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Book Review: Angry Birds Furious Forces!

June 11, 2013

Now that the year is over, and I’m starting to settle into the summer, it’s time to get back into my blog rhythm, something I’ve been trying to do for a few months now.

This post marks my first official book review. Thanks to Rhett Allain and the folks at National Geographic for sending me a review copy of Rhett’s new book: Angry Birds, Furious Forces! The Physics at Play in the Worlds Most Popular Game. Thanks also to my 2.5 year old daughter, Maddie for finally giving the book up for a popsicle so I could get a chance to read it.

First, this isn’t really a book about the physics of Angry Birds—Rhett has already practically written a book on that topic on his blog, and even left a few questions for you do to as homework, like cracking the mystery of the white Angry Bird and momentum conservation. Instead, this is a book that uses Angry Birds to hook young readers with some really fantastic explanations of physics, and perhaps even more importantly, to see the fun in physics through Rhett’s playful and engaging writing. Rhett nicely describes the connection between Angry Birds and physics in his introduction to the book:

Both [physics and Angry Birds] focus on achieving the optimal result of finding a solution by trial and error. Angry Birds and physics are a natural match because, in the end, both are characterized by immersion, exploration and even playfulness.

This book covers much more than just mechanics—Rhett explains Sound and Light, Thermodynamics, Electricity & Magnetism, and even Particle Physics & Beyond in this short (~150 page) very readable text. Really, I don’t know of any books aimed at this age group that cover such a wide range of topics, spanning momentum to dark matter. Rhett’s explanations are also far better than what you’re likely to find in some books aimed at this level—he brings his gift for explaining complex topics in simple terms that are distilled from sophisticated understandings. For example, when discussing why you feel lighter or heavier on an elevator, he side steps the misconception prone idea of apparent weight, and explains how the floor must push harder on you than your weight when accelerating upward, and it is this push of the floor that you feel as your weight.

The book is also peppered with a number of “Physics at Play” simple experiments described in a couple of sentences that one can do at home to explore physics such as using a jump rope to create wave motion.

I’d put the target audience of this book in the tween set—though like I said earlier, my 2.5 year old loved it, and I’m sure that young readers would find it quite enjoyable.

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