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Great Ideas of Classical Physics | [The Great Courses]

Great Ideas of Classical Physics

Classical physics is about how things move, why they move, and how they work. It's about making sense of motion, gravity, light, heat, sound, electricity, and magnetism, and seeing how these phenomena interweave to create the rich tapestry of everyday experience. It is, in short, the hidden order of the universe.
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Publisher's Summary

Classical physics is about how things move, why they move, and how they work. It's about making sense of motion, gravity, light, heat, sound, electricity, and magnetism, and seeing how these phenomena interweave to create the rich tapestry of everyday experience. It is, in short, the hidden order of the universe. And if it sounds complicated to you, Professor Pollock hopes you will think again - because you already know more physics than you think, In this mind-expanding series of 24 lectures, Professor Steven Pollock takes you step by step through the great ideas of classical physics, demonstrating that its landmark concepts - such as Newton's laws of motion - are intuitively understood by anyone who has ever ridden a bike, thrown a ball, slid across ice, or simply picked up an object and set it down.

Created over the course of three centuries by a series of brilliant thinkers, including Galileo Galilei, Isaac Newton, Michael Faraday, and James Clerk Maxwell, classical physics is an elegant system of ideas that connect a range of seemingly unrelated phenomena - everything from the acceleration of a car, to the orbit of a planet, to the deflection of a compass needle, to the baking of a cake, to the flow of electricity through the light bulb illuminating these words.

All these - and much more - are linked by the basic principles you will learn in these lectures - presented largely without math. Instead, Professor Pollock relies on metaphor, life experience, ordinary logic, and common sense to present the discoveries, theories, insights, methods, and philosophical points of view at the heart of classical physics.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.


©2006 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2006 The Great Courses

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  •  
    C. D. White 03-29-14
    C. D. White 03-29-14

    Just Looking

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    "Enthusiastic Professor Captured My Interest"
    Would you consider the audio edition of Great Ideas of Classical Physics to be better than the print version?

    This series of lectures is not available in print.


    What other book might you compare Great Ideas of Classical Physics to and why?

    This is my first comprehensive survey of classical physics. But, I can compare it to a very good Coursera class I took on the principles of mechanical physics. That course focussed on the way things work. This lecture series puts the discoveries of the principles of motion, fields, thermodynamics, and other areas of basic physics into the context of each discoverer's life and personality, the historical thinking at the time, and the impacts of the discoveries. These contexts enriched my understanding of physics in ways I did not expect. The discovered principles are all the more interesting when seen in their human contexts. I learned that what I thought of as"old fashioned" classical physics is the very same modern physics that takes us into space, to the moon, the planets and beyond. I think that "readers" with more knowledge of physics than I have (and those with less) would equally enjoy this lecture series.


    Have you listened to any of Professor Steven Pollock’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    No, but I would be happy to listen to him again.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    Physics? No.


    Any additional comments?

    My only wish would be that there were twice as many lectures. I was left hungry for more. Although this series is not meant to leave you filled with mathematical formulae and the "rules" of physics, the professor does refer you to an excellent website with animated details of the physical details. And, I found myself searching the web after every lecture to follow up on his enticing information.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Gaggleframpf 08-22-15 Member Since 2015
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    "Physics without foundation."

    The professor apparently has won many awards, as the beginning of the book tells us,, and is extolled as an outstanding teacher, so naturally my expectations of him were quite high.

    While the teacher does make the great ideas of physics clear, by being relatable and giving plenty of illustrations, he only does so in a philosophical vacuum, which is frustrating to conceptual learning and generally counterproductive to the task of teaching.

    Most frustrating is his treatment of Aristotle, which smacks of a 21st century point of view of the past. Pollock is genuinely confused over Aristotle's treatment of physics, and in fact ridicules Aristotle's physics on multiple occasions. Professor Pollock asks, rhetorically, why it was so hard for Aristotle and other ancient thinkers to simply ask the questions Galileo asks.

    Pollock pejoratively recounts Aristotle's attempts to understand physics through philosophy, and not through empirical laboratory style verification. He also says Aristotle did not like to get his hands dirty. There are two problems with this:

    1) Aristotle invented the precursor to the scientific method; the idea that facts about nature can be learned through repeated observation. Aristotle spent much of his time outdoors attempting to classify all living things. He was the first biologist, proto-botanist, and naturalist thinker. Compared to other philosophers, and indeed, intellectuals of his time, he seems to be the only one who actually wanted to get his hands dirty and learn about the physical world.

    2) Aristotle formalized the laws of logic which are the very center, locus, and endoskeleton of the scientific method, without which all empirical observation could not lead to meaningful formalized systems of belief in science, in any way whatever.

    The fact that a professor of Pollock's esteem misses this and treats Aristotle like little more than a talented sophist is not easy to overlook. In doing so, Pollock has undermined his entire presentation for me, from the very get-go.

    When Pollock is discussing Aristotle's attempts to explain objects in motion, he derides Aristotle's explanation that objects have an 'implicit desire to move' as puerile, and Aristotle's definition of speed as an object's wanting to move as laughable. He questions why Aristotle would simply not use the empirical method, like Galileo's marbles, as though it were obvious to an ancient thinker that empirical results would be the same every time. This idea had not been established yet, even though Aristotle was in the process of laying the foundation of logic and reasoning that Galileo would ultimately use to reach his conclusion about falling objects and speeds.

    That's right; Pollock attempts to ridicule the founder and formalizer of organized science, observation, and knowledge of the material world, by questioning why he did not use a method 2000 years in advance of him, and built on the very theories of empiricism and rationality that he was at that moment busy laying down.

    Does anything else need to be said? Pollock teaches from a 21st century vacuum. He calls ancient philosophers mere thinkers about science, and not practitioners of it. He ridicules the philosophers for practicing science by thought and not empirical tests, not realizing that it is the very thought of the philosophers he is criticizing that laid the basis for empirical study of a perceptibly rational world.

    Pollock does not understand that the modern mode of physics which he esteem so so highly rests entirely on the philosophy of Aristotle's logic, and that scientists have scant few philosophers other than Aristotle on which to build any rational foundation of science, and that without Aristotle's contributions, we might still be sitting in circles in the sand contemplating triangles and seeking for enlightenment through mere thought and nothing else.

    There is no doubt that Aristotle's physics and philosophy, while somewhat flawed, provided the primary basis for observing the material world and drawing conclusions thereof. Pollock's unperturbed dismissal of the most important single contributor to his field of research makes this course difficult to listen to.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Adam Chicago, IL, United States 05-27-14
    Adam Chicago, IL, United States 05-27-14 Member Since 2015
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    "Not my favorite physics lecture. Still good."
    What did you love best about Great Ideas of Classical Physics?

    It sheds new and renewed light on high school science class. Goes into more detail. I loved learning more about Newton's upbringing and life.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of Great Ideas of Classical Physics?

    I more enjoyed the ending when he begins to talk more about modern physics. But, that may have more to do with my personal preferences than a review of the lecture overall.


    Which scene was your favorite?

    It's non-fiction. So, this question doesn't make sense. But, I enjoyed learning about conservation of momentum.


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

    Learn the things you forgot to learn in high school science.


    Any additional comments?

    It's a good listen. I recommend it if you are interested in classical physics and Newton.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
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    Carlos César Piedrahita Escobar 08-08-15 Member Since 2011
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    "Classical Physics"

    Excellent Overview of Classical Physics and its historical, conceptual and philosophical structure. Dr. Pollock is an excellent speaker.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jim 07-31-15
    Jim 07-31-15
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    "Great Intro to Physics"

    I've always had a curiosity about physics but it seemed out of reach. Steven Pollocks teaching style breaks down the complexity of physics and to understandable component s that build upon one another.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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    Austin 04-30-15
    Austin 04-30-15 Member Since 2014
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    "Amazing!!!"

    If you like physics at all, and want to get a better understanding of fundamental physics this is the 'book' for you. He explains things logically and historically.

    The way it's read it sounds like your in his lecture hall, or sitting in your living room, listening him speak to you.

    I love his other 'book' on here, about particle physics, but I wish I would have listened to this one first.

    Really worth the time and money.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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    Christopher Lars Olsen 04-15-15 Member Since 2012
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    "Crying"

    Can't believe I didn't look in to the study of physics earlier! So well explained and a good story as well!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    jon myers 03-12-15
    jon myers 03-12-15 Member Since 2015
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    "a nice conversational approach"

    For those who are looking for an overview of Newtonian physics, this is a good launching pad to open your mind to what can turn into further study of the sciences.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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    Srikrishnan Subramanian 12-31-14 Member Since 2014
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    "Professor was brilliant"
    What did you love best about Great Ideas of Classical Physics?

    The lectures was simple and yet addresses all the questions listeners may have. Wonderful examples made it easy to understand.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    No. But I listened lot more than I expected in one sitting.


    Any additional comments?

    Simply brilliant. Please ask this prof to do more Great Courses. I would buy it anyday.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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  • Lucia Ramos
    Honduras
    1/31/15
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    "Outstanding series!"

    Great ideas of classical physics for regular people; it should say.
    Short lectures, about half hour each, so they are easy to pause and leave for letter when your brain starts to overload with information.
    That being said, the lectures are amazingly well-written, and not matter how much or how little you know about physics, this series will grip you and leave you wanting more.

    really, really recommended. I cannot stress this enough, You should give it a listen.

    Good performance by Professor S. Pollock as well. Very happy about that

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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