Learn Physics At Home

i-300e609f666a874368dea419981a4078-head_first_physics.jpgHead First Physics: A learner’s companion to mechanics and practical physics I have been watching these Heads Up guides for some time now, mainly in the context of computer software and development. I have not tried any of these guides in IT because, so far, I’ve felt that while they may be excellent learning resources, they were not ideal reference books, and that is usually what I am looking for. I may be a bit unusual in this regard, but I’m pretty happy reading a reference book from beginning to end, then using later … as a reference book. In fact, I’d say my ideal combination of books for learning a new aspect of IT is something like an Idiot’s guide or some other very basic tutorial together with a biblical, comprehensive reference. By picking from both ends of the spectrum of detail and intensity, I can have a quick overview and the kind of orientation one writes for a total bobo1 such as my self, and a full reference for when I need the skinny on some esoteric or detailed aspect of the topic.

However, Head First Physics plays a very different role as it is for learning in a field of science. Head First Physics provides the material that is normally included in AP Physics B, focusing on mechanics. The purpose of this book is NOT to give the average Joe or Maria a basic idea of what Physics is about. That would be fairly easy and could be done in a much less ambitious work. Rather, this book is explicitly designed to be equivalent to the Advanced Placement course. It isn’t really equivalent, of course, in that a real AP phyiscs course will have elaborate labs and opportunities for discussion with someone who actually knows what they are doing. But this book does provide labs and it does a good job of anticipating those areas where such discussions might take place.

A student heading to Physics, a home schooler, or someone interested in the topic but unable for some reason to take the Intro college physics class or the HS AP class will probably find this book serves them well.

The reason Head First Physics (and presumably other Head First books) works is because almost every element … at the smallest scale … is designed to be a splash of cold water on the student’s face. “Well, so is water-boarding” you may say. And rightly so. The true geek who could enjoy any technical review of any hard science may not want to mess with the “Keep ‘em interested” approach of this book. But for the average student, or more so for the student who is turned off by this sort of material, this book might work well.

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1“Bobo” is Kinande for “Moron.”

Comments

  1. #1 Brent
    April 30, 2009

    My experience with the Head First books in software development is that they are an -excellent- source for beginners. Not really for anything beyond that.

    For example the SQL book is fantastic for the basics of SQL, everything that M(icrosoft)SQL, MySQL and Oracle have in common – but not what sets them apart from each other.

  2. #2 Dorid
    April 30, 2009

    I’m going to have to pick this up for my kids. I’m trying to tell them AP physics isn’t too ambitious for them in a couple years.

  3. #3 Todd
    April 30, 2009

    Isn’t AP Physics B the one without calculus? Not really physics, is it?

  4. #4 ppnl
    May 1, 2009

    I hate hate hate the headfirst books. To be fair the only one I’ve tried is headfirst Java. But the material was presented in a random haphazard way that seemed designed to appeal to people with an attention deficit disorder.

    In any programming language there is a very large number of details that you have to remember. These details have to be presented in an orderly way so that you can learn them, learn how they relate to each other and know where to look up what you have misremembered. The structure (or lack of it) of the headfirst books pretty much makes it impossible to look up anything.

  5. #5 Beastlyone
    May 1, 2009

    Dorid, they might find this one more interesting/amusing.

  6. #6 Beastlyone
    May 1, 2009