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Academic Confusion (Attempting to determine what to self study)

  1. Aug 8, 2011 #1
    (there is a tl;dr version a bit further down if you're feeling lazy. I don't want to bore you, but I do want an accurate representation of what I know and what I intend to learn. It's not very impressive, but it is accurate as far as I can tell.)

    I've been researching all the different textbooks available and all of the video lectures people recommend for courses in Math and Physics, mostly at the Undergraduate level, but occasionally some research into Graduate level material (though I think this distinction may be blurry for some of the senior electives in Physics that one can take).

    I've been researching these topic because I can't the standard Physics curriculum until I transfer universities (oddly enough, I'm taking a directed study in the fall of QFT that I hope will give me a fairly gentle introduction. I may try to get directed study in GR for the Spring). I don't have an adviser for Physics (yet) and I have to wait about a year to transfer, though my transfer is "guaranteed". Basically, I'm trying to figure out what to do during this year beyond my directed study courses. I have completed Physics I and II via AP Credit and I'm taking the only other course in Physics offered by my school in the fall, Modern Physics. I *do* have the opportunity to take some more interesting courses in Mathematics, but they won't be especially rigorous. I'm taking Abstract Algebra this fall and Real Analysis this Spring (assuming I do well) but that's about as much as I can do here.

    I'm just looking for advise in organizing all the information I've been gathering and trying to find a way to use the next two semesters efficiently. For my QFT "class", the professor is having me learn Lagrange and Hamiltonian Formulations and I'm trying to learn perturbation theory before we start, but I have not had a formal course in QM II or in Classical Mechanics. For some reason he thinks we can manage to go through the material together and while I do respect his opinion, I would like some advice on what to do with my spare time. I will be asking him as well, but it's nice to have as many opinions as possible. He went to a very respectable school for Physics and did very well there, so he's not really familiar with any of the resources I'm looking at.

    I should add that the resources I've looked at, for review and learning new material include:
    Susskind's Theoretical Minimum videos (I intend to watch them all as a strong conceptual introduction to later topics and a strong review of Mechanics and Quantum Mechanics)
    IIT's Quantum Lectures (these seemed decent initially but I'm beginning to doubt their use to me, he bullets through a lot of material rather quickly, or so it seems)
    MIT OCW Physics I-III (I've watched some of the first course and some of the third and I really like the Walter Lewin videos!)
    PSI's Lectures (I have not really looked at these much since they appear to be beyond me at the moment)

    Marion & Thorton (I've read the middle chapters that teach Calculus of Variations)
    Goldstein (I've read chapters 1 and 2 but I have not seriously attempt the problems)
    Taylor (This is the text that my school used the one time it offered a classical course a while back, I've heard good things about the way it's written but I've only read one chapter...)
    Griffith's QM (Chapters 1-4 are done but I need to cover 6.1-6.2 before school begins, apparently)
    Shankar's QM (Chapters 1&2 to get a feel for his writing style, started chapter 3 but stopped since my instructor said he didn't like it much, he went straight to Sakurai from Griffith's...I don't think I'm ready for that myself)
    Sakurai's QM (I have access to it but I don't dare touch it yet)
    Griffith's E&M (Read the vector calculus review and the beginning of the actual E&M but I have no ventured too far, yet)
    Jackson's E&M (Read the first chapter, I felt like I was in over my head mathematically but it looks great)
    Feynman Lecture's (haven't touched yet)
    Halliday & Resnick relatively recent edition (My high school Physics teacher gave it to me and I intend to read it as a review, I've been doing problems from the supplement book for a while)
    Tipler & Mosca (I really, really did not like this book, but I'm open to suggestions still)
    Hewitt (I've been using this to ground myself in conceptual physics and make sure I don't have any serious immaturity before starting intense material, I'm quite a bit into it and I think I like it)
    MWT Gravitation (Access to, but not touching until I know some more math)
    Peskin QFT (Using this fall, glanced at)
    Ryder QFT (Using this fall as well, glanced at)
    Zee QFT (Received as a gift, looks interesting but I am not sure if the layout of the book will help me immediately)
    Qriffith's Particle (Read the first few chapters and like it so far)
    Fermi's Book on Thermo (Gift, only book I have on Thermo and I haven't looked at it at all yet)

    Various online notes such as Farside's notes from UT etc.

    tl;dr section

    As you can see, I have a great deal of resources at my disposal and I know that everyone likes different books, so I'm not asking for your favorites (include them if you wish, I will probably research everything posted here and sample what I can, within reason). I'm asking how I should organize myself and maybe which topics I should start with. I have a fantastic library that will allow me to borrow some classics of Physics as well as the titles listed, so I really have access to an even broader base of resources.

    What do you recommend I start with this fall? What order of topics and how would you recommend I work on pacing myself? I think that's my biggest concern at the moment. I'm open to any and all suggestions.

    How would you organize a self study for yourself, given these resources? I will have access to legitimate courses in (most of) the topics listed above in roughly a year, but I don't see any reason to wait. If you think I should wait, please let me know. I can receive credit for a number of hours (9 or 12 on top of the AP and the Modern) through advanced standing exams, so assuming I learn the material well I will receive credit for whatever I work on.

    Thank you for your time, I know you all have better things you could be doing (well, most of you)


    p.s. I apologize for my over-usage of parenthesis, but I'm not sure how to better communicate my phrases. Sorry if it's difficult to read at times.
  2. jcsd
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