Why Use Body Physics?

Fractal Tree by Rafael Ruggiero via Wikimedia Commons

It’s Free! And Open! And Accessible!

It’s definitely not perfect, but you can make it better!

Body Physics is an open education resource (OER) licensed under the creative commons (CC) format with support from OpenOregon.

Join the Open Educational Resource movement and save your students money while providing them with high quality, accessible resources in digital and print formats, all while gaining greater control over your own course resources.

The Body Physics format and features were designed with the following considerations in mind, in arbitrary order:

Digital, free and open


Creative commons (CC) license. Digital formats (PDF, ebook, Web Viewing) free to students. Free printable lab sheets included, no separate lab manual to buy.
Low printing cost No superfluous (curb appeal) images, clean margins. Links to large tables and charts of constants and other data.
Accessible, streamlined, not distracting


In-line diagrams and images containing alternative text, no side-bars or use of margins, basic and consistent heading structure, descriptive links.
Pedagogically sound


Backwards design: Unit outcomes aligned with course outcomes,  content and exercises aligned with chapter outcomes. Links to additional resources (articles, texts, simulations, videos, problems with solutions). In-line reinforcement activities provide immediate feedback.  Many every-day examples and applications. Structured inquiry-based labs designed to reinforce chapter content and assess learner outcomes. Suggested Personal response system (PRS) questions provided.
Interesting and engaging to students with varied interests All content is introduced in the context of the human body, then abstracted, generalized, and applied to additional applications.

Design Theory

With a wealth of information available, introductory textbooks no longer need to serve as sole sources for all course content.  However, now possibly more than ever, textbooks may still have an important role in providing students with high quality context for all of the information floating around out there. Textbooks should also serve as a central hub connecting students to other high quality resources vetted by experts. Finally, textbooks should help students to connect concepts to their own experiences to improve and lengthen understanding. Body Physics was created with these roles in mind.

Body Physics sticks to the basic functioning of the human body, from motion to metabolism, as a common theme through which the fundamental physics topics are introduced. This choice allows for a contextual format and narrative quality that connects concepts in different sections and chapters.  The common narrative thread does not necessarily prevent individual chapters, sections, or activities from being used as stand-alone content. For example the Jolene’s Migraines example and reinforcement activity could be useful in any science class covering the scientific method. The human body was chosen as the contextual theme so that all students are able to connect with the theme a personal way. For students who are athletes, entering health fields, interested in fitness, struggle with unique physical barriers, or are simply curious about their body, the book should feel particularly applicable.

While many of the existing OER resources are of very high quality, and would be very useful for a variety of courses, most are typically written from the point of view of someone who already possesses a great appreciation for physics. In general terms they are approached with hindsight not held by the student. Even if unconsciously, presentation of content is often driven by appreciation for the elegant universality of fundamental physics concepts, with the goal of bringing similar appreciation to the student. Often the results are general physics concepts presented in an abstract way and then connected to every-day life through examples and application problems. For example, a chapter might be called Forces and Newton’s Laws of Motion, with sections called  Forces, Newton’s First LawNewton’s Second LawNewton’s Third Law. Of course applications would be provided throughout the sections and the end of the chapter would have likely an Applications of Newton’s Laws section addressing applications in several different areas of interest, possibly including the human body.

Body Physics attempts to invert the content presentation sequence where logical and integrates the initial presentation of content into a common application theme. For example, the concept of a force is introduced in the Unit titled  Better Body Composition Measurement using two forces the students have experienced and heard of, namely weight and buoyant force.   The unit jumps right into applying these concepts to solving a real-world problem, namely determining body density, and the concepts necessary to solve the problem, such as static equilibrium, are introduced as needed along the way. Generalization of concepts occurs at then end of the unit, or even in a later unit, after concepts have become more familiar and connections between concepts have been discovered. This departure from the standard, highly structured textbook format is only made possible by the quickly searchable nature of digital textbooks such as this one, which allow students to quickly and easily find concepts and definitions embedded in a contextual, even narrative format. As a physicist, and someone who learned from standard textbooks, this departure was not easy. As I worked on an outline for the book, found myself unconsciously falling back into the standard organizational structure (and the one in my own head), before “waking-up” and going back to attempt a reorganization of the material from the point of view of a brand new science student.


It’s exceedingly rare that science textbooks are read word-for-word, and this book won’t change that, especially as the number of auxiliary resources available to students grows. However, we do hope that Body Physics will increase the amount of time students spend using the textbook to learn and prepare in a pedagogically sound manner. There  is no guarantee that the format of body physics will be effective than standard formats and only after observing student performance and receiving feedback from students and instructors will we know if this endeavor was fruitful. Ideally we would like to test the hypothesis: If the Body Physics format is more effective than standard formats, then students using Body Physics will perform at a higher level on assessments of learner outcomes than peer students using a standard textbook. If you would like to collaborate in performing a statistically robust test of such a hypothesis,  please contact bodyphysicstext@gmail.com



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Body Physics: Motion to Metabolism Copyright © by Lawrence Davis is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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