The Physics of Everyday Things: The Extraordinary Science Behind an Ordinary Day

James Kakalios. Crown, $26 (256p) ISBN 978-0-7704-3773-2
In his latest work of pop physics, Kakalios, professor of physics at the University of Minnesota, eschews the jokes and banter of The Amazing Story of Quantum Mechanics, diving right into his explanations of objects and phenomena that Westerners encounter in their daily routines. Kakalios takes his title literally, following a bachelor businessman subject as he moves through his day. The author pauses regularly to explain the physics behind the innumerable tools, devices, and machines upon which his subject depends. A morning smartphone alarm and the smell of brewing coffee launch a discussion of the elegant physics of the pendulum, which underlies all timers and whose periodic oscillations illustrate the simplest of many universal phenomena, including the conservation of energy and electric power generation. Over the course of the day, readers will encounter no math, little cuteness, and only half a dozen charts. Many explanations, such as the basics of the LED TV, may require multiple rereads for full comprehension. Kakalios achieves more success with his elucidations of the familiar refrigerator and copier machine than he does with microelectronics. Readers will enjoy lucid explanations of dazzling yet quotidian technology, and those who remember a bit of high school–level science may appreciate them even more. Agent: Jay Mandel, WME. (May)
Reviewed on: 03/27/2017
Release date: 05/16/2017
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