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Angry Birds: Furious Forces! Review

Image Credit: National Geographic
With over 1.7 billion downloads, the suite of Angry Birds games has dominated the mobile gaming market for the past few years. During the game's meteoric rise, one science writer has taken a keen interest in the physics behind this game.

Physics professor and Angry Birds aficionado Rhett Allain has been blogging about the physics behind the various angry birds with his motion-tracking software and physics know-how. Now, he's written a book to boot!

But Allain's new book, Angry Birds Furious Forces!, takes a different approach than many of his blog posts. Instead of providing the detailed analysis of his blog posts, Allain incorporates the Angry Birds universe to teach five basic areas of physics: mechanics, sound and light, thermodynamics, electricity and magnetism, and "particle physics and beyond."

Nonetheless, this book only vaguely resembles a physics textbook. It's full of bright graphics, costumed Angry Birds, and a few of National Geographic's iconic photos overlaid with some Angry Bird Photoshop magic. Consequently, I found myself breezing through the five sections of the book fairly quickly.

The heart of each section covers a few basic physics principles such as circular motion, the Doppler effect, and the speed of sound. Nearly every page is also littered with fun facts (e.g. "salted ice can be cold enough to 'burn' your skin) and related experiments you can do at home.

Profile Page for Matilda, the explosive-egg-dropping bird.
Image Credit: National Geographic

The Angry Birds themselves make appearances throughout the book, and most have their own profile page detailing their "favorite tactic" and the "physics at play." The connection between some of the birds and their associated physics principles, however, is usually pretty tenuous. The small blue birds that break apart, for instance, are likened to particles in the solar wind. That's a bit of a stretch.

But it seems National Geographic and Allain weren't trying to replicate the highly detailed analyses found on Allain's blog. For the book, the Angry Birds are used more as an effective hook — attaching a game with 1.7 billion downloads and a global following certainly catches a few eyes. But the heart of this book teaches basic physics principles in an accessible way. Here, Allain succeeds.

The explanations throughout the book are lucid, especially when covering relatively complex topics such as sound waves, particle physics, and relativity. Even with a physics background, I learned quite a few new things from the various physics facts interspersed in the book. Although I found the book quite enjoyable, I imagine tweens and early teenagers would gain the most from reading Furious Forces!

An example page from Furious Forces!
Image Credit: National Geographic

On top of that, the book's eye-popping graphics serve as a reminder of the book's video game roots. The book's editors have deftly overlaid Angry Birds (and their avian commentary) to beautiful wildlife photography, as you can see above.

Furious Forces! definitely departs from Allain's writing on his blog, but I found it a light, entertaining read. Regardless of your training in physics, you'll probably learn something new after reading it (like the fact that every type of Angry Bird has its own name). You can find Furious Forces! on Amazon for about 10 dollars, and proceeds of the book support the National Geographic Society.


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