Q: The text covers all areas and ideas of the subject appropriately and provides an effective index and/or glossary
This textbook is a “starting point” text, as in the words of the author:
“In this interpretation, a physics teacher would rearrange the chapters, add a chapter here, remove a chapter there, change a variable name here, add a new equation, there, thoroughly revise an explanation here, delete a long derivation there, etc. until the book was perfectly suited to the course taught by the teacher the way the teacher liked to teach it.”
It is therefore not necessarily intended to be entirely comprehensive for all introductory calculus-based physics courses, but does indeed cover with depth the majority of topics required for such a course.
There is no index or glossary. There is only a simple table of contents.
Most introductory physics textbooks begin with some discussion on physical quantities, units, sizes, etc., but this text delves right into conservation principles-after discussing some mathematical concepts. It may benefit from a short introduction for students who have little or no background in the sciences to get a feel for the physical quantities involved. Most of the discussions on units, dimensions, problem solving, etc, are, however, conducted within the topic chapters.
At the beginning of each chapter is a preamble about the potential misinterpretations and mathematical errors that are common with the given topic. This is useful in addressing misconceptions students may have about the given topic before getting into the details.
The definitions and explanations of new topics is generally quite short compared to a traditional calculus-based physics textbook, but this is also consistent with the author’s idea to “maximize on-time reading”.
Though there are no exercises within this textbook, the author has provided ancillaries in the form of exercise sets following the ordering of the textbook, with solutions provided in video formats and .gif files. There are also in-class multiple choice questions (no solutions), ideal for clickers, online questions (with solutions), blackboard ready online questions, class syllabus, and more. All of these can be found here.
Some of the chapters are rather “bare-boned” in that only the surface or parts of the topic are covered, such as:
Chapter 26: Impulse and Momentum (No graphical analysis-i.e. Force vs. Time graphs)
Chapter 30: Wave Function, Interference, Standing Waves (No mention of diffraction as normally addressed in this topic)
Chapter 37: The First Law of Thermodynamics (No reference to any specific thermodynamic processes, gases, etc.).
Chapter 2 provides a good overview of how to solve “physics” problems with examples and the example cases for conservation of mechanical energy are quite useful.
Chapter 22 has a good set of examples of the same problem, but as with some other chapters, students will likely request further examples analyzing different situations.
Chapter 29, pgs. 213-14: Derivations are avoided for lengthiness and only results are provided, without proof. This may be adequate if professors who need to demonstrate proof can do so using other means.
Comprehensiveness Rating: 3 out of 5
Q: Content is accurate, error-free and unbiased
Having only reviewed the text and not the separate ancillaries, there are no obvious issues with the accuracy of the content in the text.
Often-times, the footnotes provide additional detail, completing and clarifying the content in the main body of the text.
Content Accuracy Rating: 5 out of 5
Q: Content is up-to-date, but not in a way that will quickly make the text obsolete within a short period of time. The text is written and/or arranged in such a way that necessary updates will be relatively easy and straightforward to implement
The topics themselves are no different than other calculus-based physics textbooks, which have been the same for at least a hundred years. The majority of the examples use abstract objects, such as “particles”, so they are in no danger of becoming irrelevant over time.
There is, however, very little connection to “real-life” applications, which is something students often crave for motivation. Most of the examples are rudimentary problems found in any physics textbook of similar level or less, without much connection to more common or less idealized situations. It is usually fine to begin with such examples, but less abstract examples are usually then shown to demonstrate its usefulness.
As conservation principles are discussed first, rather than topics such as Force and Newton’s Laws, it may be difficult to change the ordering of the early topics given a particular instructor’s preference. It seems, however, that this is the direction that most new introductory physics textbooks are taking.
Relevance Rating: 4 out of 5
Q: The text is written in lucid, accessible prose, and provides adequate context for any jargon/technical terminology used
Since the book begins with chapters on conservation principles, many new terms are used, but these are always explained. There is, however, a danger in overwhelming a student without any previous knowledge of, say, energy, momentum, inertia, etc., to learn about these terms and their equations without knowing the depth to which they will be addressed later on.
In principle, it has been shown to be a good idea to place emphasis on the principles of conservation in physics, rather than defining terms such as force and Newton’s Laws, but it’s not clear how all students may react to reading these first few chapters with all of its terminology.
An example is on pg. 18: The potential energy of a spring is given without any explanation as to its origins. Discussing “Work” beforehand would allow for this, but the ordering does not allow for this here as these initial chapters are only meant to cover conservation principles and “Work” is not discussed until Chapter 24.
The same can be said about the rotational kinetic energy. This is a calculus-based book and it does show how the integration of small elements of mass and their distance to the center of rotation give the moment of inertia, and thus the rotational kinetic energy using the explanation of angular velocity, but this isn’t covered until Chapter 22.
Additional illustrations and even further spacing would be helpful in clarifying many somewhat complicated conceptual examples written in dense paragraph form. The concepts are generally well explained, but many would benefit from an illustrative example that complements the idea being expressed in the text.
Many times, mathematical frameworks are introduced, such as the cross product, dot product, vector use, etc., before they are needed. It is generally more useful for the reader to get the mathematical framework for something as needed, rather than introducing it first and maybe (or maybe not) applying it later.
Instead of addressing “vectors” as a separate topic-as many textbooks do-they are explained as they are needed in solving problems, such as vector addition in “Relative Velocity”, its properties in “Gravitational Force…”, and determining vector components in “Projectile Motion” problems. There is perhaps a danger for students in abstraction of what vectors are without realizing their relevance and universality in many topics at once.
The use of arrow subscript notation to represent vector components rather than the more typical x, y, or z used in other textbooks is fine, as it is done consistently.
It is the rare exception where a step in a mathematical derivation is not completely transparent.
The word “system” is used consistently from the beginning, but there is never a clear definition of what a “system” can or can’t be.
The following are some specific instances regarding the clarity of the text:
In Chapter 2, on pg. 12, the introduction of a “force” using the unit of Newtons with respect to the gravitational field strength units in the gravitation potential energy equation, is a bit of a strange way to introduce this key topic, but it is consistent with avoiding the definition approach of force, energy, etc., and focusing on conservation principles.
In Chapter 14, pg. 82, there is a good discussion on Newton’s third law, in particular with the example of a broom, but this could again be clarified with a simple illustration.
In Chapter 15, pg. 90, a concept like the spring force or “Hooke’s Law” would benefit from using graphs to show the linear relationship of the variables involved, rather than just saying that they are linear or “directly proportional”.
In Chapter 15, all of the situations involving free body diagrams have the “victim” as the same object for all the forces, so it seems redundant to use that extra term perhaps.
Chapter 17: The derivation of the gravitational force between two masses is derived from the gravitational field and Newton’s second law, which is much more transparent than how many textbooks simply state Newton’s “law of gravity” as a truth in and of itself.
Chapter 17, pg. 109: The expression for the gravitational potential energy is simply stated here without any proof, but the derivation is done properly in Chapter 25 using work-energy principles, as well as the derivation of other expressions that were simply stated in Chapter 2 without justification.
Chapter 19, pg. 118: The language used to describe a rotating rigid body and the different particles that make it up is a bit confusing. Another place where a simple graphic would help illustrate the situation.
Chapter 21: It is not clear why cross product matrices are discussed in Chapter 21 without their use in any subsequent topics or examples.
Chapter 29, pg. 202: The misconception that material of the string is moving along it can easily be illustrated with a particular point on the string in the graphics of pgs. 202-205. This is done in subsequent pages regarding the wave velocity.
Clarity Rating: 4 out of 5
Q: The text is internally consistent in terms of terminology and framework
There is good consistency in the types of explanations, the terminology used, and the mathematical framework applied.
It would be useful to always provide some interpretation or discussion of the results after an example is provided, which is one of the key steps mentioned at the beginning of the text for any physics problem. This is often done after a derivation, but not consistently done with example problems (See for example pg. 24: Example 4-2).
There are cases where simple examples are used, that then lead up to more complex ones, and other cases where a more complex example is used at the very beginning. It would be nice if there were some more consistency with the level of difficulty in the examples provided, as the student progresses through a given chapter. See for example Chapter 20, Example 20-1.
Consistency Rating: 4 out of 5
Q: The text is easily and readily divisible into smaller reading sections that can be assigned at different points within the course (i.e., enormous blocks of text without subheadings should be avoided). The text should not be overly self-referential, and should be easily reorganized and realigned with various subunits of a course without presenting much disruption to the reader.
This text is ideal for modular use as few times are equations and figures referenced, but are rather re-stated. There are quite a few large, dense paragraphs, but these typically have appropriate sub-headings.
It is the author’s intention that instructors edit and rearrange content as needed, and this is easily done, for the most part.
Modularity Rating: 5 out of 5
Q: The topics in the text are presented in a logical, clear fashion
As stated earlier, the order of topics differs slightly from traditional introductory physics textbooks in that it addresses conservation principles first, but then refers to them as the more traditional order of topics is addressed.
The sometimes long, dense paragraphs can interrupt the flow, especially without the use of illustrative figures that could complement the text.
Organization Rating: 4 out of 5
Q: The text is free of significant interface issues, including navigation problems, distortion of images/charts, and any other display features that may distract or confuse the reader
The figures are quite basic and are intended to be edited easily, as with equations, in the MS Word version of the text. No significant issues were found with the text in PDF or Word format. Having a linked table of contents would be helpful for these electronic versions.
Interface Rating: 5 out of 5
Q: The text contains no grammatical errors
No significant errors found.
Grammar Rating: 5 out of 5
Q: The text is not culturally insensitive or offensive in any way. It should make use of examples that are inclusive of a variety of races, ethnicities, and backgrounds
No issues found.
Cultural Relevance Rating: 5 out of 5
Q: Are there any other comments you would like to make about this book, for example, its appropriateness in a Canadian context or specific updates you think need to be made?
As the author states, this is indeed a "starting point" for an introductory calculus-based physics course. It certainly leaves out many details that many denser, more traditional textbooks contain and it would perhaps be useful to use one of those traditional textbooks as an additional reference in the course, for the student and instructor alike.
The textbook is, however, a very good starting point for an instructor to begin modifying for use in their particular course, and given physics education research results showing the importance of the emphasis on conservation principles and clear conceptual explanations with terminology provided as needed, this textbook takes a very good approach to almost all the topics it addresses.
Particularly for students, there are very good, concise explanations of topics that would be ideal for reading prior to more in-depth analysis in class, as intended by the author.
The large amount of ancillaries provided should also not be overlooked, as they are consistent with the organization of the textbook, with both in-class and online exercises, with solutions.
The textbook is certainly appropriate for use in Canada, and elsewhere.