Physics has a similar image to that of cabbages…

Many people have a deep fear of Physics. The fear of Physics may not seem as scary as a fear of darkness. There are many reasons why people develop a fear of Maths and Physics.Schermata 2015-09-20 alle 20.57.07 Maths and Physics have a similar image to that of cabbages, in that you are not supposed to like them and, if you do, people think you are strange. We are taught, directly or indirectly, by the media that Physics is very hard: no-one can do Physics well; no-one likes Physics. Because of this, Physics has been put on a pedestal as ‘very hard’ subject: If you can do it, you are revered as some kind of genius.
Students find Physics difficult, because they have to contend with different representations such as formulas and calculations, experiments, tables of numbers, graphs, diagrams and maps.
People think that Physics has too many things to learn: too much theory; too many formulas; too many laws and rules to be learned.
People also find that Physics is not interesting ( … seriously?!) and that makes it difficult for students.
In this book, I wanted to prove that Physics could be interesting: you can learn laws and rules with such enjoyment that you don’t notice that time passes!

Why did I write this book?

I am often asked why I wrote this book,“The physics of…” .
There were a lot of changes in regards to my education in the last years.
I am often asked how to explain the concepts of physics and how to present examples of my arrangements of ideas.
So I thought how could relate that to myself and the world. This book is intended to serve as an instructional text for enjoyment: it is assumed that the reader isn’t reasonably familiar with physics.
A lot of people spend less time for reading and there are a lot of good books (not mine!) in which they can find a wide range of genres.
Books promote inclusion and empathy through sharing opinions and ideas.
The scope of this book is best outlined if it is divided into three parts: the first part constitutes an introduction to classical mechanics, in which the physical concepts (motion, velocity, acceleration, mass, momentum, impulse, force, energy, angular velocity, angular momentum, moment of inertia, torque, conservation laws, harmonic oscillator, work) are discussed; the second part presents some of basic concepts of thermodynamics (enthalpy, entropy, equation of state, heat, ideal gas law, internal energy, laws of thermodynamics, pressure) and fluid mechanics (Archimedes’ principle, Pascal’s law and Bernoulli’s law). The last part is an introduction to electrostatics (electric charge, current, electric potential and electrical resistance) and to quantum mechanics (black-body radiation, Schrödinger’s cat, Heisenberg uncertainty principle).
It can be helpful for learners to see confidence in physics as a spectrum that we are all on.

Physics (from ancient Greek word φύσις that means ‘Nature’) is the study of nature and it aims to describe the function of everything around us, using the elegant and powerful mathematical formalism.
Now we could ask the following question: “Can a scientist appreciate beauty, discerned from a complex combination of numbers and letters in a mathematical formula?”
The physicist Richard Feynman claimed that a scientist can see more beauty in a flower than an artist. He told an anecdote:

I have a friend who’s an artist and has sometimes taken a view which I don’t agree with very well. He’ll hold up a flower and say “look how beautiful it is”, and I’ll agree. Then he says: “I as an artist can see how beautiful this is but you as a scientist take this all apart and it becomes a dull thing”, and I think that he’s kind of nutty. First of all, the beauty that he sees is available to other people and to me too, I believe. Although I may not be quite as refined aesthetically as he is … I can appreciate the beauty of a flower. At the same time, I see much more about the flower than he sees. I could imagine the cells in there, the complicated actions inside, which also have a beauty. I mean it’s not just beauty at this dimension, at one centimeter; there’s also beauty at smaller dimensions, the inner structure, also the processes. The fact that the colors in the flower evolved in order to attract insects to pollinate it is interesting; it means that insects can see the colour. It adds a question: does this aesthetic sense also exist in the lower forms? Why is it aesthetic? All kinds of interesting questions which the science knowledge only adds to the excitement, the mystery and the awe of a flower. It only adds. I don’t understand how it subtracts.”

I completely agree with Feynman: I don’t believe that knowledge detracts from beauty.
What have a ball bouncing and billiard balls got in common? A ball bouncing involves many physical principles including conservation of momentum and energy, friction, elastic and inelastic collisions, translational and rotational equation of motion, vibrations, etc.
These physical concepts are the same used in pool games.
I think some concepts can be more thoroughly and easily understood when lectures are accompanied with demonstration in real life contexts.
The suggestion that I have for you is to reach and understand the connection between yourselves and the Universe, to know and to say a little more “what matters”, because it can get a little boring after a while.
Remember: if you understand the almost infinite nature of the Universe, then you control it.
Nikola Tesla once said: “Think in terms of energy, frequency and vibration”. Maybe he thought about resonance, a phenomenon that causes an object to vibrate when energy of a certain frequency is applied.
I think we have to pose another question, which is: “Does God play dice?”
One of Albert Einstein’s most famous statement is “God doesn’t play dice with the Universe“. What did Einstein mean? Quantum physics cannot predict events precisely: it is based on the Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, which states that one cannot simultaneously measure the position and the momentum of a particle.
Einstein could not accept this level of apparent randomness and uncertainty in nature, in which a quantum system can remain “undecided” until it is observed. The observation removes the ambiguity “collapsing” these options.
For a basic short introduction to quantum mechanics, it is necessary to introduce the key concepts of quantum theory:

– wave-particle duality: the evidence for the description of light as waves was already well established when the photoelectric effect introduced firm evidence of a particle nature as well; on other hand, the particle properties of electrons was well established when de Broglie hypothesis stated the wave nature of the electron (Davisson-Germer experiment);

– quantum superposition: a single object can be “undecided” between outcomes;

– collapse of the wave function: observing the object decides it outcome;

– quantum entanglement: two (or more!) objects can be entangled such that measuring one instantaneously defines the other.

Aspects of quantum theory can appear strange or counter-intuitive: the quantum world seems irreconcilably different from the world of everyday life. However, quantum mechanics helps us to explain many experimental phenomena. It is the use of the concept of probability amplitudes that makes quantum mechanics the extraordinary thing that it is!
For example, the quantum version of tic-tac-toe game was developed as a metaphor for quantum mechanical principles, like superposition. It reflects the inherent probabilistic nature of the measurement principle in quantum mechanics.
I wanted to give an overview of many of the important and useful principles that can be used as examples in real life. For this reason, some problems and examples are discussed in certain chapters. They are often used to illustrate points discussed in the text. I also wanted to encourage reading for pleasure into teaching and learning.
My goal is to encourage science process skills that will provide you with the background and curiosity to investigate important issues in the world around you.

I’m now becoming aware of the reason why people don’t read prefaces: they do go on, don’t they?

Valeria Mazzeo


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