How to Teach Physics to Your Dog

Physicist Chad Orzel talks to his dog. This is not all that unusual. Many pet owners talk to their pets and dogs make particularly good listeners. What might be a little strange is that Professor Orzel talks to his German Sheppard mix Emma about quantum physics. It turns out that dogs have a good intuitive grasp of quantum physics so they are able to have long conversations on quantum physics. In How to Teach Physics to Your Dog, Chad Orzel relates these conversations in which he explains to an eager Emma the basics of quantum physics. Emma interrupts his explanations with just the sort of questions the reader might happen to have. The dog and physicist talk about such topics as the uncertainty principle, virtual particles, quantum tunneling and entanglement.


It’s a fun idea and Chad Orzel does a terrific job explaining physics to the lay reader in the guise of talking to his dog. He seems to have a good feel for how a dog acts and thinks, and I have no trouble imagining that if a dog could talk about physics she would be just as excitable, and as easily distracted by squirrels, bunnies, and treats.

The most important chapter in this book must be the last one, Beware of Evil Squirrels. Here Professor Orzel warns the read of the misuses and outright scams involving quantum physics. There are any number of con artists and New Age frauds who make use of scientific sounding terminology to mislead their victims into believing that one can get free energy from “vacuum energy” or heal oneself of all diseases by imagining oneself to be perfectly healthy. As Orzel explains, despite the many weird and wonderful manifestations of quantum physics, it is not magic, and follows the same sort of rules as anything else in the universe, including the common sense rule that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

I found How to Teach Physics to Your Dog to be appealing and informative. I think that some of the explanations were a bit hard to follow but that is perhaps more my fault than the writer’s.


Everthing You Always Wanted to Know About Quantum Physics

But were afraid you wouldn’t understand the answers if you asked.

If you have questions about quantum physics but have been looking for a book that will actually explain the subject, than look  no farther. Kenneth W. Ford answers 101 questions about questions about the strange world of the very small. As a former director of the American Institute of Physics and one who has worked with many of the giants of twentieth and twenty-first physics, Ford has the knowledge and ability to explain the often difficult to understand and even seemingly nonsensical aspects of quantum physics.

The only fault with this book is that in the kindle edition, several of the illustrations are missing. These are largely photographs of scientists and for the most part, illustrations necessary for explanations. Other than this lack, 101 Quantum Questions is worth reading.

The Elegant Universe

The Elegant Universe
Image via Wikipedia

Brian Greene’s “The Elegant Universe” is a useful introduction to the subject of string theory and the state of modern physics. I found it interesting and informative, with some reservations.

For one thing, I do not share Greene’s enthusiasm for string theory. No matter how elegant the various forms of string theory may seem to the physicist, the simple fact is that there is no experimental proof for any of it nor is any forthcoming at our present level of technology. In fact, to the best of my (limited) knowledge, I am not sure that string theory offers any testable predictions or explanations of physical phenomena that cannot also e explained with other theories.

Brian Greene generally does a good job of explaining but parts of The Elegant Universe were a little difficult to get through, probably more because of the extreme opaqueness of the subject, and not to any lack of skill of the author. The last several chapters, however, seemed to be increasingly esoteric as Greene used string theory to explore such subjects as the interiors of black holes and the very beginning if the universe, and before.

Overall, I would recommend this book, but not wholeheartedly.

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