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This book explores light and other types of waves, using this as a window into other aspects of physics. It emphasizes a conceptual understanding, using examples chosen from everyday life and the natural environment. For example, it explains how hummingbird feathers create shimmering colors, how musical instruments produce sound, and how atoms stick together to form molecules.

It is unique in its perspective on physics. It emphasizes commonalities among different types of waves, including string waves, water waves, sound waves, light waves, the matter waves of quantum mechanics, and the gravitational waves of general relativity.

It is targeted toward college non-science majors, advanced high school students, and others who are curious about our physical world. It assumes familiarity with algebra but no further mathematics and is classroom-ready with many worked examples, exercises, exploratory puzzles, and appendices to support students from a variety of backgrounds.

Look inside (5 MB pdf)

The Story

I was asked to teach an undergraduate physics course called "The World of Light" at Seattle University for non-science majors who needed to satisfy a distribution requirement. I realized that this is a fantastic subject because it intersects a huge range of different physics topics. However, when I looked for textbooks, I didn't like the options because they tended to minimize the physics. Instead, I wanted to expose students to the core physics concepts and to show just how fascinating science can be. This book is the result.

There is more original material in it than one might expect. Because the math is minimal, I had to actually explain things in plain English, while keeping the science rigorous. Like how electromagnetic waves work, the difference between group velocity and phase velocity, and how quantum transitions connect to resonance. The last chapter, on gravitational waves, introduces the difference between near-field and far-field gravity, which is rarely taught in any physics course, at any level.

Springer did a great job with the publication. This is a 539 page book with color figures on almost every page. And yet (by my request), they managed to keep the price below $50! Thank you, Springer!


Optics and Photonic News (by Barry R. Masters): "This highly recommended book inspires questions, curiosity, excitement and interest in the natural universe." See the full review.


The hardcover book is generally $49.99 and the eBook price varies by vendor. Some of the following links have reviews and/or let you look inside the book.

Faculty members: You can get a free eBook if you are considering this for a class. Contact Springer at their instructors page (the DOI is 10.1007/978-3-031-24097-3). Also, I welcome any questions that you have.

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