Review: How To Teach Physics To Your Dog

A good title can sell a book, no question, and this title is instantly charming to me.  I like dogs; I like physics; what could go wrong?

Plenty could go wrong, of course.  I generally like popular science books, but I have been disappointed as well. While I like the title, I don’t know if I’m going to be able to take a couple hundred pages of the conceit. To his credit, Chad Orzel carries the physics and the dog characterization off well.

The science isn’t the easy stuff, either.  Orzel’s peddling quantum physics, not that easy Newtonian stuff.  Quantum physics is bizarre  and counter-intuitive, so having it explained at a dog’s level can be helpful.  It helped me.  I have heard the basics of quantum physics many times, and I consider it a success when I figure something new out from a fresh explanation.  This was successful.

Now, about the dog part: the book is structured as a series of conversations between Orzel and his dog.  Who talks.  And that works out pretty well.  Orzel does a nice job using the conversation to pace the material.  The discussions help the material flow naturally and conversationally.  It’s easy not to notice when topics are being reviewed or emphasized when they’re wrapped in the rhythms of a man-to-dog heart-to-heart.

Orzel takes a goofy idea and uses it to wrap up a lot of good science explanation that holds a sense of wonder.  He does an equally nice job of supporting the theoretical explanation with experimental evidence.  All that solid science is wrapped in charming prose.

Strongly Recommended.

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