Gear: Ever Wonder What Your Car Is Actually Doing?

Ever Wonder What Your Car Is Actually Doing?

By Benjamin Shahrabani
July 10, 2015

The Book: Physics For Gearheads
Author: Randy Beikmann
Pages: 608
Purchase: Click here (Save 30%)

Physics is fundamental to understanding how the world around us works. But to many, just the mere mention of the word “physics” strikes fear into their hearts, because they remember it as a difficult or inscrutable subject from high school or even college classes if they pursued it further.

If, however, a petrolista wanted to garner a better understanding of the unseen forces that come into play whilst driving, turning, and braking, they might wish to consult author Randy Beikmann’s book, Physics for Gearheads: An Introduction to Vehicle Dynamics, Energy, and Power.

Physical forces are present in all things, be it at rest or in motion. Whether your interest might be increasing shaving a few tenths off lap times or increasing the power of your engine, Physics for Gearheads explains the physics concepts at play, and demonstrates how one might better harness them for your benefit.

Using examples of road and racing cars, principles such as kinematics, forces, angular dynamics, energy, and power are explained in a methodical, easy-to-understand manner, and often humorous English.

Each chapter provides a solid foundation for the one following, just like you might experience in a real-life physics class. As the saying goes, “A picture is worth a thousand words,” and Beikmann, an engineer at General Motors who holds a Ph.D in mechanical engineering, has that covered. There are numerous diagrams and illustrations to aid the reader on his or her path to self-discovery, and they provide a deeper understanding of the how and why of a car’s reactions during acceleration, cornering, coasting, or braking under varied road conditions.

It’s not all theoretical, either: a basic application or understanding of Newton’s laws of motion, the three principles that are the cornerstone of classical mechanics (and of course this book), may well influence how you view speed, acceleration, the thrills and dangers of racing, and how you drive your own car.

Physics for Gearheads is not necessarily a simple book, or for the uninitiated. While Beikmann explains complicated concepts in ordinary language, it is still a weighty tome more geared (pardon the pun) towards the automotive engineer or racer.

That being said, if you are looking for a primer in physics that covers the major aspects and principles, and are also an automotive enthusiast, Beikmann’s book will make an invaluable contribution to your science education…and perhaps make you a better driver too.

Purchase (Petrolicious Readers Save 30%): Physics for Gearheads

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Edward Levin
Edward Levin
8 years ago

Terrific book. Nothing that anyone with even rudimentary physics can understand. And Guitar Slinger’s right; knowledge is speed.

Guitar Slinger
Guitar Slinger
8 years ago

Add this book in conjunction with ; ” Jackie Stewart’s Principals of Performance Driving ” – ” The Art and Science of Grand Prix Driving ; Niki Lauda ” – and for the motorcyclists amongst us – ” The Upper Half of the Motorcycle ; Bernt Spiegel ” and you’d be well on your way to a better understanding of the hows and whys’ of your car/motorcycles driving /riding dynamics . Does it matter you may ask ? Yes some of it is about as exciting as watching paint dry but suffice it to say a more complete understanding of your car/bikes dynamics can make a huge difference both in time , effort expended as well as potential costly errors avoided . Not to mention making it all a whole lot more fun once you’ve grasped the essentials assuming that is you don’t become all compulsive/obsessive about it . Remembering all science is in fact Art and art at its core should be fun !

Like to know just how firmly I believe in the benefits of a little education in physics ? Take a look at my CV and you’ll find a nice little undergraduate minor in … The Physics of Sound .. which has paid off in spades more often than I care to speak about

Tony Karnezis
Tony Karnezis
8 years ago
Reply to  Guitar Slinger

It’s “obsessive-compulsive.” Just saying. :p

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