Review of Glencoe Physics: Principles and Problems
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.
- 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
- 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
I brought this to the attention of the author (Zitzewitz) and he blew
- 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.
- Figure 4-1 purports to describe a real-world situation, namely an
airliner accelerating on the runway.
- I guarantee you that airliners do not exhibit constant
acceleration as they move down the runway. Not even close. This
undercuts the central premise of the exercise.
- The numbers imply that the airliner uses in excess of
13,000 feet of runway and lifts off at 177 knots. These are not
real-world numbers. Not even close. This is fake data.
- Also, the markings on the airspeed indicator are not even
approximately realistic. 10-20-30-60-90? I’m willing to tolerate a
certain amount of artistic license in illustrations, but this is
beyond the pale.
- Also, the distances in the diagram are not to scale, not even
close. At each time, the distance is out of proportion to the size of
the airplane, and also out of proportion to the distances at other
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.
- 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.
- 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?
- 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
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
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
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.
“Review of Serway and Faughn, Holt Physics”
“Review of Hewitt, Conceptual Physics”