Thursday, April 16, 2015

Book Review: Geek Physics by Rhett Allain

Star Wars has been on my mind a bit today.  There was a one-hour simulcast at Star Wars Celebration today, live from Anaheim which included interviews with new and returning cast members and concluded with the latest teaser trailer for Episode VII.  I checked out a bit of it during lunchtime, but the convention continues throughout the weekend.  In fact, as I write, more live streams are still running on the Star Wars YouTube page!

On a seemingly unrelated note, I also took a look at a little book called Geek Physics.  I hadn't planned on writing a critique, but I just couldn't resist with this one.  It's just too fun.  Here's my quickie review:

I am an admitted fangirl of such frivolous things as Star Wars, the Avengers, Lord of the Rings and Back to the Future.  Apparently, Rhett Allain is a fanboy of the same persuasion.  In his recent book Geek Physics, Allain tackles the physics behind several concepts within these fantastical worlds.  He breaks down imaginary theories to real-world physics and formulas, answering some of the most burning questions of our time:

  • What is the density of Thor’s hammer, Mjölnir?
  • What is the recoil speed of Captain America?
  • Could Superman punch someone into space?
  • How realistic is Angry Birds physics?
  • What kind of power source would you need to run a lightsaber?
  • If R2-D2 is able to fly, how much does he really weigh?

And one of the most crucial questions facing the Star Wars community today:


Other interesting, yet more realistic topics are discussed, ones that even a non-fanboy or girl would find amusing:
  • Does replacing paper flight manuals with iPads ultimately save fuel for the airline industry? (My husband, a Gulfstream IV pilot will surely have something to say about that.)
  • Can ice cream get cold enough to be zero calories?  (A girl can hope…)
  • How many dollar bills would it take to stack them to the moon?  (May I have half of them?)
  • How high would you have to drop a frozen turkey so that it is cooked when it lands?

This brief volume is packed with humorous and interesting ideas, many of which I had never considered before (the turkey question being one of them).  As I’ve been looking over the book, I find myself laughing out loud and reading to my children.  I can’t wait to show the Han Solo section to my fanboy husband.  There is a decent amount of physics-speak in Geek Physics that goes right over my head, but overall I found Allain’s writing to be easy to understand and incredibly amusing.  I would not recommend reading this alone or in a quiet library.  You WILL want to share some of these ideas with a friend and you most probably will laugh out loud.  Geek Physics may just change the way you think about scientific study, and that has real-world applications indeed.

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