Academic journal article Military Review

The Physics of War: From Arrows to Atoms

Academic journal article Military Review

The Physics of War: From Arrows to Atoms

Article excerpt

THE PHYSICS OF WAR: From Arrows to Atoms

Barry Parker, Prometheus Books, Amherst, New York, 2014, 320 pages

For many, reading a text on physics may not sound like the best way to spend free time. Without a background in the subject, one conjures obscure formulae, levers, ramps, and Galileo dropping weights from atop the Tower of Pisa. Nonetheless, one must appreciate that physical science underpins how the world works regarding motion, force, and energy, and serves as the starting point for nearly all technological advancements. It is a subject so expansive that many of its laws and implications may be taken for granted.

Dr. Barry Parker's The Physics of War attempts to focus our appreciation of the science by comparing the history of man's scientific understanding of physical science and man's quest for the next wonder weapon. The book is primarily a work on the history of science and an introductory text on physics. Warfare

and weapons serve merely as a backdrop to explain the former through a wide survey of military history, mostly of the Western tradition. The reader, particularly if a student of military history, must keep this in mind while reading as the historical assertions can be general and somewhat anecdotal. From the onset, the author is clearly a physics professor, ostensibly a fine one, but no historian. Despite allowing for easier understanding of difficult scientific concepts, the folksy and conversational language sets an unauthoritative tone. Too often, he reaches out to less-than-august academic sources on the web such as Wikipedia, How Stuff Works, and About.com.

When The Physics of War hits on an interesting, important, and well explained topic, the book soars. For instance, the author's explanation on the application of rifling and ballistics is fascinating. …

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