Widening interests

27th April 2001 at 01:00
PRACTICE IN PHYSICS. By Tim Akrill, George Bennet and Chris Millar. Hodder and Stoughton pound;10.99. ADVANCED PHYSICS. By Steve Adams and Jonathan Allday. Oxford pound;25. ADVANCED PHYSICS FOR YOU. By Keith Johnson, Simmone Hewett, Sue Holt and John Miller. Nelson Thornes. pound;22.50. INTRODUCTION TO ADVANCED PHYSICS. By David Brodie. John Murray pound;19.99. UNDERSTANDING PHYSICS FOR ADVANCED LEVEL. By Jim Breithaupt. Course Study Guide pound;8. Nelson Thornes pound;26. ADVANCED SCIENCE: PHYSICS. By Patrick Fullick. Heinemann pound;24.99. ADVANCED PHYSICS. By Tom Duncan. John Murray pound;25.

While the search for the Higgs Boson continues a pace, the physics AS or A-level student need look no further than a good bookshop to track down a book suitable for their needs. It is encouraging that the latest publications for the new specifications caters for the widening range of abilities and interests.

These books can be divided into two families: the all-embracing text, and the books aimed more specifically at a particular syllabus.

There is one noticeable exception to this, which I would whole-heartedly recommend to every department and probably every student too: the updated Practice in Physics. This is an excellent book with a fantastic wealth of questions to develop confidence and understanding. It is expanded from the last edition to include a really useful section called "Practising calculations" and one on synoptic questions.

Among the heavier, comprehensive texts are some refreshing new books as well as some updates from the tried and tested favourites. The new Oxford Advanced Physics is a wonderful book which makes physics inspiring and mind-blowing. It is beautifully laid out and has an excellent balance of text to worked examples, illustrations, practice questions and key points. It would stretch and stimulate the brightest students as well as help and support the middle range, with its mathematics toolbox, clear objectives, interesting and helpful margin boxes and exam questions. It also has a CD-Rom which can tailor the use of the book to the individual specification.

For devotees of GCSE Physics for You, Advanced Physics for You will be a welcome arrival. It has the same format, with minimal text and clearly laid-out points, formulae, examples, and summaries, and with basic and advanced questions. It has the interesting "Physics at Work" applications sections and help with study skills, practical work, ey skills and maths. It is an accessible and user-friendly book, with Professor Messer being replaced by a cartoon character, Phiz - a fresh addition which will appeal to many students and give them confidence in the subject.

Introduction to Advanced Physics is the first of a two-part set which aims to break new ground. It covers the main areas of physics, first building a bridge from GCSE and then developing the material in a second section up to AS-level. This will be very useful for a number of students who find the step daunting.

The layout and style are appealing and at the beginning of each chapter the big questions, key vocabulary and background are introduced clearly. My only concern is that students using this independently to build up their basic understanding could need a more comprehensive set of answers for their own self-study. Particularly appealing is the large number of tasks to develop key skills and comprehension techniques.

Three favourites have been reissued with varying degrees of development. Understanding Physics for Advanced Level, along with a new course study guide, will no doubt be as popular as ever. The format has been thoroughly revised, with additions of investigations and sections on physics around us, as well as more practice questions. It has lovely overviews and for each chapter a set of objectives and a good summary. This new edition is comprehensive, challenging while being accessible, and a clear straightforward coverage of A-level physics.

Advanced Science: Physics is now in its second edition with its characteristic style enhanced by new extension, information and focus sections, the latter exploring real-life applications. This book lends itself to a good read and I have always liked the lovely introductions, setting the scene to each major section.

The fifth edition of Tom Duncan's Advanced Physics is in full colour and extended to include cosmology and astrophysics and has a support chapter on maths in physics. It is a thorough and clear text with wide appeal.

I hope that the old moan about heavy books does not come into play: these are all fairly hefty. However, students coming to physics now have probably the best range of text-books ever, and such fascinating materialshould inspire them to enjoy and succeed in the subject.

Becky Parker is head of science and physics at Simon Langton girls' school, Canterbury

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