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The Manga Guide to Physics

Physics from a Comic Book

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The Manga Guide to Physics

The cover for The Manga Guide to Physics.

No Starch Press
This book addresses the subject of engaging students (and others) in the study of basic physics facts by using a manga style to relate the story to real world physics examples.

The Book's Story

In this book, the storyline is just as a vehicle to get the science out. As such, it's somewhat contrived, but it does the job of giving a reasonable excuse for the delivery of science. (The plotline in The Manga Guide to the Universe is, by comparison, far less straightforward.)

The main character is the teenage all-star athlete Megumi. Unfortunately, Megumi is not doing well in physics class, and her frustration over getting the wrong answers is beginning to have an impact on her athletic performance. She approaches her classmate, Ryota Nonomura, who is a physics all-star ("having won a silver medal in the international physics olympic games"). He is able to begin using real-world science examples to teach her the physics concepts she's having trouble with, many of them focusing on sports-related examples, such as the bouncing of a tennis ball. Megumi is, after all, an athlete.

The Book's Science

The book is divided into four sections, focusing on some of the basic principles of physics. This is a pretty basic, classical physics based approach to the topic, with a strong emphasis on motion and physical interactions between objects, of the types studied by Sir Isaac Newton. Despite some discussion of work, the book doesn't particularly delve into anything related to thermodynamics. If you want to understand the science behind collisions and impacts, and have a general understanding of how momentum and energy applies in these contexts, then this book provides a perfectly adequate introduction to the subject. It even includes some equations and graphs, to add some mathematical rigor to the conceptual explanations.

The only real flaw with the book is that the focus is so narrow that it gives a somewhat limited impression of what "physics" is. The book would better be called The Manga Guide to Motion and Energy, because there is so much of basic physics - angular momentum, thermodynamics, fluid mechanics, modern physics, etc. - that's left completely out of the book.

On the plus side, these are basically the introductory concepts that a first-semester physics course will focus on. If you are a student (or know a student) who is intimidated about the prospect of an upcoming physics class, this might be a very good book to provide ahead of time, so they can familiarize themselves with the concepts (and equations) ahead of time, in a less intimidating way.

The Book's Structure

The book is divided into four sections. Section 1 focuses on the Law of Action and Reaction:

Section 2 focuses on the scientific concepts of Force, Velocity, and Acceleration. These are really extensions of the concepts inherent in Newton's First and Second Laws, which were introduced in the first section.

Section 3 turns toward the physics concept of Momentum:

  • Momentum and Impulse
  • Conservation of Momentum
  • Elastic and Inelastic Collision
  • Propulsion of a Rocket

Section 4 covers the scientific concept of Energy:

This book includes a few Laboratory sections, spread throughout the book, which are basically more in-depth thought experiments that delve into some real-world examples related to the physics concepts being discussed. The Laboratory sections include:

  • Finding the Distance Traveled when Velocity Varies
  • Finding the Precise Value of a Force
  • Difference in Momentum due to a Difference in Mass
  • Finding the Momentum of a Stroke
  • Outer Space and the Conservation of Momentum
  • What's the Difference Between Momentum and Kinetic Energy?
  • Work and the Conservation of Energy
  • The relationship Between Work and Kinetic Energy
  • The Law of Conservation of Mechanical Energy in Action
  • Conservation of Mechanical Energy on a Slope
Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.
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