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Other A good general intro physics book or a book for each physics subject?

  1. Nov 9, 2017 #1
    Many have recommended me Resnick for intro physics book, however I already have Kleppner for mechanics, so should I continue just getting a book for thermodynamics and then for EM when I need them or should I get sth like Halliday Resnick?

    I have noticed, that separate books per subject tend to be more thorough and more interesting plus having WAY more difficult problems, I might be wrong though.
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 9, 2017 #2

    Wrichik Basu

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    What is your level of math?
  4. Nov 9, 2017 #3


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    The usual process of learning physics is to first learn basics from a book such as Resnick, and then learn all this again in more detail from more specialized books. However, if the specialized books (like Kleppner which you already have) are not too difficult for you, you can skip the basics and go directly to the specialized books.
  5. Nov 9, 2017 #4
    Basic Caluslus, no diff. equations yet, however we do have to solve them often already.

    Also is it normal that we are learning rigorous real analysis(Rudin and Apostol are textbooks we use mainly) and linear algebra this year, then topology, differential geometry and complex analysis next year? Im first year physics major. Dont get me wrong, I love it, but I just wonder if that is normal, as I see a lot of threads and such implying it is uncommon for a physics major to be met with such rigor.
  6. Nov 9, 2017 #5
    I thought so. At which part of education would one normally learn the topic thoroughly "again" though?
  7. Nov 9, 2017 #6


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    - classical mechanics at 2nd year
    - classical electrodynamics, statistical physics and quantum mechanics at 3rd year
    - condensed matter, nuclear physics, particle physics, quantum field theory and general relativity at 4th year
  8. Nov 9, 2017 #7


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    In the US, the usual sequence is:

    Undergraduate years 1-2: A broad introductory course using a single book, e.g. Halliday/Resnick. This is often two semesters (1 year) for classical physics, and one semester for "modern physics" which may be a separate book.

    Undergraduate years 2-4: Intermediate-level courses using separate textbooks for each subject (e.g. Griffiths for electromagnetism, Symon for mechanics)

    Graduate (MS/PhD): Advanced courses using separate textbooks again (e.g. Jackson for electromagnetism, Goldstein for classical mechanics)

    Three times through the material, at increasing levels of mathematical sophistication.

    Kleppner/Kolenkow is a special case in classical mechanics, sort of intermediate between the books that are usually used in the first two stages above. I think Purcell is similar for electromagnetism, although I haven't used it myself. They're sometimes used for fast-paced introductory courses, at places like MIT.
  9. Nov 9, 2017 #8
    Just so that we are on the same page, our curriculum is only 3 years, so I suppose things will be different here, at least more condensed learning I suppose. Morever, many many students got to grad in US and they all say they got very solid foundations from the UNI here. What do you guys think?
  10. Nov 9, 2017 #9


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    Yes, in some countries the last year of secondary school ("high school" in the US) corresponds more or less to the first year of university in the US. In those countries, as I understand it, students entering university have already learned calculus and taken an intro physics course on the level of Halliday/Resnick.

    In the US, we are backwards in some ways. :oldwink:

    Nevertheless, under whichever system, most students need to start with introductory-level physics, regardless of which level of school they do it in. Some students can safely jump in at the intermediate level.
  11. Nov 9, 2017 #10
    If all that is rigorous as in maths course then it's waste of time. I don't mean knowledge is bad but it's someone else's job.
  12. Nov 9, 2017 #11
    Find out what texts the courses use. Do they jump straight to Maxwell's equations in differential form (div, curl, and all that)?

    I think the Feynman Lectures would make good background reading at this level, but I don't think the issue of problem sets was ever really solved.
  13. Nov 9, 2017 #12
    Well, its same as pure math major except they aim at "all" of math and we only analysis and some topology it seems. As I see it, its is extremely useful for a theoretical physicist to be excelent at pure math and should know as much math as possible; hence we are learning all of that. We will have so called mathematical physics classes in the future though that are a seperate thing from math, where we will apply the math and learn numerical methods, etc. I was just curious if that is normal for a physics major curriculum or what not.
  14. Nov 9, 2017 #13
    Ah ok, I think I understand, it is true we had basic physics, however without any calculus, so practically we learned nothing. We did learn very basic calculus by the end of the last year of highschool though. So far it seems Kleppner should be awesome for mechanics, but I do have two good intro physics books from our UNI for the first year(basic thermo and EM)
  15. Nov 10, 2017 #14
    You said you'll be learning all the topics below rigourously before, didn't you ? Now you say it's just Real analysis and Topology.
    Anyway, learning rigourous analysis is not uncommon for physics majors.

    It depends on the depth. For instance, is there are any use in learning construction of real numbers and Dedekind cuts or Generalised Riemann integral for physicsts ? No I say, I am ready to be proven wrong.
  16. Nov 10, 2017 #15
    You are absolutely right, not a lot of rigor is useful in physics, however how am I supposed to understand and properly apply topological ideas to physics if I can't even understand the construction of real numbers for example. I want to trully understand how math works so I am rather happy for the rigor, because I probably cannot just say I understand some math if I don't know how exactly does it work, but I can use it and I do think I will have to learn a lot of math in the future without proper rigor, as it would have been too time consuming.

    Secondly, i just generalized it to analysis and topology, as (as far as I know, seems I am wrong though) geometry is part of topology. I do admit I should have included linear algebra, but I just forgot probably. Anyways, I am not too surprised it is common practice that physics majors have pure math, however why do people recommend the study of pure maths over physics if one wants to go into theoretical physics if rigor is common practice? Doesn't make sense to me.
  17. Nov 10, 2017 #16
    I may have missed it but, where are you? I have no idea why you would be put through those pure math courses if you want to be a physicist. Seems like a waste of time to me. Theoretical physics is not pure math, it is applied math.
  18. Nov 11, 2017 #17
    I am from Slovenia, basically Central Europe east of Italy. I'm studying at Ljubljana UNI.
  19. Nov 11, 2017 #18
    But those pure math classes can teach him how to think mathematically. Ie, he would have an easier time picking up mathematics needed for his physics. I am dull majoring in math and physics, and my math background helps tremendously. I can read the physics book without math interruptions.
  20. Nov 11, 2017 #19
    There is big difference between Geometry and Topology. They are not part of each other just like Algebra is not part of Analysis.

    How much time will it take for you to get your degree ? 6 years ? 8 years ?
  21. Nov 11, 2017 #20
    I thought so, I admit I did not do my research regarding this and was rather naive. Well you needn't have been toxic though(as you are implying I will fail bad by saying I will study even up to 8 years...), it will take me 3 years, hopefully. I might have missed your point though.
  22. Nov 11, 2017 #21


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    I think it indeed depends a bit on the academic system in your country. In Germany we have for some years the socalled "Bologna System" now (I don't want to go into the comparison to the old German system in this thread; it's too sad). Here the usual way is: You start studying Physics towards a Bachelor of Science (BSc) degree, which takes 3 years (organized in 6 semesters). Usually this includes both experimental and theoretical physics (mechanics including relativity, classical electromagnetics, non-relativistic quantum mechanics, statistical physics, and some physics lab work) as well as mathematics. Depending on the university the physics students either have to attend the mathematicians' linear algebra and analysis lectures or there is a special lecture for physicists. I'm a bit undecided which way is better. I studied physics in a university where one had to attend the mathematicians' lectures. I liked it, although it's not perfectly geared for what a typical physicist really needs, particularly in the beginning. The problem in the early semesters is that you don't have enough math to really do the physics right, but on the other hand you learn a lot of math also in an intuitive way in the physics lectures. The problem with a mathematicians' math course for physicists is that you don't get as much of the practical computational skills as you need for physics, i.e., you should be able to calculate an integral, while in the math lecture you rather learn to prove that the integral exists, why you can or can not commute a limit with integration, and so on. The problem with a lecture "math for physicists" is of course the opposite: Often you learn how to calculate things without really understanding what's behind such operations. So the best is to find some good compromise between mathematical rigor and the computational skills necessary to be a good physicist. It's also not true that a priori a theoretical physicist needs more math than an experimental one (btw. as a physicst you should not specialize too early in my opinion, because there's a lot of common wisdom any physicists should acquire, and then you can much better judge, what specialization is really interesting for you personally). It may only be true that an experimental physicist needs different math than the theoretical physicist in his or her later specialization (e.g., an experimental physicist may need much more statistics and mathematical error analysis of experimental data, while a theorist working, e.g., in General Relativity needs more details about differential geometry). In this sense, the most important thing you learn in the math lectures is how to read a math book to get the math you really need. At the end of the BSc curriculum you write a Bachelor's Thesis. This takes usually 3 month and in the best case may consist of some research project (in our theory group we even managed to get some BSc students to publish his or her first scientific paper in a peer reviewed journal!).

    After you acquired your BSc you can go on (in my opinion you also should go on!) studying towards a Master of Science for two more years (4 semesters), where you have more lectures on advanced topics and, most importantly, to some research on your own under supervision of a professor (leading to a Master's Thesis).

    Of course, after this, you can go further towards a PhD.
  23. Nov 11, 2017 #22
    Our system is exactly the same, after all, Slovenia's Bologna System was designed after your German one. I have certainly not "decided" in which direction I want to go yet, since as you said it, I don't have nearly enough knowledge to know. For now though, I do prefer theory and mathematical models over experimental work, it's just that I always liked the application of math in physics.
  24. Nov 11, 2017 #23
    This is not always the case. My daughter is in high school (10th grade) in Massachusetts. She is taking AP Calculus AB and most probably will take AP Physics (Mechanics and /or Electromagnetism) in the next two years. She does not like either Physics or Math though :)
  25. Nov 11, 2017 #24
    This is very much like the system we had in India many years ago when I was a student.
  26. Nov 12, 2017 #25
    I don't mean to be toxic, some countries have long Bsc courses. Since you are learning both maths and physics I thought that was the case here. I am sorry.
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