WHY I WROTE THIS BOOK
Fun with a big challenge.That is how I have regarded physics since the day when Sharon, one of the students in a class I taught as a graduate student, suddenly demanded of me, “What has any of this got to do with my life?” Of course I immediately responded, “Sharon, this has everything to do with your life—this is physics.”
She asked me for an example. I thought and thought but could not come up with a single one.That night I began writing the book The Flying Circus of Physics (John Wiley & Sons Inc., 1975) for Sharon but also for me because I realized her complaint was mine. I had spent six years slugging my way through many dozens of physics textbooks that were carefully written with the best of pedagogical plans, but there was something missing. Physics is the most interesting subject in the world because it is about how the world works, and yet the textbooks had been thoroughly wrung of any connection with the real world.The fun was missing.
I have packed a lot of real-world physics into Fundamentals of Physics, connecting it with the new edition of The Flying Circus of Physics. Much of the material comes from the introductory physics classes I teach, where I can judge from the faces and blunt comments what material and presentations work and what do not. The notes I make on my successes and failures there help form the basis of this book. My message here is the same as I had with every student I’ve met since Sharon so long ago:“Yes, you can reason from basic physics concepts all the way to valid conclusions about the real world, and that understanding of the real world is where the fun is.”
I have many goals in writing this book but the overriding one is to provide instructors with tools by which they can teach students how to effectively read scientific material, identify fundamental concepts, reason through scientific questions, and solve quantitative problems.This process is not easy for either students or instructors. Indeed, the course associated with this book may be one of the most challenging of all the courses taken by a student. However, it can also be one of the most rewarding because it reveals the world’s fundamental clockwork from which all scientific and engineering applications spring.
Many users of the ninth edition (both instructors and students) sent in comments and suggestions to improve the book. These improvements are now incorporated into the narrative and problems throughout the book. The publisher John Wiley & Sons and I regard the book as an ongoing project and encourage more input from users. You can send suggestions, corrections, and positive or negative comments to John Wiley & Sons or Jearl Walker (mail address: Physics Department, Cleveland State University, Cleveland, OH 44115 USA; or the blog site at www.flyingcircusofphysics.com).We may not be able to respond to all suggestions, but we keep and study each of them.