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The Instant Physicist - An Illustrated Guide

3.7  ·  Rating details ·  198 Ratings  ·  39 Reviews
Richard A. Muller demonstrated in his recent bestseller, Physics for Future Presidents, that he has a unique talent for delivering the “aha” moment—making difficult topics accessible. In The Instant Physicist he shows his ability to entertain, too, by presenting the best of the scientific curiosities he has assembled over his distinguished career. Assisted by award-winning ...more
Hardcover, 139 pages
Published January 25th 2011 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published 2010)
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Apr 30, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: first-reads
I received a copy of this book for free through a Goodreads First Reads Giveaway.

A (very) quick read of just somewhat interesting facts. There wasn't a whole lot that was new to me, but it was organized in an easy to read and understand manner. The cartoons were well drawn and mildly amusing while illustrating the point made on the opposing page.

The author seemed to want to inject himself throughout the book by pointing out research he had done and peer reviewed papers he had written, which was
Oct 02, 2017 rated it liked it
Pretty decent introduction to a broad scope of topics, but I found the drawings a shade condescending.
Dec 31, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Fun facts and a VERY easy/quick read. Seemed to be about a lot more than physics (chemistry, engineering, medicine) but I suppose physics permeates every field of science.
Sheila Callaham
Mar 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science
This book makes a great conversation piece with Muller's physics facts broken down into bite sized chunks that are entertaining and educational. Read in the way the author recommends -- looking first at each cartoon and contemplating the physics behind the joke -- is a fun way to approach a complicated subject. My favorite cartoon shows the headstone that reads: At least he's less radioactive." It's further explained with the tagline: If you aren't radioactive, then you're dead -- and you've b ...more
Charmingly reminiscent of a fact book for kids, this little book answers unusual questions in a clear, concise, one page apiece format. The explanations are good, but the reason to read is the cartoons. One panel illustrations of the concept in question, they are well drawn and witty. I would have preferred it if the cartoons were on the left hand page, as that seemed to be the more natural beginning to each topic, but it's a small quibble. I would recommend this book even to readers who don't n ...more
Jun 26, 2011 rated it it was ok
Cute book for someone beginning to learn about physics. It gives some frame of reference for some of the hard to understand, theoretical concepts you learn in an intro class. Short entries touch on a wide range of topics relative to modern life and make this an easy read for teenagers and those who can't remember the last time they had a science class.

I have to agree with other reviewers that there isn't much science in the book itself!
Suzanna Stinnett
Mar 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This book is hilarious, informative and disturbing. Think you know organic vegetables are better than commercial grown? How about radioactivity, should you worry about it? If so, what about that gin or vodka in your drink, should it be radioactive? Which is more toxic, plutonium or Botox? Does geothermal power make sense?

I love books that intrude on our common beliefs with the realities of science. This is a good one.

Suzanna Stinnett
Sep 08, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2013
If you're looking for a meaty read, this isn't it, as implied by the title. There's a counterintuitive-sounding cartoon on one side of the spread, and the physics behind it on the other. The thing that got me, though, was the author's nebulous (ha!) definition of "physics". Some explanations seem to be astronomy, or chemistry, or even math, and so I'm not sure I understand what *doesn't* fall into the jurisdiction of physics. Still, and okay quick read.
Megan M
Jun 24, 2012 rated it really liked it
A fun book of physics related factoids and hilarious illustrations. This book gives a very basic introduction to a variety of topics such as magnetism, weather, holograms and geothermal energy. Of course, you will be far from a physicist after reading this book, but you will definitely have your curiosity piqued and your brain wandering in the general direction of the 530s.
Jan 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Loved it. Physics is fun for a few moments as I wander through this book. Quirky pictures. Geeky facts. A few funny stories. And now I finally know what happened in Roswell! This book doesn't pretend to be deep or theoretical - it celebrates interesting facts in a fun way. For what it is, it's great!
Oct 07, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
The Instant Physicist is a quick collection of factoids illustrated by some mildly amusing cartoons and captions that are intended to surprise the casual reader. The realities of energy sources as it pertains to vehicles and electricity are well covered. Nuclear physics is also touched upon in several factoids.
Dec 29, 2010 rated it liked it
There are some valuable little lessons here, but not enough of them that are powerful or meaningful enough or that are set in sufficient context for the book overall to have quite the value I'd have liked for my money and time.

I suspect some kind of better organization of the material may have increased the impact.
Feb 12, 2011 rated it really liked it
This can easily be read in one sitting. With clever illustrations on every adjacent page, Muller gives interesting and under known facts about our physical Universe. Every few pages my mind was blown.
Ken Rideout
Jun 05, 2011 rated it it was ok
No surprises here - substantially a water-down version of Muller's earlier "Physics for presidents". However, the illustrations and one page per topic max makes it a good recommendation for a student who is interested in physics but not likely to read a heftier tome...
Jul 17, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: abandoned, nonfiction
Not bad, just not much in the way of actually teaching physics so much as displaying trivia. Became tedious to read. Seems like something that would do better on a Physics Fact a Day calendar, especially with the illustrations.
Apr 13, 2014 rated it liked it
It was clever, but (as some other reviewers have said) not all of these were really physics based. I still enjoyed them, but I figured it was going to be a little more centred around physics than just about basic science concepts. Quick and informative, but no new knowledge was really gained.
Kirstin Morrell
Feb 10, 2013 rated it really liked it
It's an accessible entrée into the fascinating and fun world of physics. You won't be an expert on anything after reading this, and there may actually be factual errors in the sections about electric vehicles, but it's a good book for stimulating interest in an unfamiliar area.
Dec 31, 2010 rated it really liked it
Funny, clever and short. These explanations of things related to physics are very interesting and fun to read. I think my 6th graders will love reading the explanations in this book. The illustrations are humorous and I would love to share these with the class using a document camera.
Rena Del
Jan 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing
cute and informative.
Dec 27, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fic, clever, science
Delightful! Enjoying this thoroughly, but ask me tomorrow if I remember any of it.
Jan 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is an adorable book of physics facts and cartoons. If you want to know how physics affects you, this is a good read.
Mark Flowers
Sep 28, 2010 rated it liked it
Review on SLJ's website here:
Anna Martino
Jan 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
Fun intro to physics for anyone. Silly and some interesting illustrations. Definitely achieves the goal of giving you some basic physics knowledge like the author states in the introduction.
Mar 11, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: science, nonfiction
You won't learn much physics, but you will get a lot of factoids, physics-based and politically motivated, some of which are probably true.

Nice illustrations, though.
Dysmonia Kuiper
Jan 22, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: the-352
I was too sick or too stupid to finish my degree; but this doesn't mean I've given up on science. I now lay about in my pajamas reading physics cartoons.
Scott Sapp
May 12, 2014 rated it really liked it
Pretty good bathroom read..tons of interesting facts..not an actual novel as its more of a fact book
Nov 28, 2010 is currently reading it
Good, simple book
Feb 17, 2013 rated it liked it
Cute illustrations but the format of the book was very distracting; also really irrelevant page references.
Mar 07, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Not sure how much physics I learned, but this is an interesting and quick read. Never knew my alcohol was radioactive.
Mills College Library
530 M9588 2011
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Richard A. Muller is professor of physics at the University of California, Berkeley. He is a past winner of the MacArthur Fellowship. His popular science book Physics for Future Presidents and academic textbook Physics and Technology for Future Presidents are based on his renowned course for non-science students. He lives in Berkeley, California.
More about Richard A. Muller...