Professor Rex publishes new book: Commonly Asked Questions in Physics
Physics professor Andrew Rex recently wrote a book entitled Commonly Asked Questions in Physics. Published in February, this book is intended for anyone who would like a concise, introductory explanation of modern physics.
“This book is definitely going for a broad audience,” Rex said. “I wouldn’t say the whole general public, it’s not like a novel, but there are a lot of people that are curious about physics.”
Rex, who is also the chair of the physics department, was propositioned by the publishers of the Commonly Asked Questions series to complete the physics component.
Rex has devoted over two and a half years to the project, which he started in 2011. Although he has contributed to more complex textbooks, such as the Modern Physics book used by physics majors, this is the first book he has written for those with no prior knowledge of physics.
“People are just generally curious, they want to know more. They hear things in the news and [wonder what they mean],” Rex said. “The challenging part was trying to keep the book compact because the most interesting questions don’t have easy answers, do they?”
The book covers modern discoveries, with sections including everything from Einstein and relativity to nuclear fission in an atomic bomb. Each chapter contains additional resources as well as page-long “Going Deeper” sections, which give further mathematical and graphical explanations.
“It’s an entry-level for the most part, but then a little bit more for people who are above the entry-level too,” Rex said. “A lot of the questions are actually ones that I do get from students in class, particularly first and second-year classes where they’re just starting out.”
Currently, Rex uses parts of his new book in the reader for his Science and Technology in Society Connections course “Copenhagen to Manhattan,” which joins forces with the History department to discuss things such as the events leading up to the atomic bomb in World War II.
This is just one example of how non-physics majors can use Rex’s new book in their everyday lives.
“This book actually sounds like a good idea because I find that people, when they think about physics, think it’s very complicated stuff, even though physics in its most basic sense is simple,” freshman Patrick Ryan said. “I think if people get simple questions out of the way, they may be more inclined to maybe try physics.
As well as academic applications, Rex foresees his new book benefitting those who use physics in their everyday lives, yet have only a vague understanding of the concepts.
“There are a lot of people out there, such as medical practitioners and engineers, who use physics and want to know more about what they’re doing,” Rex said. “This could be a resource for them, as well as the general public.”
It will be months before Rex knows for certain how the book has been received. However, thus far the academic and user reviews have generated positive commentary. Rex is unsure whether or not he will undertake a similar project in the future, though at the moment he is not opposed to the idea. He is currently considering a textbook project that would cater to more advanced students.