One of the myths of our modern popular culture is that scientific knowledge is a set of discovered facts; in reality, the laws of physics are a human construction, a story that we tell to explain why the world is the way it is. In this book we will introduce the reader to the study of physics by tracing the evolution of ideas from the earliest remnants of human civilization to the present day, exploring along the way some of the factors that may have inhibited or encouraged the development of scientific theories. As the story unfolds, the different threads will weave together to form a more unified picture of the physical universe. By starting from the origins of natural philosophy, we will reason our way through some of the common misconceptions that plague modern students of physics. By following the shifts in perspective that allowed for revolutionary advances thinking in the past, we hope to examine the cultural context of our most modern ideas. We hope that the journey will provide a glimpse of the ways that our modern theories are bound and limited by our modern cultures and ways of thinking, and what new ideas might lie ahead.
This book makes use of many interactive elements, including animations that are designed to help the reader visualize the complex phenomena and techniques of analysis that it covers. This is the textbook for the introductory physics classes at San Francisco University High School, and it is still in development. Further enhancements will be released periodically.