How Everything Works
How Everything Works How Everything Works

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At UVa:
How Things Work Course

Welcome to the How Things Work website. How Things Work is a course for non-science students that introduces them to physics in the context of everyday objects. How Things Work reverses the traditional format of physics courses by starting with whole objects and looking inside them to see what makes them work. Because it concentrates on concepts rather than math, and on familiar objects rather than abstract constructs, How Things Work serves both to reduce students' fears of science and to convey to them a substantial understanding of our modern technological world. 

In the 18 years that I have taught How Things Work at the University of Virginia, most of the more than 7000 students who have participated in the course have found it a useful and enjoyable component of their liberal educations. They come to see the understanding of physics as a basic skill that will assist them in innumerable situations throughout their adult lives. On a broader scale, How Things Work has precipitated a cultural change at the University of Virginia--physics and the physics department are no longer excluded from the rest of the academic community. Students from every part of the University have come to recognize that they can understand physics and that it does have something valuable to say to them. 

The title How Things Work is magic--it attracts a larger and more diverse audience of students than I could ever have imagined. But I am not alone in this discovery. Both the title and the associated course concept have been invented and reinvented a number of times at a variety of institutions. What I offer to the academic community are the lessons I have learned from my experiences teaching the course and the course materials that I have developed for it--most notably my textbook How Things Work: the Physics of Everyday Life and the Instructor's Manual that complements that textbook. 

This website contains information about the course and textbook, as well as a help facility in which people ask me questions about how things work and I provide answers. -- Lou Bloomfield 

Last Updated March 13, 2009
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