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Back-of-the-Envelope Physics

Clifford Swartz

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The author is the winner of the 2007 Melba Newell Phillips Award given by the American Association of Physics Teachers. Previously, he was awarded their Oersted Medal.

Physicists use "back-of-the-envelope" estimates to check whether or not an idea could possibly be right. In many cases, the approximate solution is all that is needed. This compilation of 101 examples of back-of-the-envelope calculations celebrates a quantitative approach to solving physics problems. Drawing on a lifetime of physics research and nearly three decades as the editor of The Physics Teacher, Clifford Swartz provides…

The author is the winner of the 2007 Melba Newell Phillips Award given by the American Association of Physics Teachers. Previously, he was awarded their Oersted Medal.

Physicists use "back-of-the-envelope" estimates to check whether or not an idea could possibly be right. In many cases, the approximate solution is all that is needed. This compilation of 101 examples of back-of-the-envelope calculations celebrates a quantitative approach to solving physics problems. Drawing on a lifetime of physics research and nearly three decades as the editor of The Physics Teacher, Clifford Swartz provides simple, approximate solutions to physics problems that span a broad range of topics. What note do you get when you blow across the top of a Coke bottle? Could you lose weight on a diet of ice cubes? How can a fakir lie on a bed of nails without getting hurt? Does draining water in the northern hemisphere really swirl in a different direction than its counterpart below the equator?

In each case, only a few lines of arithmetic and a few natural constants solve a problem to within a few percent. Covering such subjects as astronomy, magnetism, optics, sound, heat, mechanics, waves, and electricity, the book provides a rich source of material for teachers and anyone interested in the physics of everyday life.

Reviews

Reviews

This delightfully broad spectrum of 104 familiar situations, each one or two pages long, includes the terminal velocity of falling objects, fatal impacts during car wrecks, timing to find the distance of lightning strikes, investigating the size and power of binoculars, and the height of Earth's atmosphere... For the well-grounded physics enthusiast.

A physics educator's coffee-table book—a delightful and instructive accessory to an introductory physics course.

Physicists young and old should follow Fermi and Swartz and hone a competency for back-of-the-envelope physics.

An entertaining new book Back-of-the-Envelope Physics by Clifford Swartz nicely provides material to assist students (and teachers!) gain experience in handling real-world physics.

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About

Book Details

Publication Date
Status
Available
Trim Size
5.5
x
8.5
Pages
176
ISBN
9780801872631
Illustration Description
25 line drawings
Table of Contents

Preface
Note to the Reader: Units and Approximations
Chapter 1. Force and Pressure
Chapter 2. Mechanics and Rotation
Chapter 3. Sound and Waves
Chapter 4. Heat
Chapter 5. Optics
Chapter 6. Electricity
C

Preface
Note to the Reader: Units and Approximations
Chapter 1. Force and Pressure
Chapter 2. Mechanics and Rotation
Chapter 3. Sound and Waves
Chapter 4. Heat
Chapter 5. Optics
Chapter 6. Electricity
Chapter 7. Earth
Chapter 8. Astronomy
Chapter 9. Atoms and Molecules
Chapter 10. Particles and Quanta

Author Bio
Featured Contributor

Clifford Swartz

Clifford Swartz is a professor emeritus of physics at State University of New York, Stony Brook. He is the former editor of The Physics Teacher and has written numerous physics texts for students from kindergarten to graduate level. He was the recipient in 2007 of the Melba Newell Phillips Award and in 1987 of the Oersted Medal, the most prestigious award of the American Association of Physics...