Sound waves and all that jazz through
PHYSICS ON THE MOVE. By Chris Butlin and Maureen Maybank. HeinemannThe Open University Pounds 8.50 each
The Supported Learning in Physics Project was set up by the Institute of Physics as a curriculum development project producing physics materials for post-16 students. Its aim is to introduce physics learning through the use of real life contexts and to provide fresh and novel practical investigations in those contexts. The series of six books and teacher's guide is written by teacher and lecturer members of an Open University-led team. Physics, Jazz and Pop and Physics on the Move are the first two student's books to be published.
They include a number of features that make them suitable for self-study. There are Ready to Study tests (with answers) at the beginning of most chapters to ensure that terms are familiar; questions in the text (also with answers); a glossary and a summary with each chapter and many suggestions, called Explorations, for practical work. Each exploration is given a suggested time allocation and many of them are quite short. Both books have black-and-white photos and line drawings with coloured highlighting. Physics, Jazz and Pop makes good use of cartoons as well.
Physics, Jazz and Pop deals with wave behaviour and oscillations. It introduces the subject fairly conventionally using a microphone and an oscilloscope to show many of the properties of vibrations and sound waves and then continues with interesting chapters on musical instruments, transducers, amplifiers, recording techniques and acoustics. These are interspersed with chapters on the velocity of sound and diffraction. The book does not deal with light waves.
As with all self-study books there is a problem in striking a balance between supplying information to students and getting them to think and to find out things for themselves. They are encouraged in the introduction to resist the temptation to read the answer before thinking about the question, but some of the explorations do effectively tell the student what answer to expect by the way they are told to complete the exploration.
Physics on the Move has transportation as its theme. Newton's laws of motion provide the background to the book which also contains chapters on safety in crashes, car breaking, a case study on skiing on artificial slopes and fluid drag. There are informative pen portraits of some famous scientists.
Students using these books will require access to conventional textbooks - and teachers. However, the books can be recommended as lively, instructive and accurate additions to the published material available for post-16 physics students.
Robert Hutchings is Chief Examiner for A-Level Physics