Lucy in the skywith diagrams

28th June 1996 at 01:00
THE CARTOON GUIDE TO PHYSICS. Age range: 15-18 by Larry Gonick and Art Huffman.

CD-Rom for Windows and Apple (needs 8 megabytes of memory). Pounds 39. 99 inc VAT From HarperCollins Interactive or mail order Tel: 0141 3063100

Here is a CD-Rom for anyone with a passing interest in physics or with an interest in passing physics. It not only says so on the box but it well describes this amusing "refresher" on forces and motion.

You're treated to an animated cartoon lecture, delivered by Lucy who floats in space, fires cannon balls and shoots a monkey in a tree to explain Galileo's ideas and Newton's laws. It's broken into entertaining sips, as you go from nought to angular momentum in a few hours.

This is well-crafted and designed, although it is a bit hard to follow Lucy through "Gee times em times em over ar squared", but there's a help button. You can also do a few experiments, game-like but not so easy: seeing if mass affects a rolling ball, or playing billiards with a puck on ice. Or you can swot up on the great names like Plato, Einstein and Heisenberg.

If you're a physicist, there's a little to quibble over. You'll shriek when Lucy uses the f-word - that's "feet" - only once to be fair, but it was heard clearly. I used to work with a physicist who'd tell me, "no, mate, you can't call that torque" and you can't say "kilograms per mile squared" and so on. I soon realised that his colleagues couldn't agree on things either. So I'm sure that he'd pick at this. Before you can say "get that disc out of my school" point this at the parent of a floundering pupil.

Pushing caveats aside, if a student worked at it, it might help them get learning more constantly - meaning, G x M x M over R squared.

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