The Wonders of Physics Critical Essays

Irving Adler


(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

Adler recognized that physics can be an all-encompassing subject, with relevance to many different areas. Consequently, he divided the subject matter into individual topics; while topics are related to one another, each chapter can be read and digested on its own merits. Adler begins each chapter with an explanation of the subject matter, its meaning, and its historical context. Rather than presenting the material in a dry textbook fashion, he brings his own sense of wonder to the subject, directing the reader to specific questions and examples.

Terms or concepts are introduced in the language of the young reader as an interested novice rather than as a student of science, and clear applications are included. For example, in his discussion of Sir Isaac Newton’s laws of motion, rather than any reference to inertia, a term beyond the scope of the young reader, Adler applies the concept to satellites flying around the Earth. He discusses the fact that orbits are curved because the satellite tends to move in a specific direction, while at the same time being pulled by gravity back toward the ground. The result is a circular motion. In like manner, Adler discusses the wave nature of energy. Rather than a dry definition of the concept, Adler uses the image of a row of dominoes. If energy, in the form of a push, is applied to the first domino, the “pulse” of energy moves in wavelike fashion through the entire row. The energy is not directly observed, but its effects are seen. A wave itself can be observed...

(The entire section is 620 words.)