Tag Archive: How to Teach Physics to Your Dog

Sep 03

Review: How to Teach Physics to Your Dog by Chad Orzel

How To Teach Physics To Your Dog by Chad OrzelSo two weeks ago (and by two weeks, I mean that’s what the calendar says.  It really feels like months ago),  finished Chad Orzel’s How to Teach Relativity to Your Dog.  I enjoyed it a lot, and it sparked an interest in physics.  I ordered all of the books from the library, and I’ve been working my way through them along with all the less fun stuff for my Capstone.  So, I thought I’d give Orzel’s first physics book a spin since the second was so accessible, so I read How to Teach Physics to Your Dog over the last week.

My brain hurts.  Again.

Instead of relativity, this book takes on quantum mechanics, or the world where things are very very small.  Like on the single photon, piece of an atom level.  And how classical physics, like the world of cars, planes, and soup, breaks down into weirdness when things get very small.  He covers the particle/wave duality of light, the Schrodinger paradox, superpositions, quantum tunneling and entanglement, and a host of other topics.  And, just as before, they are presented in accessible ways.

And maybe it’s the subject matter.  Maybe it’s because I usually read at night before bed.  Maybe it’s all the extra math this book had, but I found these subjects a lot harder to follow than relativity.  I wasn’t any more or less familiar with the material beforehand, but quantum mechanics did a much better job of sailing over my head.  Maybe this is because a lot of it deals in probabilities instead of hard numbers, and my human brain is searching for exactness in a field where exactness is by its very definition against the rules.

Oh, and this book got me in boyfriend trouble.

I was doing laundry with Dale and talking about how position is never exact because of the nature of measurement and particles popping around all over the place (Orzel says it more exact and science-y, but that’s the general idea).  So he said that he didn’t understand why he couldn’t or didn’t just teleport to the washing machine.  And then me, without thinking, responded “Because you’re too massive.”  Which is true on an atomic, physical scale, but really one of the poorer word conversions from physics to English.  Open mouth, insert foot.

Oh, and it seems like there’s a lot more talking dog in this one, and the dog is a bit zanier.  I didn’t really care for that, but I understand how some could find it whimsical and warming.  To each his own.

I didn’t really enjoy the subject matter and the implications as much as Orzel’s relativity book, but I think that’s just my mind in relation to the subject matter and not anything to do on his part.  I’m glad I read it because it lets me ponder collapsing wavefunctions, but I don’t think I missed my calling to become a quantum physicist.

JMF Rating: 6/10

‘Til next time,