Skip to main content

How Things Work: The Physics of Everyday Life, 4th Edition

How Things Work: The Physics of Everyday Life, 4th Edition

ISBN: 978-0-470-22399-4

Jan 2009

632 pages


How Things Work uses familiar objects to introduce basic physics concepts, demonstrating the excitement and relevance to professionals in a variety of technical fields. Because its structure is defined by real-life examples, this book explores concepts as they're needed and then revisits them later on when they reappear in other objects. It integrates case studies throughout the chapters to easily convey an understanding and appreciation for physics. For example, discussions of skating, falling balls, and bumper cars are included to explain the Laws of Motion. Air conditioners and automobiles are used to explore thermodynamics. Engineers, architects, and professionals in other technical fields will benefit from the material that connects science to our everyday world.

Related Resources

Chapter 1 – The Laws of Motion, Part I

1.1 Skating

1.2 Falling Balls

1.3 Ramps

Chapter 2 – The Laws of Motion, Part II

2.1 Wind Turbines

2.2 Wheels

2.3 Bumper Cars

Chapter 3 – Mechanical Objects, Part I

3.1 Spring Scales

3.2 Ball Sports: Bouncing

3.3 Carousels and Roller Coasters

Chapter 4 – Mechanical Objects Part II

4.1 Bicycles

4.2 Rockets and Space Travel

Chapter 5 – Fluids

5.1 Balloons

5.2 Water Distribution

Chapter 6 – Fluids and Motion

6.1 Garden Watering

6.2 Ball Sports: Air

6.3 Airplanes

Chapter 7 – Heat and Phase Transitions

7.1 Woodstoves

7.2 Water, Steam, and Ice

7.3 Clothing, Insulation, and Climate

Chapter 8 – Thermodynamics

8.1 Air Conditioners

8.2 Automobiles

Chapter 9 – Resonance and Mechanical Waves

9.1 Clocks

9.2 Musical Instruments

9.3 The Sea

Chapter 10 – Electricity

10.1 Static Electricity

10.2 Xerographic Copiers

10.3 Flashlights

Chapter 11 – Magnetism and Electrodynamics

11.1 Household Magnets

11.2 Electric Power Distribution

11.3 Hybrid Automobiles

Chapter 12 – Electronics

12.1 Power Adapters

12.2 Audio Players

Chapter 13 – Electromagnetic Waves

13.1 Radio

13.2 Microwave Ovens

Chapter 14 – Light

14.1 Sunlight

14.2 Discharge Lamps

14.3 Lasers and LEDs

Chapter 15 – Optics

15.1 Cameras

15.2 Optical Recording and Communication

Chapter 16 – Modern Physics

16.1 Nuclear Weapons

16.2 Nuclear Reactors [NEW]

16.3 Medical Imaging and Radiation


A. Vectors

B. Units, Conversion of Units

• The author has added new applications that are both more contemporary and more environmentally relevant, e.g., wind turbines, insulation and climate, hybrid automobiles, and nuclear reactors.

• Key definitions have been rewritten to help students become more comfortable with the language of science.

• The author has produced an extensive set of videos and simulations that will enhance the multimedia version of the text and also provide instructors with classroom demonstration material.

• The assignable questions for on-line homework and quizzing in WileyPLUS  have been greatly expanded.  The new questions will be algorithmic (i.e., different versions for each student) and will be make use of the new video and simulations.

• The Instructor Resources have been expanded to help instructors will both lecture preparation and creation of quizzes and exams.

  • Learn how things work

As this book explores the objects of everyday life, it gradually uncovers most of the physical laws that govern the universe. It reveals those laws as they were originally discovered: while trying to understand real objects. This book reminds students of these connections and is ordered so that later objects build on their understanding of concepts encountered earlier.

  • Three-way approach to the equation of physics

The laws and equations of physics are presented in three different forms. The first is a word equation, identifying each physical quantity by name to avoid any ambiguities. The second is a symbolic equation, using the standard format and notation. The third is a sentence that conveys the meaning of the equation in simple terms and often by example.

  • Illustrations and photographs are about real things

Whenever possible, artwork is built around familiar objects so that the concepts the artwork is meant to convey become associated with objects students already know. Many students are visual learners—if they see it, they can learn it. By lowering the boundaries between what the students see in the book and what they see in their environment, the artwork of this book makes science a part of their world.

  • Author is accomplished physicist and professor 

Lou Bloomfield is an accomplished physicist and professor having won many awards for his accomplishments.  His achievements in both the teaching and scientific realm include receiving the 1998 State of Virginia Outstanding Faculty Award; a Patent in magnetism; Fellow of the American Physical Society; and giving talks all over the country on teaching physics through everyday objects.  More recently he has begun filming for a Physics show on the Discovery Channel, furthering his reputation as an educator that bridges the gap between abstract science and the world we see.  He is very tech savvy and has been able to provide many of the photos and illustrations for the text himself.