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A Physics Book for a beginner?

  1. May 13, 2015 #1
    I am really interested in physics but I am not every good at science. I am currently in year 9 and I want to go to MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) recently I read on the website that international applicants need to sit a test from Physics, Chemistry or Biology. My high school hasn't started teaching us physics yet and I am not very good at chemistry and Biology so physics is my only option. Is a good book for someone like me, so I can get started and start studying for my physics SAT?
  2. jcsd
  3. May 13, 2015 #2
    Hi the legion, I think the best book for beginners is "University Physics with Modern Physics" by Young Freedman. However, I'd caution against picking a subect to study based on what university you want to get into (especially since it is notoriously difficult to get into MIT being one of the top universitites for enginering in the world). You said that you "high scool hasn't started teaching .. physics yet", if you have not taken physics yet then you can't be sure that you'll enjoy the subject. Don't stress about deciding what university you want to get into yet, you have ages to figure it out, and your preferences will most probably change over the years. And while MIT is a prestigious university, this is not the only (and in my opinion not the most important) aspect to consider when choosing universities. So by all means if physics interests you try looking into it and see if your interests continue, but dont decide subject based on what university you want to go to, because chances are you will not end up as happy as if you pick university based on what subject you enjoy.
  4. May 13, 2015 #3
    Is that book good for self teaching physics to myself??? and do you have any tips on how i should study physics??
  5. May 13, 2015 #4
    The book starts from newtonian mechanics and advances into some quantum theory and relativistic electrodynamics so it covers a lot of bases but starting from the beginning, assuming no prior knowledge. I think the book is good for learning by yourself, and the explanations included are very good. The best way to study physics is to always ask the questions "Why?" and "Why not?". I.e. "why momentum is always conserved?" the most simple intuitive explanation is that the total momentum of the universe isnt changing, so as a total momentum must be conserved and etc. This kind of approac to physics is one that will take the most time, as whenever you learn a new equation or relationship you need to ask yourself why and why not loads of times. The bennifit of the approach is that this way you will have a VERY solid base knowledge of physics, and it teaches you to think critically and creatively about problems as well. I know many people who only memorise equations and dont try to understand why the equations are the way they are, and what the equation actually mean. These people are good when it comes to just manipulating equations, but not as good when it comes to explaining why things are they way they are. Which is essentially the basis of physics, to try and explain the universe. This is the approach Einstein took when finding General Relativity. He was not content to merely know that gravity attracted with a certain strength at certain distances (as Newton had found), he wanted to know why and as a result single-handedly developed one of the most successfull physical theories of all time.
  6. May 13, 2015 #5


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    If you're not in a formal class studying physics, there's a couple of books I might recommend for self study that's a bit less dense than University Physics (which does an excellent job of covering classical mechanics and electromagnetism; I'm less happy with its coverage of modern physics). If your calculus is on lock, then University Physics gets much more comprehensible. You're only really getting anything out of UP if you're doing the exercises in the back of each chapter, so if you're self studying then I feel that the solution manual gets more critical.

    If you want a more general "survey" I like "Understanding Physics" by Isaac Asimov. It has the added advantage of being miles and away cheaper than University Physics.

    "The Theoretical Minimum" by Leonard Susskind is, in my opinion, a good coverage of the basics you need to know before actually studying physics. I see it more as a "pre-physics" book than as an actual physics book.
  7. May 14, 2015 #6
    My institution used Randall Knight's "Physics for Scientists and Engineers" for introductory physics and I believe it is the best intro physics book I know of.
  8. May 14, 2015 #7


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    If you want to begin with just learning the concepts of physics (with out getting into the difficult mathematics yet) then I would recommend Paul G. Hewett's "Conceptual Physics" book. It is algebra based, and was my introductory physics book, then I later used GIancoli's Physics book, third edition for my "IB" Physics class along with the IB physics book. But as Brage said, the best book to get into the knitty gritty of it would be "University Physics with Modern Physics" by Young Freedman.
  9. May 29, 2015 #8
    "University Physics with Modern Physics" is a must read. Very well written, simple and has many problems of various difficulty levels. Feynman's Lectures in Physics is also a very interesting book. You can read this book like a story book :P and you will really enjoy it. Feynman's lecture will help you form the habit of thinking. And if you want to study different topics separately, try introductory ones. Berkeley Physics Course books on Electromagnetism is pretty decent. And Optics by Pedroti will be also good for Optics. Shroeder's An introduction to Thermal physics is also good.

    Knowledge of Calculus is also important. Anton's Calculus is good. But Apostol's Calculus is best as it comes with proves and further detailed explanation(but for beginners Anton's is easier). If you are short in time, you can read Quick Calculus.

    And Physics Olympiad experience helps in getting admitted in MIT i think. Here in Bangladesh, they suggest solving problems of Kleppner's An Introduction to Mechanics for Mechanics.

    P.s: Many people also suggest(suggested) Resnick and Halliday's Fundamentals of Physics as replacement of University Physics but University Physics is better. And I didn't have to spend money buying these books, I had pirated PDF copy and read them... knowledge should be open to all.
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