACADEMIC TITLE!
"This introductory physics book is quite different (in a positive way) from all of the other similar works this reviewer has seen. In just over 200 pages and 15 chapters, Sadoff delves into just about every area of physics, ranging from basic Newtonian mechanics to fields, light, nuclear physics, relativity, and quantum mechanics … he successfully ties the various subjects together."
—J.R. Kraus, University of Denver, CHOICE, August 2009, Vol. 46, No. 1