Philip R. Kesten
(Santa Clara University)
David L. Tauck
(Santa Clara University)
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Seamless integration of physics and physiology
Physiology and biomedical topics are woven throughout University Physics for the Physical and Life Sciences. The authors’ aim is to instill in students a deeper appreciation of physics by showing them how it determines many characteristics of living systems. Biological applications are called out in the table of contents and marked in the end of chapter problems. A biology appendix includes key biology topics referenced throughout the chapters’ biology margin notes.
A focus on developing problem-solving skills
Too many students would rather memorize equations than comprehend the underlying physics, a mistake that some textbooks encourage in the way they present material. This is compounded by the fact that students sometimes look for shortcuts in doing – and therefore learning – physics. This text models problem-solving skills by applying several common steps to all worked example problems. This procedure, summarized by the key phrases “Set Up,” “Solve,” and “Reflect,” mirrors the approach scientists take in attacking problems:
Set Up. The first step in each problem is to determine an overall approach and to gather together the necessary pieces of information needed to solve it. These might include sketches, equations related to the physics, and concepts.
Solve. Rather than simply summarizing the mathematical manipulations required to move from first principles to the final answer, Kesten and Tauck show many intermediate steps in working out solutions to the sample problems. Authors too often omit these intermediate steps, either as “an exercise for the student” or perhaps because they appear obvious. Students often do not find these missing steps obvious and, as a result, simply pass over what might otherwise be a valuable learning experience.
Reflect. An important part of the process of solving a problem is to reflect on the meaning, implications, and validity of the answer. Is it physically reasonable? Do the units make sense? Is there a deeper or wider understanding that can be drawn from the result? Kesten and Tauck take care to address these and related questions when appropriate.
Conceptual problems built into the flow of the text
Many calculus-based introductory physics texts include conceptual questions at the end of chapters, but few include them as part of the flow of the text. Health Science and biological sciences students, however, are used to a conceptual approach to both problem-solving and learning in general. In University Physics for the Physical and Life Sciences approximately one-third of all online problems in each chapter are conceptual. These Got the Concept? questions rarely require numeric calculations. Instead, students are encouraged to think through the implications or connections of a physics concept.
Estimation problems, in which students are asked to undertake “On the Napkin” calculations to better understand a given topic
Scientists often quickly estimate relationships and ideas by doing calculations on whatever scrap of paper is at hand – often a napkin or the back of an envelope. Computing a rough estimation can be a powerful tool in doing science, especially when just starting a new problem. The authors want to instill the use of estimations into students by modeling the behavior for them, and will encourage them to exploit the habit as they study physics and think about the world around them.
Special attention to common misconceptions that often plague students
Having taught physics and physiology for many years, both authors know which topics are often difficult for students. For example, physics students are often puzzled by a perception that mirrors reverse images horizontally but not vertically. Physiology students usually have a hard time grasping the idea that the velocity of blood flow is related to the total cross-sectional area of the vessels rather than the blood pressure. The authors hope that tackling these misconceptions directly through the Watch Out feature will draw the students into a deeper understanding of the physics as well as the physiology.
Detailed artwork designed to promote visual learning
In many textbooks figures contribute little to helping students learn the material. Kesten and Tauck use artwork as a teaching tool whenever possible, including as much information as is practical directly in the figures. The result is an annotated figure that reinforces the physics presented in the flow of the text. Moreover, the figures themselves are simple, colorful, and approachable, inviting students to explore them rather than intimidating students into ignoring them.
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