The Cartoon Guide to Physics
The Cartoon Guide to Physics (HarperCollins Interactive) is a lesser program than it’s predecessor, The Cartoon History of the Universe, not only because its scope is more limited, but because the subject matter is less well-suited to the medium. The Cartoon History of the Universe was a wonderful use of CD-ROM technology; two discs covered everything from the Big Bang to the 20th century with unflagging wit and wisdom. It was chock-full of animations and interactive activities, and its only drawback was that it occasionally threatened to overwhelm with the sheer volume of information. The Guide to Physics is a bit smaller than its predecessor in almost every regard. Four sections are available, on one disc; Lucy’s World teaches about the basics of physics, The Workshop provides an opportunity to play with what you’ve learned, the Hall of Fame offers history on twelve scientists and philosophers, and the Glossary is self-explanatory. The animated comic-strips are still lively and intelligent, but the theories being discussed here are a bit more complex than the straightforward story-telling that made History so accessible, so at times the animations seem a bit incongruous. The Hall of Fame is disappointingly skimpy; there’s a couple of paragraphs of information about each of the twelve honorees, and you can find a few more sentences describing their lives and summarizing their ideas. The Cartoon Guide to Physics is surely one of the most original guidebooks on this subject; the Cartoon series has a sensibility that is undeniably appealing. But fans of the History will wish for a bit more.
– December 1995