Product Reviews - The Old Schoolhouse


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Touch This! Conceptual Physics for Everyone Review by Heidi Shaw

Paul G. Hewitt

Wow! Physics for everyone? I must admit I took this on as a personal challenge. Physics was not a strong suit of mine in high school and I have always considered myself seriously physics phobic. Well, I am here to report that I have been converted. Not only has this book taught me a thing or two (or 20), I really enjoyed the learning and the reading! This is a GREAT introduction to physics and Mr. Hewitt really means it when he says that it is for everyone.

Touch This! is a layman's guide to physics. It is written in an engaging, interesting, and entertaining way. The information is not "dumbed down" and yet all principles and definitions are clearly and simply defined. Mr. Hewitt is not only a gifted author, he is an amazingly gifted artist and graces most of the pages of his book with explanatory illustrations. This book takes a daunting subject and breaks it down into manageable bites of information, allowing students and parents alike to become "alive" to the world around them. Borrowing this explanation from Mr. Hewitt, it simply means that when we have an understanding of the rules of science and the "how" of things, we can then make connections and discoveries that may have been missed otherwise.

Touch This! is not a mathematical text book. Nor is it a set of boring, seemingly pointless rules. Think of a ramp as opposed to a vertical wall. At the top of each is a body of knowledge you would like to acquire. This book is the ramp, compared to most standard high school physics texts, which appear to be vertical walls to many. Your child will journey up this ramp and have a much firmer, clearer grasp on what the world about him is all about when he is done. This volume presents clear explanation of the rules of mechanics - basic physics. Future volumes will deal with everything from matter, heat, and magnetism, to fusion and relativity.

Each chapter of Touch This! takes a basic law of physics and discusses it, presents examples and awesome illustrations, and even has questions and answers to let the reader practice what he has been absorbing. All of this is done in an engaging, conversational format that takes all inhibitions away. I was hearing responses from my kids like "Cool," "Oh, now I get it," and even "Hey, Mom, did you know?" I never expected to hear comments like this from my kids about physics! Right from the first chapter, we discussed sailboats and how they can actually go faster by sailing at an angle against the wind rather than straight downwind. Any book that can elicit discussion amongst my teenagers gets my attention. Now I am reading it and enjoying it just as much.

This is a great book. There is an excellent chapter towards the back discussing the relationships between science, art, and religion. Science and technology are also discussed and I was grateful for this insight into the mind of the author. Mr. Hewitt is a teacher at the City College of San Francisco and reading about his personal journey gave a personal touch to this subject and made me feel even more positive about learning something new. I was particularly impressed with his explanation of the ability for humans to embrace both science and religion without contradicting their own beliefs.

I really believe this book is the perfect precursor to a text oriented physics course and will enable your students to enter into any such course with a masterful grip on understanding and the "why are we learning this" factor. I am thankful to Mr. Hewitt for helping me conquer my phobia and I believe if you read this book along with or at least discuss it with your kids you will be very pleased. This is the first in a series and I can't wait to see what the rest will be like. Mr. Hewitt has also written a very popular physics text for the school called Conceptual Physics, if you are interested in following this up.

Highly recommended, lots of value for the cost, and your whole family can learn from this book. Charlotte Mason fans will be especially happy with the conversational tone and the real life examples that permeate each chapter.

-- Product Review by: Heidi Shaw, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine