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The Cartoon Guide to Physics Paperback – Dec 18 1991
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It's been said that before physics students can fly with Feynman they need to walk with Halliday and Resnick. Those of us who are still toddling along, however, need Larry Gonick. Gonick's characteristically quirky drawings are teamed with physicist Art Huffman's prose to produce lessons like this: picture Sir Isaac Newton driving a Mack truck labeled "Big Inertia." Ike is talking into a CB radio, saying: "Breaker one nine: force overcomes inertia and produces acceleration. Do you read?" As the jacket copy says, "If you think a negative charge is something that shows up on your credit-card bill--if you imagine that Ohm's law dictates how long to meditate--if you believe that Newtonian mechanics will fix your car," here's the book for you. --Mary Ellen Curtin
"Gonick is close to being one of a kind." -- --Discover
"Gonick is close to being one of a kind." -- Discover
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Gonick it truly one of a kind when it comes to the explanation of complex phenomena using drawings and cartoon-like dialog. It is one of the rare literary creations, a book that educates in science that is also fun to read. There are no sharp edges of difficulty, it is much like one of those disciplinary paddles with a pillow on the end.
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However, I was disappointed. The guide indeed tries to cover a significant amount of the usual high-school physics course - mechanics, electricity and magnetism (missing are thermodynamics and optics) - but it is not really as charmingly funny as the Cartoon History of the Universe. As a physicist, I can assure you that the problem does not lie in the simple fact that the history is more interesting topic than physics - physics is plenty interesting, thank you! But the desired blend between the textbook and the cartoon resulted in something that is not educational enough to actually learn something from it and too boring to make a good cartoon.
Trying to find some bright spot, I am happy to report I have not discovered any major flops in the science part of the book. Also, I believe the book actually becomes somewhat more interesting toward the end. But then again, if I would have to choose between, say, the chapter on relativity and Joseph Schwartz's Einstein for Beginners, I would probably opt for the latter.
Whenever possible, I have avoided physics classes--they scare me--which is difficult to do. But knowing this, I became obsessed with facing my fear and picked up this book (and a few others). I wasn't disappointed. Although it wasn't as easy to follow his other two books (perhaps because I'm more familiar with the subject of the other two books), it made physics more interesting, and less scary. I was able to reread sections and then cross reference them with a 'real' physics text until I got the point.
I'm still no physicist, and I never will be. But I've got a basic grasp now that I didn't have before, and can understand the simple physics of the world around me. However, the biggest kudo I can give to this book is this: I've enrolled in a physics course at the local university--a course I don't *have* to take but want to take. It's something I never would have done without this book easing my fears and taking the mystery out of the subject.
Bravo Gonick! Where's the Cartoon Guide to the Quantum Theory?! We're waiting....
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