The Adventure of Physics - Vol. I: Fall, Flow, and Heat
Copyright Year: 1990
ISBN 13: 9781447545545
Publisher: Motion Mountain
Conditions of Use
Schiller deserves some credit for attempting to address as many topics as he does in this volume alone. Many of the topics are suitable for an upper division course in physics. However, in attempting to be comprehensive, the depth of coverage... read more
Schiller deserves some credit for attempting to address as many topics as he does in this volume alone. Many of the topics are suitable for an upper division course in physics. However, in attempting to be comprehensive, the depth of coverage varies from topic to topic, making it very difficult to recommend a particular level of course for the book. Upper division students may find some topics covered superficially for their needs; however, lower division students may struggle to get a firm grasp of early discussions of time and motion without being overwhelmed. I commend Schiller for his discussions of practical examples where applicable as practical use of physical principles is something that incoming physics students typically request.
The physics presented is largely accurate. There are issues of interpretation of a number of concepts and phrases. The discussion of entropy is while mostly accurate somewhat cloudy to wade through because of the nature of the presentation and the emphasized components. The discussion of force as a momentum flow is understandable conceptually but from the perspective of an undergraduate text is a deviation from standard terminology. The discussion of the nature of time is still in some respects a philosophical debate. Schiller’s presentation however, seems a bit heavy handed and certain that his perspective is the correct one and seems to lecture any readers with opposing views.
Schiller includes references to many ongoing current research topics and physical applications. To the best of my knowledge the statements made about these topics are true. Many of them are just passing mentions, limited on detail or insight, but it is worth noting the variety of new research included.
Schiller’s text ranges wildly from very dense and at times very philosophical in nature to at times very superficial. The text and the mathematical levels vary with topic making it a very difficult for incoming undergraduates to get a foot hold in the subject matter. I appreciate that Schiller offers challenge questions to make the reader think about the topics as progress is made. However, I believe student would have liked to have seen some of the problems worked out as math examples in the text. Yes, the solutions and hints are in the back, but letting students see the equations and methods at work is often beneficial. I would like to make a side note that the inclusion of seemingly random quotes from random sources serve more to distract from than augment the text. Some aspects of this book seem more like a collection of facts and interpretations of physics without a real intent to teach.
I have discussed the variation in tone and mathematical depth in other sections, but that does drop the level of the consistency score. Within the book the terminology is self-consistent although some term choices are not used in their typical sense. The overall structure is thematically consistent even if the individual pieces may vary widely.
I am afraid to say the way the book reads and is structured is not really conducive to modularity. Some of the chapters are independent while others are structurally woven into a Schiller’s philosophy which requires the rest of the book to make heads or tails.
The book does follow a non-traditional pattern of physics instruction but there is a perceivable flow to the text.
The images, figures and equations all appear in the text undistorted. Navigation through the book is straightforward.
No major grammatical errors. Text contains some phrasing that while grammatically correct may confuse the students and distract a bit from the overall point Schiller is addressing.
No detectable cultural insensitivity. Examples are drawn from multiple countries mostly across Europe. Schiller does not provide many examples and practice problems with people or names unless he is referring to specific experiments or findings.
The book covers a lot of ground, some of which is not standard fare in an undergraduate physics curriculum. However the treatment is extremely uneven both in quality of presentation and in mathematical level. Thus in one respect the book... read more
<p> The book covers a lot of ground, some of which is not standard fare in an undergraduate physics curriculum. However the treatment is extremely uneven both in quality of presentation and in mathematical level. Thus in one respect the book attempts to be unusually comprehensive, but it quite often ends by being superficial and idiosycratic in its choices of subject matter.</p>
<p> In most cases, Schiller has the physics right, though I detected a few places in which I found some incorrect statements. You cannot, for example, learn anything about atoms from critical opalescence, which is a long wave length phenomenon. More commonly, there are statements which are not exactly wrong but which would be very confusing to students because of the idiosycratic choice of definitions. For example, Schiller insists on a nonconventional use of the word "heat". Elsewhere he describes force as "momentum flow". One can redefine / the words to make sense of this but it is a very bad thing to do because the words "momentum flow" are better and more conventionally associated with the stress tensor in the equation describing local momentum current conservation. The discussion of entropy (Chapter 13) is also quite idiosycratic and the statement that entropy cannot be defined for systems far from equilibrium is wrong.</p>
<p> A lot of current research topics are discussed, and most of the statements about them are correct as far as I know. However it will be utterly impossible for most students to learn anything substantive about those topics from the treatment here. It is quite evident that the author has little or no teaching experience at least before audiences characteristic of American public universities. It is absurd to expect most undergraduate students to absorb the meaning of cross products, integrals, groups and group theory and the calculus of variations in one paragraph descriptions.</p>
<p> For reasons I've articulated above, this book will be impossible for most undergraduates, including physics majors, to fully understand. I did find it stimulating to read., Schiller is clearly quite smart and the exercises are often challenging and instructive. However there is hardly any attempt to actually TEACH anything in this book and almost no thought has been given to pace, illustrative exercises to make new concepts understandable or even to ordering of the mathematics so that the 'explanations' come before the use of the mathematics. Integrals, for example, appear long before they are even defined.</p>
<p> It depends a little on how one defines the word 'consistency' but I'm afraid I would say 'terrible'. The writing veers from very elementary to postdoctoral advanced level from page to page. Thematically, there is a kind of consistency, but even that is violated toward the end of this volume, when the author chooses to throw in chapter 14 on chaos and self orgainization which has nothing to do with his theme. That chapter is in any case useless except as a list of topics and references.</p>
<p> Some of the chapters could stand alone, in a sense, but that is largely because they are not really explaining the concepts, which would require thorough knowledge of what came before, but because they are basically just listing results, peppered with dashes of half-baked and very arrogantly asserted philosopy.</p>
<p> The book does follow a certain logic, as I indicated above, though it is violated in some chapters toward the end.</p>
<p> The interface is ok. It was easy to find the solutions to the exercises after I did (or sometimes just attempted) them, though it would be good to be able to get back to the text more easily after going to a reference.</p>
<p> Grammar is fine, if a bit Germanic in places. Maybe this is the place to comment on the multitude of quotations in German, French, Greek, Italian and Latin. What, exactly, is the point of including them in an undergraduate physics text? It lends a certain pretension and I was sometimes intrigued or amused by them, but the vast majority of undergraduates will just be put off and annoyed by them and they rarely contribute much to the conceptual flow. In fact, many of them contain wrong physics, as in most cases Schiller is aware, and he apparently thinks it a good pedagogical technique to challenge the reader to find the errors. I can assure him that the technique would fall utterly flat, or would engender rage, in 99% of the thousands of undergraduates I have taught.</p>
<p> No there is no evidence racial prejudice. But the book is often offensive because of the aggressive way in which the author pushes his views concerning interpretations of physics. For example he scornfully dismisses views of the nature of time held by leading physicists. This whole question of the nature of time is contentious, essentially metaphysical and does not need extensive discussion in an undergraduate physics text. If it is broached at all, it should be in a more evenhanded way. There are many such examples. but to mention one more, the author misinterprets what physicists who use the term 'emergence' mean and then scornfully dismisses those individuals, inaccurately attributing ideological positions to them.</p>
<p> Schiller appears to be very intelligent and he has some interesting and rather unconventional perspectives on physics. The biographical information indicates that he is not a professional teacher, but a business man with a strong interest in physics. That is very evident in the pedagogical failures of this book, which vastly misjudges the amount of repetition and practise that practically all students need in order to master the mathematical and physical concepts swiftly presented here. I have mentioned that I could not use this book with undergraduates, but I don't think it would work with most graduate students either. In fact I wonder if it was written to be used as a teaching tool at all. The author seems more to be using the exercise of writing it as a way of organising his own thoughts, which are often interesting and provocative, though expressed in an annoyingly arrogant way.</p>
Table of Contents
- 1 Why should we care about motion?
- 2 From motion measurement to continuity
- 3 How to describe motion - kinematics
- 4 From objects and images to conservation
- 5 From the rotation of the Earth to the relativity of motion
- 6 Motion due to gravitation
- 7 Classical mechanics and the predictability of motion
- 8 Measuring change with action
- 9 Motion and symmetry
- 10 Simple motions of extended bodies – oscillations and waves
- 11 Do extended bodies exist? – Limits of continuity
- 12 Fluids and their motion
- 13 On heat and motion reversal invariance
- 14 Self-organization and chaos - the simplicity of complexity
- 15 From the limitations of physics to the limits of motion
About the Book
This book is written for anybody who is curious about nature and motion. Curiosity about how people, animals, things, images and space move leads to many adventures. This volume presents the best of them in the domain of everyday life.
Carefully observing everyday motion allows us to deduce six essential statements: everyday motion is continuous, conserved, relative, reversible, mirror-invariant – and lazy. Yes, nature is indeed lazy: in every motion, it minimizes change. This text explores how these six results are deduced and how they fit with all those observations that seem to contradict them. In the structure of modern physics, shown in Figure 1, the results on everyday motion form the major part of the starting point at the bottom. The present volume is the first of a six-volume overview of physics. It resulted from a threefold aim I have pursued since 1990: to present motion in a way that is simple, up to date and captivating.
In order to be simple, the text focuses on concepts, while keeping mathematics to the necessary minimum. Understanding the concepts of physics is given precedence over using formulae in calculations. The whole text is within the reach of an undergraduate.
In order to be up to date, the text is enriched by the many gems – both theoretical and empirical – that are scattered throughout the scientific literature.
In order to be captivating, the text tries to startle the reader as much as possible. Read- ing a book on general physics should be like going to a magic show. We watch, we are astonished, we do not believe our eyes, we think, and finally we understand the trick. When we look at nature, we often have the same experience. Indeed, every page presents at least one surprise or provocation for the reader to think about. Numerous interesting challenges are proposed.
The motto of the text, die Menschen stärken, die Sachen klären, a famous statement by Hartmut von Hentig on pedagogy, translates as: ‘To fortify people, to clarify things.' Clarifying things – and adhering only to the truth – requires courage, as changing the habits of thought produces fear, often hidden by anger. But by overcoming our fears we grow in strength. And we experience intense and beautiful emotions. All great adventures in life allow this, and exploring motion is one of them. Enjoy it!
About the Contributors
Christoph Schiller, born in 1960, is European. Raised in Varese, he studied physics at the Universität Stuttgart and received his Ph.D. in physics at the Université Libre de Bruxelles, in the department of Ilya Prigogine. Christoph Schiller is an innovation manager. He is convinced that exploring and applying physics can provide as much pleasure as anything else in life - and he explains why in the present text. He started the Motion Mountain Textbook project in Yokohama in 1990, wrote most of the text in Eindhoven and is finishing it during his business trips.