190 pages, 104 b/w illustrations
Ever wonder why cats land on their feet? Or what holds a spinning top upright? Or whether it is possible to feel the Earth's rotation in an airplane? Why Cats Land on Their Feet is a compendium of paradoxes and puzzles that readers can solve using their own physical intuition. And the surprising answers to virtually all of these astonishing paradoxes can be arrived at with no formal knowledge of physics. Mark Levi introduces each physical problem, sometimes gives a hint or two, and then fully explains the solution.
Here readers can test their critical-thinking skills against a whole assortment of puzzles and paradoxes involving floating and diving, sailing and gliding, gymnastics, bike riding, outer space, throwing a ball from a moving car, centrifugal force, gyroscopic motion, and, of course, falling cats. Want to figure out how to open a wine bottle with a book? Or how to compute the square root of a number using a tennis shoe and a watch? Why Cats Land on Their Feet shows you how, and all that's required is a familiarity with basic high-school mathematics. This lively collection also features an appendix that explains all physical concepts used in the book, from Newton's laws to the fundamental theorem of calculus.
"A collection of physical puzzlers, often with counter intuitive manifestations, which, for all that, admit rigorous explanation supported by physical intuition [...] [H]ugely entertaining and provide hours of brainy activities."
- Alexander Bogomolny, CTK Insights
"This book seeks to nurture this physical intuition in readers by analyzing several paradoxes while keeping the math to a minimum. Through examining one puzzle or paradox after another, Levi emphasizes the underlying principles involved and helps foster an intuitive understanding of why things work the way they do. Readers will find themselves coaxed into learning because they want to satisfy their curiosity as they examine each puzzle [...] [A]n excellent resource for understanding some less-obvious principles of physics."
- William Baer, Library Journal
Chapter 1 Fun with Physical Paradoxes, Puzzles, and Problems 1
Chapter 2 Outer Space Paradoxes 5
Chapter 3 Paradoxes with Spinning Water 17
Chapter 4 Floating and Diving Paradoxes 28
Chapter 5 Flows and Jets 39
Chapter 6 Moving Experiences: Bikes, Gymnastics, Rockets 57
Chapter 7 Paradoxes with the Coriolis Force 77
Chapter 8 Centrifugal Paradoxes 84
Chapter 9 Gyroscopic Paradoxes 104
Chapter 10 Some Hot Stuff and Cool Things 117
Chapter 11 Two Perpetual Motion Machines 127
Chapter 12 Sailing and Gliding 132
Chapter 13 The Flipping Cat and the Spinning Earth 142
Chapter 14 Miscellaneous 146
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Mark Levi is professor of mathematics at Pennsylvania State University. He is the author of The Mathematical Mechanic: Using Physical Reasoning to Solve Problems.