Top critical review
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on 15 February 2010
This is one of the most frustrating books I have attempted to read. I think most of the problems stem from the layout. On first glance the typography and diagrams seem sparklingly clear. The examples are well chosen and progressive. The problem starts when you try to use the book. The problems all stem from the position of the diagrams on the pages. It took me some time to work this out but (almost - more on that later) every diagram is at the top of a page well above the text that refers to it. So one's eyes are continually flicking from the text to the diagram and back. You keep losing track of both text and diagram and can't link the two. I lost track of where I was in the text as I was reading. I have drawn arrows and lines all over the pages I have read to keep the link between text and diagrams "firm". There is worse, this diagram layout isn't consistent, sometimes the text and diagram are on different pages, with the text on a preceding page, so one flicks backwards and forwards through the pages between the text and the diagram completely losing sense of what is going on. Why is this a problem? Because this subject leans heavily on good diagrams linked closely to the text or description and solution of the problem for one to get any insight as to what the algebra is for. This layout is completely unnecessary. Even the simplest page layout software can place a diagram at any point on the page. "Sliding" a diagram down a page until it is immediately above the text that refers to it would have no negative impact and only benefit readability. I guess the page layout was determined by some software that just automatically plonked the pictures at the top of (almost) every page. Some examples from the beginning of the book:
Pg 18 Fig 1.10. Text 2/3 down the page after diagram
Pg 19 fig 1.11 diagram should be in the question not in the text above
Pg 28 fig 2.2
Pg 31 Fig 2.3 - in this case the diagram precedes the text that refers to it - so the layout isn't consistent
Pg 25 fig 2.1 somehow ends up at the bottom of the page but there seems to be no explicit reference to it in the text anyway!
Pg 35 Fig 2.5 is one of the worst examples with the diagram and text being on different pages. Flick, flick, flick
If I had been the author and I had seen this layout on the finished book I hope I would have been appalled.
And then some key diagrams are missing. On page 20 and 21 where normal and tangent vectors and curvature are discussed, where are the diagrams of a tangent and normal vector in relation to the curve? Why are unit vectors introduced on page 6 with a "hat" to emphasise they are unit vectors and then the "hat" completely ignored through the rest of the book - so their status as unit vectors isn't made clear?
And there is more. Top of page 30. I couldn't follow how dr/s x ds/dt became "vt" until I realised the scalar (v) and the vector (t) had casually been swapped. Then a few lines down "v" is replaced in the explanation by "|v|" and it takes a while to realise these represent the same thing. Again this section is crying out for a diagram.