Newtonian Physics

Newtonian Physics

Benjamin Crowell
Published in: Light and Matter
Release Year: 2006
ISBN: 0-9704670-1-X
Pages: 282
Edition: First Edition
File Size: 14 MB
File Type: pdf
Language: English

Description of Newtonian Physics

Why a New Physics Textbook?

We Americans assume that our economic system will always scamper to provide us with the products we want. Special orders don’t upset us! I want my MTV! The truth is more complicated, especially in our education system, which is paid for by the students but controlled by the professoriate. Witness the perverse success of the bloated science textbook. The newspapers continue to compare our system unfavorably to Japanese and European education, where depth is emphasized overbreadth, but we can’t seem to create a physics textbook that covers a manageable number of topics for a one-year course and gives honest explanations of everything it touches on.
The publishers try to please everybody by including every imaginable topic in the book but end up pleasing nobody. There is wide agreement among physics teachers that the traditional one-year introductory textbooks cannot, in fact, be taught in one year. One cannot surgically remove enough material and still gracefully navigate the rest of one of these kitchen-sink textbooks. What is far worse is that the books are so crammed with topics that nearly all the explanation is cut out in order to keep the page count below 1100. Vital concepts like energy are introduced abruptly with an equation, like a first-date kiss that comes before “hello.”
The movement to reform physics texts is steaming ahead, but despite excellent books such as Hewitt’s Conceptual Physics for nonscience majors and Knight’s Physics: A Contemporary Perspective for students who know calculus, there has been a gap in physics books for life-science majors who haven’t learned calculus or are learning it concurrently with physics. Newtonian Physics book is meant to fill that gap.

Learning to Hate Physics?

When you read a mystery novel, you know in advance what structure to expect: a crime, some detective work, and finally the unmasking of the evildoer. Likewise, when Charlie Parker plays a blues, your ear expects to hear certain landmarks of the form regardless of how wild some of his notes are. Surveys of physics students usually show that they have worse attitudes about the subject after instruction than before, and their comments often boil down to a complaint that the person who strung the topics together had not learned what Agatha Christie and Charlie Parker knew intuitively about form and structure: students become bored and demoralized because the “march through the topics” lacks a coherent storyline. You are reading the first volume of the Light and Matter series of introductory physics
textbooks, and as implied by its title, the storyline of the series is built around light and matter: how they behave, how they are different from each other, and, at the end of the story, how they turn out to be similar in some very bizarre ways. Here is a guide to the structure of the one-year course presented in this series:
1 Newtonian Physics Matter moves at a constant speed in a straight line unless a force acts on it. (This seems intuitively wrong only because we tend to forget the role of friction forces.) Material objects can exert forces on each other, each changing the other’s motion. A more massive object changes its motion more slowly in response to a given force.
2 Conservation Laws Newton’s matter-and-forces picture of the universe is fine as far as it goes, but it doesn’t apply to light, which is a form of pure energy without mass. A more powerful world-view, applying equally well to both light and matter, is provided by the conservation laws, for instance, the law of conservation of energy, which states that energy can never be destroyed or created but only changed from one form into another.
3 Vibrations and Waves Light is a wave. We learn how waves travel through space, pass through each other, speed up, slow down, and are reflected.
4 Electricity and Magnetism Matter is made out of particles such as electrons and protons, which are held together by electrical forces. Light is a wave that is made out of patterns of electric and magnetic force.
5 Optics Devices such as eyeglasses and searchlights use matter (lenses and mirrors) to manipulate light.
6 The Modern Revolution in Physics Until the twentieth century, physicists thought that matter was made out of particles and light was purely a wave phenomenon. We now know that both light and matter are made of building blocks with a combination of particle and wave properties. In the process of understanding this apparent contradiction, we find that the universe is a much stranger place than Newton had ever imagined, and also learn the basis for such devices as lasers and computer chips.

A Note to the Student Taking Calculus Concurrently

Learning calculus and physics concurrently is an excellent idea — it’s not a coincidence that the inventor of calculus, Isaac Newton, also discovered the laws of motion! If you are worried about taking these two demanding courses at the same time, let me reassure you. I think you will find that physics helps you with calculus while calculus deepens and enhances your experience of physics. Newtonian Physics book is designed to be used in either an algebra-based physics course or a calculus-based physics course that has calculus as a corequisite.
This note is addressed to students in the latter type of course. Art critics discuss paintings with each other, but when painters get together, they talk about brushes. Art needs both a “why” and a “how,” concepts as well as technique. Just as it is easier to enjoy an oil painting than to produce one, it is easier to understand the concepts of calculus than to learn the techniques of calculus. Newtonian Physics book will generally teach you the concepts of calculus a few weeks before you learn them in your math class, but it does not discuss the techniques of calculus at all. There will thus be a delay of a few weeks between the time when a calculus application is first pointed out in the Newtonian Physics book and the first occurrence of a homework problem that requires the relevant technique. The following outline shows a typical first-semester calculus curriculum side-by-side with the list of topics covered in the Newtonian Physics book, to give you a rough idea of what calculus your physics instructor might expect you to know at a given point in the semester.

Content of Newtonian Physics

0 Introduction and Review 19
1 Scaling and Order-of-Magnitude Estimates 43
Motion in One Dimension
2 Velocity and Relative Motion 69
3 Acceleration and Free Fall 91
4 Force and Motion 121
5 Analysis of Forces 141
Motion in Three Dimensions
6 Newton’s Laws in Three Dimensions 171
7 Vectors 183
8 Vectors and Motion 193
9 Circular Motion 207
10 Gravity 221
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