Daily Archives: April 30, 2009

Learn Physics At Home

i-300e609f666a874368dea419981a4078-head_first_physics.jpgHead First Physics: A learner’s companion to mechanics and practical physics I have been watching these Heads Up guides for some time now, mainly in the context of computer software and development. I have not tried any of these guides in IT because, so far, I’ve felt that while they may be excellent learning resources, they were not ideal reference books, and that is usually what I am looking for. I may be a bit unusual in this regard, but I’m pretty happy reading a reference book from beginning to end, then using later … as a reference book. In fact, I’d say my ideal combination of books for learning a new aspect of IT is something like an Idiot’s guide or some other very basic tutorial together with a biblical, comprehensive reference. By picking from both ends of the spectrum of detail and intensity, I can have a quick overview and the kind of orientation one writes for a total bobo1 such as my self, and a full reference for when I need the skinny on some esoteric or detailed aspect of the topic.

However, Head First Physics plays a very different role as it is for learning in a field of science. Head First Physics provides the material that is normally included in AP Physics B, focusing on mechanics. The purpose of this book is NOT to give the average Joe or Maria a basic idea of what Physics is about. That would be fairly easy and could be done in a much less ambitious work. Rather, this book is explicitly designed to be equivalent to the Advanced Placement course. It isn’t really equivalent, of course, in that a real AP phyiscs course will have elaborate labs and opportunities for discussion with someone who actually knows what they are doing. But this book does provide labs and it does a good job of anticipating those areas where such discussions might take place.

A student heading to Physics, a home schooler, or someone interested in the topic but unable for some reason to take the Intro college physics class or the HS AP class will probably find this book serves them well.

The reason Head First Physics (and presumably other Head First books) works is because almost every element … at the smallest scale … is designed to be a splash of cold water on the student’s face. “Well, so is water-boarding” you may say. And rightly so. The true geek who could enjoy any technical review of any hard science may not want to mess with the “Keep ’em interested” approach of this book. But for the average student, or more so for the student who is turned off by this sort of material, this book might work well.

1“Bobo” is Kinande for “Moron.”

Can Quantum Ghosts Cheat Heisenberg?

ResearchBlogging.orgIt is theoretically impossible to observe all of the different aspects of state of matter at the subatomic “quantum” level. This means that at the tiniest level of spacetime, bits and pieces of stuff and action can only be vaguely known, and therefore, if you wanted to build a quantum computer you would have some interesting challenges.

A solution to this problem would be a key step in quantum engineerig. According to Anthony Lang, of Bristol Universtiy, “Apart from providing insight into the fundamentals of quantum physics, [such] work may be crucial for future quantum technologies. How else could a future quantum engineer build a quantum computer if they can’t tell which circuits they have?”

A paper in Physical Review Letters that came out a few days ago pruports to use entanglement and a few other tricks to overcome this limitation.

Continue reading Can Quantum Ghosts Cheat Heisenberg?