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Elementary Mechanics and Thermodynamics

AuthorJohn W. Norbury Entered2002-10-17 22:10:03 by bcrowell
Editedit data record FreedomCopyrighted, doesn't cost money to read, but otherwise not free (disclaimer)
SubjectQ.C - Physics
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http://www.cim.mcgill.ca/~ned/Ebooks/IntroductoryPhysics.pdf
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not a good solution to the problem
by Ben Crowell (crowell09 at stopspam.lightandmatter.com (change 09 to current year)) on 2002-10-18 21:42:43, review #206
http://www.lightandmatter.com
content
substandard
writing
typical
The author says in his preface that he wrote this book because he was dissatisfied with the sheer bulk of the available introductory texts, and wanted something that a student could read from cover to cover and understand completely by the end of a one-year course. There are some things that don't make sense to me, however. For one thing, his book is closely based on Halliday; it has the same chapters, and in many places he instructs the reader to read an example from Halliday. If there's too much in Halliday, why not cut some topics? Another strange thing is that his school covers Halliday in a year. Most schools allow three semesters, or even five quarters, for an engineering physics course. The criticism of the length of the standard textbooks would make more sense if it was directed at the books used in algebra-based courses, which are normally a year long.

It seems that the author expects his students to buy both Halliday and his own book. Since he follows Halliday so closely (even repeating the same mistakes, such as Halliday's errroneous attempt to prove conservation of angular momentum based on Newton's laws), it's hard to see why students would need both. He writes, "The typical text is quite densed mathematics and physics and it's simply impossible for a student to read all of this in the detail required. Also with 100 problems per chapter, it's not possible for a student to do 100 problems each week. Thus it is impossible for a student to fully read and do all the problems in the standard introductory books." There are a couple of problems with this argument. First, I don't see why a student would feel shortchanged just because he didn't have time to solve every problem in the book. Also, this book includes just as much mathematics as Halliday, but packed into 250 pages rather than 1000. In other words, the density of mathematics is about four times greater than in Halliday. The book has almost no illustrations. Although it's true that the big commercial books tend to have too many graphical bells and whistles, I think this book goes much too far in the other direction. I think the author may have fallen into a common trap: he assumes that students want a presentation that is as brief and "crisp" as possible.

The author describes the book as a work in progress, and it is currently (October 2002) raw and incomplete.

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