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Undergrad Theoretical Physics/Astrophysics Books

by Stratosphere
Tags: books, theoretical, undergrad
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Jul18-09, 12:33 PM
P: 360
Quote Quote by maverick280857 View Post
I don't know much about astrophysics books, so I will only restrict this to the undergrad courses.

The first step must be to learn single variable calculus and then multivariable calculus. But you will also need to study vectors, (at least some) three dimensional geometry, trigonometry. Perhaps other than calculus, you already have some exposure to these areas. Partial derivatives, which fall under multivariable calculus are absolutely unavoidable in college physics. But this math will also take some time to sink in, and it is only after it does sink in will you be able to appreciate the physics better.

Some good book recommendations have been made for you here, but most of these books assume grounding in the math topics mentioned above. Then, as you go along, you learn some more math. If you are in your first year in college and learning calculus through some courses, you should do that first. Resnick, Halliday and Krane (2 volumes) is, imho, much better than Resnick, Halliday, Walker (the single fat book). The latter has compromised severely on the math and leaves much to be desired (at least till the sixth edition, which is what I had referred to).

Griffiths' textbook on EM was the one we exclusively used in our second semester course in electromagnetism. In fact, I haven't come across any other book that is being so extensively used. But then we had already studied calculus in school, and the multivariable calculus we needed was taught to us in the first semester in college. As for mechanics, we used Kleppener and Kolenkow, but by the time the interesting stuff came in, we had already studied partial derivatives, so we could also refer to the book by Goldstein occasionally. There are of course many others, but Kleppener and Kolenkow seems to be pedagogically one of the best...also have a look at the book by AP French.

For Optics, I also recommend the book by Hecht. For modern physics, the two books by Arthur Beiser and Sproull are very good.

Once you have taken the introductory courses, you can study the books on EM by Jackson, mechanics by Goldstein, quantum mechanics by Griffiths (and a whole lot of other books, lots of variety here), etc.

Anyway the crucial thing to realize is that the math is very important simply cannot afford to compromise your math training. There's a nice book by R. Shankar which might actually help you speed up stuff:

Finally, always keep Berkeley Physics Course volumes and Feynman's Lectures on Physics handy...they're always helpful.
I'm on page 105 of Calculus an intuitive and Physical Approach, I should be done with it in about a month or so.

Will I need to know anything other than calculus, trigonometry, geometry and algebra for the books you mentioned?
Jul18-09, 01:50 PM
P: 538
Quote Quote by diazona View Post
I have to take issue with this, as I didn't take a course on differential equations until well after going through Griffiths QM. I think the same holds true for many people I know. All you really need for Griffiths is some familiarity with what a differential equation is, and a knowledge of how to solve one with an exponential ansatz (though the latter is simple enough that it can be learned along with the physics). And of course a solid grounding in linear algebra.
Well I think it is a good idea. At my undergraduate school it was a pre-requisite for the course in quantum, which uses Griffiths' book. Most take differential equations in the fourth semester after calculus III and quantum mechanics in their 3rd year or later, so it isn't like suggesting taking differential equations before quantum mechanics is a bad idea, even if they use Griffiths' book.
Jul18-09, 04:45 PM
P: 53
I'm a mechanical engineering student hoping to get to grad school for physics. I've been self-studying.

I have these books:

Physics by Alonso & Finn
Mathematical Methods by Boas
Classical Mechanics by Taylor
Thermo and Stat Mech. by Stowe
E & M by surprise...Griffiths
QM by Shankar
Jul21-09, 02:50 AM
P: 1,779
Quote Quote by Stratosphere View Post
Will I need to know anything other than calculus, trigonometry, geometry and algebra for the books you mentioned?
No, but you will need partial derivatives, vector operators (grad, divergence, curl) esp if you read more advanced books like Griffiths or Goldstein. For Halliday/Resnick, you will just need the stuff you've mentioned above.
Jul24-09, 03:27 PM
P: 360
Will I need analytical geometry for any of this? Is this a good guide in the sequence of learning math for physics?
Jul24-09, 06:46 PM
P: 53
Quote Quote by Stratosphere View Post
Will I need analytical geometry for any of this?
Yes, your first go through calclulus will probably be shown via analytic geometry, i.e. area under graphs, tangent lines, etc.
Aug11-09, 11:33 PM
mg0stisha's Avatar
P: 225
I don't know if you're just looking for textbooks, but i've picked up good particle/theoretical physics books just as a free read to kind of get you used to the history/how things came to be/how things stand now. Here are some:

The Theory of Almost Everything by Robert Oerter (Particle physics, mostly modern ideas)
Dark Cosmos by Dan Hooper (Dark Energy/Dark Matter)
Nature's Blueprint by Dan Hooper (good intro to particle physics; how the particles were found and how the Standard Model came to be)
Collider by Paul Halpern (currently reading, really good history of accelerators/colliders as well as modern theorys ad models)

Aug16-09, 11:15 PM
P: 360
I have just finished all of the calculus before Stewart's multicalculus book. I have just ordered it and I was wondering what physics to learn after. I decided to get a first year physics book but after that I'm not sure what to get, should I just learn linear algebra and then go into electrodynamics?
Aug28-09, 01:58 AM
P: 261
If you really wanna learn physics, start out with freshman calculus based text.

I personally think that Serway and Jewett book "Physics for Scientists and Engineers with Modern Physics" is the best. Two follow close behind:

Young and Friedman's "University Physics" and
Halliday and Resnick "Fundamentals of Physics (Extended)"

Dont confuse Halliday and Resnick's Fundamentals with the one title just "Physics." So people seem to think the "Physics" series is more rigorous, my opinion is that it isnt more rigourous, just less flashy and straight to the point. This may be a good thing if you kinda know your **** already. But if you are just beginning, your better off getting a book thats actually interesting to look at and interesting to ready. This is why I recommend Serway and Jewett, Young and Friedman and Fundamentals from Halliday and Resnick.
Aug28-09, 02:02 AM
P: 261
If you just want to learn about relativity without going through a whole physics textbook thats meant to be covered in a year and a half of college courses then I would suggest

"Death by Blackhole" by Neil Degrasse Tyson. Its not about relativity specifically but it is a very well written, very informative book on Astrophysics which gets into relativity. No math required but very informative.

"The Mathematics of Relativity For The Rest of Us" by an M.D. named Jagerman is probably the most straight forward relativity book out there and it only requires basic calculus.

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