With the assistance of Goldstein (History/Univ. of Hartford), Lewin (Physics/MIT), best known to a large international audience for his online physics lectures, delivers a readable book about the subject.
A pioneer in the field of X-ray astronomy, the author has been teaching three core physics courses at MIT since 1966, when he first came to the United States from Holland. Lewin writers that physics is "fundamentally an experimental science." A skeptic about the claims of string-theory proponents, who, he writes, have "yet to come up with a single experiment, a single prediction," the author contrasts it to his approach as an experimentalist and as a teacher whose aim is to explain "the remarkable ways in which physics illuminates the workings of the world." This has led him to a unique style of teaching in which he uses dramatic demonstrations in order to engage students' interest and awaken their excitement, while de-emphasizing mathematical formulas. He tells how, in a lecture on Newton's laws, he shows the difference between mass and weight by having a student on a scale stand on tiptoe, causing the scale to register an apparent weight gain. The lecture material covered in the book—from Galileo to rainbows to sound waves to electromagnetism—is accompanied by online links to videos of his classroom lectures. In the last third of the narrative, he gives a fascinating account of his own experimental work.
A delightful scientific memoir combined with a memorable introduction to physics.