by Jearl Walker
The Flying Circus of Physics is a fascinating, frustrating collection of physical problems. For example: why, while driving towards an artillery piece, might one pass through zones where it cannot be heard? Why do vertical columns of insects sometimes form above trees? What determines the wavelength of the ripples on a sand dune? And of course the old standby: why might a pan of warm water freeze more quickly than a pan of cold water? The common theme tying the problems together is that they all, at least in principle, deal with directly observable phenomena: no microscope, telescope, or particle accelerator is required. The wonderful thing about this book is that it really drives home the point that the laws of physics have some very strange consequences, and that the intuitive physics that we use to deal with the world on an everyday basis is woefully inadequate when confronted with situations that are a bit out of the ordinary. The more recent edition of this book (with an orange cover -- the old one is blue) contains answers as well as problems. Certainly this would be a satisfying book to own, but I think it would also destroy a significant part of the fun of being forced to think through the principles involved.
copyright © 2001 John Regehr