The study of physics is both reasonable and necessary. It provides logical explanations of occurrences in the real world and provides even the beginning physics student with an understanding of why and how objects move and interact. However, physics can easily overwhelm even the most diligent college student. Saturated with detailed formulas to be memorized and bewildering concepts to master, physics is a difficult study. Physics…the word hardly incites enthusiasm and more readily provokes a disapproving groan or roll of the eyes. But physics students should not loose heart (or patience) when feeling outmatched by their physics book. Rather, a student needs only to pick up The Cartoon Guide to Physics by Larry Gonick and Art Huffman.

Just as the title indicates, the entire book reads like one large comic strip. Humorous illustrations and creative lettering make each page distinctive while rejecting the typical physics textbook format which is usually uniform in text and graphics. Fittingly, all of the chapters are narrated by an impressive cartoon duo, a superhero chick and mad scientist dude ("chick" and "dude" being highly technical terms). They provide the witty remarks and interesting experiments that help to make each subject memorable. Interspersed throughout the text are cartoon renditions of scientists themselves. Galileo, Faraday, Newton, and Coulomb (among others) are reincarnated to help teach and clarify their own discoveries. Such tactics successfully teach fundamental physics concepts while utilizing a innovative, student-friendly approach that clearly jacks up the fun factor of physics.

Published in 1990, this book is organized into two main sections: mechanics and electricity and motion which are in turn split into a total of 24 chapters. The beginning physics student need not worry that a particular topic is not addressed in this book as it covers subjects from projectile motion and collisions to capacitors and inductors. Each section concisely summarizes the essential information and avoids confusing explanations that are often included in physics textbooks. The Cartoon Guide to Physics is heartily recommended as it provides an accurate knowledge base while effectively combating the frightening image of physics.

 

Gonick, Larry and Huffman, Art. The Cartoon Guide to Physics. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1990.