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I heard about Yakov Perelman and his books. I just finished reading his two volumes of Physics for Entertainment. What a delightful read! What a splendid author. This is the exact book I've been searching for. I can use it to develop interest for science (math & physics) in my students.

His math books:

  1. Mathematics Can Be Fun
  2. Figures for Fun
  3. Arithmetic for entertainment
  4. Geometry for Entertainment
  5. Lively Mathematics
  6. Fun with Maths & Physics

His physics books:

  1. Physics for Entertainment (1913)
  2. Physics Everywhere
  3. Mechanics for entertainment
  4. Astronomy for entertainment
  5. Tricks and Amusements

I want to get all the above books. Because books from author like this cannot be disappointing. But unfortunately not all of them are available. :(

I also read another amazing book How to Solve It: A New Aspect of Mathematical Method by G.Polya. This books actually teaches you how to think.

In the similar lines if you have any book suggestions (with very practical problems & case studies) for physics & Math (Please don't differentiate between math & physics here. If I can develop interest in one of the subject he'll gain interest in other.) please contribute.

Cross Post: http://math.stackexchange.com/questions/10543/books-that-develop-interest-critical-thinking-among-high-school-students

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I'm not sure it's on topic, although I love the subject. In any case, I'm not sure you will get interest from books. There are (few) students who still don't think all their life is XBox and junk food. These students are captured even with paper lifted by a charged pen, so you need to feed them right, but you don't have to capture their attention, it's already captured. If you want to capture attention of the Xbox junkies, you need something else entirely. A book won't do, not as a starting point –  Stefano Borini Nov 16 '10 at 9:29
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Community Wiki. –  mbq Nov 16 '10 at 11:59
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@mbq : I'm not making it community wiki so soon. I'm not greedy repo but I need atleast 20 rep (for inserting links, images & upvoting.) –  claws Nov 16 '10 at 13:22
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@claws I just like the policy that everything with not defined best answer and not closeable should be CWized so the best answer can be constructed by collaborative edits; with CW you don't feel bad about stealing parts of other answers. –  mbq Nov 16 '10 at 14:24
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The name is Polya, it's hungarian, pronounced "poya". –  mtrencseni Nov 21 '10 at 14:36
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9 Answers

up vote 7 down vote accepted

I saw that some people wanted to learn physics after they saw

  1. Project TUVA lectures by Richard Feynman
  2. 10th classic classical mechanics lecture by Walter Lewin
  3. Surely you are joking Mr. Feynman book by Richard Feynman

To get people interested you need to show them that doing physics is COOL and is FUN.

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"To get people interested you need to show them that doing physics is COOL and is FUN." This is exactly what I'm doing. :) –  claws Nov 16 '10 at 10:13
    
Best of luck friend! :-) may the force be with you!! –  Pratik Deoghare Nov 16 '10 at 14:11
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"Surely you are joking Mr. Feynman" is just a long story Feynman boosting up his ego. Would not recommend this book. On the other hand, 1. is probably worth reading! –  Noldorin Nov 16 '10 at 16:30
    
@Noldorin: true to an extent but it also contains some genuine physics and math, the thirst for understanding the nature (embodied in Feynman's peculiar experiments) and above all is very funny. Personally, I don't know about any other book that would portray physics as such an enjoyable and cool stuff as this one :) –  Marek Feb 5 '11 at 10:25
    
@Marek: Yeah, they can be entertaining. If you just want to learn physics however, other books (perhaps the Feynmann lectures if you like him) are much more useful. Everyone seems to jump of the Feynmann bandwagon these days; I like to be different. :) There may not be very many better scientists, but there are better writers (ok, I'm not even sure if he wrote that book himself.) –  Noldorin Feb 5 '11 at 23:41
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Back when I was in my final two years of high school, there are a handful of books (the first two with co-incidentally similar titles!) that I remember reading and enjoying:

  • The Theory of Almost Everything by Robert Oerter - a great in-depth popular science book on 20th century physics and the goals of unification.

  • A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson - very much a popular science book (covering many aspects of science from physics to geology to taxonomy). As from any Bill Bryson book, you can expect a lot of humour, storytelling, and generally an entertaining read. The science content is less than some, but still worthwhile.

  • Godel, Escher, Bach (GEB) by Douglas Hofstadter - this book is probably famous enough not to need an introduction. I actually read it in my earlier university years, but it's even more suitable for a keen final-year high-school student I'd think. It explores the very nature of the consciousness, thought, complexity, and beauty - and gives mind-opening insights fields as mathematical logic, music, art, AI, and physics.

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While I read GEB in high school, and it was important, I find the discussion of Godel's theorem too long winded today. If you know how to program, it should be obvious. –  Ron Maimon Apr 3 '12 at 7:31
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Oh yeah... Godel's theorem... obvious. Rolls eyes. –  Noldorin Apr 4 '12 at 4:18
    
The proof is: given an axiomatic system which describes integers, it also describes computers. Write the program GODEL which 1. prints its code into a variable R. 2. Deduces all consequences of the axiom system, looking for the theorem "R does not halt". 3. If it finds this theorem, it halts. This is the construction of Godel's theorem, and it is obvious that GODEL will halt if and only if S proves it doesn't halt. The conclusions of Godel's theorem follow with only a few minutes of thinking. This is the correct proof, and I have presented it here and on math.overflow. –  Ron Maimon Apr 4 '12 at 9:00
    
The main difference is that the issues of self-reference are moved to the code and not to the logic, the logic is never even mentioned explicitly (except of course that it exists). There is also no Godel encoding, except the obvious encoding of computer programs into integers in step 2. Finally, the whole thing does not require a recursion theorem trick--- this is included in the first step "print your own code", which is the recursion theorem in a form obvious to all computer programmers. –  Ron Maimon Apr 4 '12 at 9:02
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try The Cartoon Guide to Physics by Larry Gonick

funny and smart!

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Please include the full title "The Cartoon Guide to Physics". Its easy for readers :) –  claws Nov 16 '10 at 10:10
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The Feynman Lectures on Physics

University level, but very readable, with a focus on concepts. When I was in high school, these three volumes got me interested in becoming a physicist.

The set is pricey, but you can probably borrow a copy from your library. There are abridged versions too:

  • Six Easy Pieces
  • Six Not-So-Easy Pieces

One of the more recent editions of the Feynman Lectures includes "Feynman's tips on Physics", a real gem in which Feynman gives tips on how to approach solving physics problems.

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For those who don't already know a lot of physics, George Gamow's books are both informative and playful. Martin Gardner's books of his Sci Am Mathematical Games stimulate critical thought and are fun. Maybe also something by Steven Weinberg like The First Three Minutes.

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Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

Here's a fan art that gives a taste of the kind of critical thinking being present in the book (it is very very slightly NSFW so I didn't include it inline).

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Certainly R. Penrose and Emperor's New Mind! It's extremely amusing, in-depth (compared to most popular science books) and very broad (like GEB, it touches many topics in Mathematics, Computer Science and Physics).

Penrose not only synthesises what's known, but presents many of his own findings and I find myself coming to the book from time to time as a reference. Finally, the book quickly becomes philosophical, discussing philosophy of mathematics, consciousness and cosmology. Author clearly indicates which ideas are merely his philosophical thoughts, which allows reader to disagree and have fun thinking about his propositions.

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I found this book is perfect for introducing high school students to an accessible and wide open research field:

Given this book, plus a computer, a student is introduced to a world of everyday systems whose behavior has no theory, but should. Everywhere you look, you see open problems--- what is the fractal dimension of a cloud? How about a cloud way up high? What is the fractal dimension of a rock's surface? What determines it? A coastline? What determines it? A rip in a paper? A crack in glass? A self-avoiding random walk in 3d?

The fractal dimensions are usually much more robust than the detailed shapes, or the actual size of the fractal (the Hausdorff measure). Many models have the same exponents, and you can determine the fractal laws without a detailed microscopic model, because it usually only depends on the coarse features.

This book is a very good introduction to modern renormalization theory, in particular for motivating the study of this difficult and otherwise esoteric subject, a subject Mandelbrot played a large part in founding.

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