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Andrew Zimmerman Jones

The Canon of Scientific Literacy

By July 18, 2008

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While performing my regular searches on new physics stories across the web, I was pleased to stumble upon "Physics is Fun!" in The Times Literary Supplement. A title like this tends to catch my attention, but I wasn't sure what to expect. It turns out that this article is a review of The Canon: A Whirligig Tour of the Beautiful Basics of Science by Natalie Angier.

I have a copy of Angier's book sitting on my "to read and review" stack, but I am greatly looking forward to it. I really enjoyed the grand ideas of science presented in James Trefil's Why Science? and look forward to seeing Angier's take on the "basics of science." Trefil's focus was more on the idea of scientific literacy than on a "whirligig tour," but both books seem to be trying to place the whole of scientific knowledge in a universal context (something which was also attempted by Bill Bryson's fascinating A Short History of Nearly Everything).

It's an ambitious project which many have tried and there are some noteworthy examples of where such projects have proven successful. What's your vote for the best book to provide a general overview of science as a whole?

Comments

July 20, 2008 at 5:10 pm
(1) woody alspaugh says:

What is the physic law of force to move a stationary object, on wheels of other wise, (weight)?

July 22, 2008 at 6:25 am
(2) Eddie says:

Newton’s first law? “Every object in a state of uniform motion tends to remain in that state of motion unless an external force is applied to it.”

July 31, 2009 at 4:22 pm
(3) Woody Alspaugh says:

“Woody’s” Law of Initial Motion
(W) Mass “Weight” x (SC) “Surface-Contact” x (AD) “Adhesive factor”, *considering temperature*, = (F) [“Force” needed to move moveable object].
(Assuming that the “vehicle” is a car, ether automobile, truck, cycle or train; supported by an axle(s) whith one or more wheels being embraced via lubricated bearings).
Once the vehicle is in motion, on a flat even surface, it takes only about a third of force, (Power/ “energy”). To propel and accelerate said vehicle, limited only to resentence.
Case in point; a locomotive pulling two or more cars hooked together in sequence, on rails forming a train, can not possible start at the same time do to the excessive force needed, according to “Woody’s” law. However, the “slack” between the cars connectors, allows “Newton’s Laws” of motion to have the coupling car(s) to have the inertia to start in motion each car respectively. (All passengers’ trains have individual motors on each car, allowing all the cars to start simultaneously.) The locomotive, in this case, does not “pull” the cars, but supplies the motors whith electricity, (Power/ “Energy”)
I finally was able to perform a simple test. I knew that I was right, but had to prove it to myself. About 48 pound of pressure to initiate movement. Then dropping down to approx. 16 pounds of force to keep going, while, at the same time, accelerating the speed, my car was indeed moving!

Okay, here is the bottom line, the sort of the long, if you will. One can take an average size vehicle, such as my 2004 mustang, tow it whith a tread, (once it is in motion, about 45 pounds of pressure) and whith proper lubrication and tire pressure on a smooth surface, it can accelerate to a unlimited speed whith only 15 pounds of force. The only thing that would slow it down would be wind and surface resistance!

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