“Don’t Try This At Home is a combination of a satire of the movie making industry and a physics textbook. The concept sounds original enough for me and I admit it is a unique way to look at teaching. However, the praise ends there. The concept was good and from there it became difficult to continue liking the book. Just like a physics textbook it is organized into chapters that each cover one branch of physics, so there was a thermodynamics chapter a conservation of mass and momentum chapter. This would seem to help give the book structure but it does not.
The organization of the book was bearable but caused the elements that should have been easy to follow difficult to grasp. The chapters were organized into subject and from there all semblance of organization went out the window. There would be one paragraph on the movies then a paragraph on the concepts, then part of a paragraph on the movie that would be interrupted by an experiment to do at home, then a two page sample problem, another practice question, and then finish talking about the movie. It was as if I was writing this review and suddenly I put in one of my lab reports in this paragraph and then finished the review after the lab report. I suppose it was difficult to fit in all of the parts of a text book and a review of physics but that is the point of the book, it should have been executed well if that was the point of the book.
The textbook element of the book was extensive to a point that became difficult to understand. When explaining a concept that used a mathematical equation—you know like the vast majority of physics—what could have been simple was never simple. Quadruple spacing and part of a sentence for each number added to the had me flipping the page to finish the explanation of the equation, The math also corresponded to something that was from a movie that had to be proven right or debunked; the problem arise from the fact that the movie was a page back and to figure out what was going on I had to flip the pages around. At about electricity I gave up on the whole flipping thing and would simply glaze over any equation sections because any deep thought made the book more difficult to understand. I will give the writer credit that he did always have a mathematical reason for his conclusions about movie physics but I just never had enough explained well for me to agree with him, I just had to take his word for it.
I can see why the author of this book did not go into novel writing or critic writing; he seems to expect some sort of leeway in what he does but Hollywood is this black hole of physics that he resents for never making him a famous movie star. His tone is just so sarcastic during the book I fell he has some ulterior motive for making movies. I think he takes most of his readers for children in our ability to distinguish reality from movie magic—he still wants us to understand geometry trigonometry and chemistry though. I get that disaster movies take no consideration of physics, would a movie about the sun slowly burning out over billions of years causing the earth to gradually freeze an extremely advanced or dead human civilization have much of an impact in the movie scene (I would watch it but a movie needs to entertain everyone not just people who spend hours at museums several times a week). My favorite section was the index of cartoon physics but even that felt sarcastic, I get it cartoons aren’t real; if cartoons had to follow the set out laws of biology and physics than it should just be live action.
In the end I will admit that the book was a really cool try but it fell flat. Perhaps it should have been divided twice, once into chapters and then each chapter would consist of one section of mathematical explanation and one of explaining the problem of the movie. (on the final note the author expects us to watch most of theses movies, the total amount of time to be spent on movies well exceeds 24 hours, he breaks a law a physics which is that a high school student had more then 24 hours where he does not have to worry about getting work done.)
GRIFFIN B wrote this review Monday, June 7, 2010.