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Copyright © 2012 jsd

Review of Glencoe Physics: Principles and Problems
John Denker

1  Introduction

This is my review of

Paul Zitzewitz
Glencoe Physics: Principles and Problems
Glencoe Science Professional (an imprint of McGraw-Hill)

Let’s start with a few specific items I noticed when I first looked at the book.

  1. Figure 12.18a (heat pump used as an air conditioner): The color coding of the fluid coming out of the expansion unit indicates “hot liquid” which is quite wrong. The same fluid turns from “hot liquid” to “cold gas” in the air coil, which is diametrically wrong. The fluid should be absorbing energy and becoming warmer as it passes through this coil.
  2. Problem 9 in the “Sound” chapter starts by asserting “A bugle can be thought of as an open pipe”. That assertion is false.

    Similarly, later in the chapter it asserts “Many familiar musical instruments are open-pipe resonators. Brass instruments, flutes, oboes, and saxophones are some examples”. This assertion is entirely false.

    I brought this to the attention of the author (Zitzewitz) and he blew me off.

  3. Problem 22 in the “Sound” chapter speaks of a clarinet playing a note at 370 Hz and producing only odd harmonics. There is no basis in theory or experiment for believing this. See e.g. reference 1 and references cited therein.
  4. Figure 4-1 purports to describe a real-world situation, namely an airliner accelerating on the runway.

    Most of all, I object to the attitude here, namely the attitude that it is OK to use fake data. This objection could be removed it they said they were considering a theoretical model of an airplane and assuming constant acceleration. However, the last two points itemized above would still apply even to the model, since these points provide a needlessly bad presentation, i.e. they go out of their way to conceal the uniformity of the acceleration.

  5. In the section on “The Second Law of Thermodynamics” it asserts “On the microscopic level, entropy is described as the disorder in a system.” This is well known to be a harmful misconception. Reference: //www.av8n.com/physics/thermo/entropy.html#sec-s-vs-disorder
  6. Chapter 10 defines energy as the ability to change an object or its environment. Chapter 11 reiterates this. That is a terrible definition, not even tangentially related to real physics. How could any author say such a thing? How could any editor let it stand? How could any reviewer let it stand? How could any teacher tolerate a text that so wildly unscientific?
  7. Sprinkled throughout the book are seemingly clippings of “HELP WANTED” advertisements, purporting to show that physics training will help students get jobs. The problem is, the ads are fake.

    Publishing bogus data to make a point is very serious misconduct. I’ve worked at places where it would be a career-ending move. How can I tell students they will be severely sanctioned for putting fake data in their lab reports, when the text is full of fake data?

Historical note: This line of books was previously published by Merrill Publishing. Apparently the whole line got sold to Glencoe/McGraw-Hill.

I have additional observations in my notes that I haven’t written up, but I’ll stop here, on the theory that a word to the wise is sufficient.

All in all, I judge this book to be what Feynman called “cargo cult science”. That is, it goes through the motions of doing science, without actually doing science or understanding what science is about.

This book is even worse than Serway and Faughn (reference 2) and even worse than the deplorable Hewitt Conceptual Physics (reference 3). The headline of a prominent review on Amazon.com asks “Have I just encountered the worst book in all of history?” Surely that is hyperbole. Surely there must be worse books somewhere ... although it is hard to come up with a well-known physics book that is worse than this.

2  References

1.
“B♭ clarinet”
http://www.phys.unsw.edu.au/music/clarinet/Gsharp4.html

2.
John Denker
“Review of Serway and Faughn, Holt Physicswww.av8n.com/physics/serway-faughn.htm

3.
John Denker
“Review of Hewitt, Conceptual Physicswww.av8n.com/physics/hewitt.htm
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Copyright © 2012 jsd