Phenomenal Physics

Do you ever get the urge to just pick up a book looking to learn about something, an impromptu, unofficial class on a given subject? No, just me? If I could be a professional student, I think I would.

I bought Isaac McPhee’s Phenomenal Physics last year on a whim (and a science book buying binge, but that’s a different topic). I wanted to learn more about physics, because I really didn’t know anything.

McPhee starts with the basic question, what is physics? Once he’s explained that physics is pretty much the study of everything (the simplest description might be something like, the study of how our universe works), he then takes readers through a crash course of physics, starting with ancients like Aristotle and Archimedes, and working his way through the eras of physics, up to modern day physics. McPhee includes brief profiles on some of physics’ scientific stars, as well as breakdowns of specific theories and ideas.

For the most part, I found McPhee’s breakdown easy to follow and understand. It wasn’t until we started to get into the quantum realm and quantum mechanics that I started to think I’d really need a degree to understand even the basics. Which is OK, because at the moment I’m not planning on making a career change into physics.

McPhee’s book by no means makes you an expert (and if you thought you could become one with only one book, and a 140-page book at that, you’re in for a surprise), but I think it does a good job of giving an overview of the topic and answering some general questions adults, or even kids, might have about our universe and why certain things happen. If you’re looking for a little something to whet your appetite for physics, McPhee’s book might be just the ticket.

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