Title: 50 Physics Ideas You Really Need to Know

Author: Joanne Baker

ISBN: 9781847240071
Pages: 208
Description: The executive summary: great little book, especially if you are in the humanities and want to learn more about what the “other” side talks about all the time.

Elucidation: to me, this book presents itself as setting out to do one thing, and it does it very well – to inform the reader about the basic theories, ideas, and concepts that are some of the most important in physics today. Everything from parallax to black holes and so on.

What this book does well is not only give you simple, easy to understand examples, but it also gives you the basic, core concepts of the idea that is currently being discussed so that one can do what is most critical when talking/discussing such ideas – truly understand them so they can be discussed intelligently and coherently.

I highly recommend this book for anyone who has ever want to know EXACTLY what the theory of relativity is, or how orbits function, or any of the other topics that are in this book. It doesn’t get bogged down with a lot of formulas and equations (something I am not particularly fond of, though I understand the need and importance of them), and it often uses simple and easy-to-understand examples when explaining concepts.

Some people might say that this book is light on the actual math – that is a good thing in this case. There is a huge difference that some science people don’t see. It’s been my experience that sometimes people who live this stuff are too blinded by their own enthusiasm for the issue, which isn’t bad but can be frustrating (for all involved). Alternately, the other instance is when people who live this stuff can become too “Sheldon-esque” (Big Bang Theory show reference there) in their attitude as to why they can get and everyone else who can’t is a moron. Not everyone is gifted at thinking “science”, but many of us want to understand it still, and this book is for them.

While knowing the math is critical to working with these concepts, being able to understand them is the first step. More importantly, if people are going to buy-in to such concepts and support them, especially in today’s day and age, where science seems to be constantly under attack by religious fundamentalists and anyone else who feels that the science doesn’t support their outlook on life, it is critical that the basic understanding of such concepts is supported and encouraged with such books as this one. I won’t go into this debate any further other than to say that when people say “I wish I actually understood what XYZ theory is…”, I can now point them to this book.

Bottom line – quick, easy read (language-wise, as the concepts themselves sometimes take some time to construct mentally). No arcane terms or technical language (not too much, anyways). Each idea is given about 3-4 pages of space, so they can be digested in “chunks” over time. Highly recommend if you are not a “science” person and yet want to know/learn more about the laws of reality that govern our daily life.
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