Spin: How the World (and Almost Everything in It) Turns

McFarland. Dec. 2023. 234p. ISBN 9781476693705. pap. $39.95. SCI
A single principle of physics seems to tie together quite a varied collection of inventions and natural phenomena: an object spinning around a central axis remains highly stable in its motion. This conservation of angular momentum has implications on everything from a spinning toy top to spiral galaxies such as the Milky Way. Gruber (Baseball in a Grain of Sand: Seeing the Game through a Small Town Season) explores how the sometimes counterintuitive physics of spin created a wide variety of toys, sports, useful labor-saving devices, and deadly accurate weaponry. Just as the axle and wheel revolutionized transportation on land, the propeller harnessed rotary motion to conquer the skies and sea. The properties of spin are integral to nature as well, with bacterium using microscopic rotating flagella to move, helicopter-like seeds achieving greater dispersal, and a rotating planet creating weather systems that circle as well. No math is necessary to follow along with the physics, and detailed explanations with familiar examples (baseballs in flight, for example) make the concepts concrete before exploring more esoteric examples such as electromagnetism and aerodynamics.
VERDICT An accessible and rewarding exploration of the physics of circular motion in everyday life.
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