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Advice on reading an entire physics textbook in one semester

  1. Feb 19, 2017 #1
    Hey everyone. I'm a senior in high school who is taking AP Physics C, and I love physics. I've already known pretty much everything in Physics C (apart from some calculus derivations in E&M) from self-study, and I've studied astronomy and astrophysics a lot throughout high school as well. I've luckily been accepted to Stanford, and I might major in physics (MechE if not), so I thought it would be fun to try and cover everything in my physics textbook this final semester of high school.

    We have two textbooks - Physics for Scientists and Engineers (3ed) by Knight and Physics for Scientists and Engineers (5ed) by Paul Tipler. I find Knight's book to have better conceptual explanations, but Tipler seems to be more concise. Both books cover the exact same things though. Which book would you recommend?

    I know all the mechanics, most of E&M (just need to review EM waves and AC circuits), fluids, basic optics, and special relativity. I need to cover thermo, the rest of optics, and the rest of relativity and quantum physics (the Knight book has 7 chapters about relativity and quantum physics!!). Is this feasible in one semester? If so, do y'all have any specific advice for me?

    Also, a friend of mine suggested that I read all the chapters in the textbook, even though I know most of them, to make sure I really solidify all the material and have absolutely no misconceptions. Would this be wise or a waste of time?
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 19, 2017 #2
    The important thing is that you thoroughly understand mechanics after your first semester of doing real physics at university, so if I were you I'd just read whatever I find interesting to reward myself for doing well enough at HS to get into Stanford ;).
     
  4. Feb 19, 2017 #3
    Haha, thanks! I guess I'll go ahead and read the topics I haven't yet covered. Super excited for what my textbook has on quantum and relativity!
     
  5. Feb 19, 2017 #4

    Student100

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    Your time would be better spent practicing harder problems from mechanics and E&M rather than just reading sections about things those books don't cover very well.
     
  6. Feb 19, 2017 #5
    Hmm, you really think so? I guess I might try to do both with the time I have, especially in summer.
     
  7. Feb 19, 2017 #6

    Student100

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    Yes. Most assuredly.

    Since you're going to Standford and might major in physics I would actually purchase K&K https://www.amazon.com/Introduction-Mechanics-Daniel-Kleppner/dp/0521198119 and Purcell https://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/1107014026/ref=dp_ob_neva_mobile at this point and begin working through them. Along with something like Apostol calculus. I believe the first edition of this is now free online. Dont purchase the second edition, it's highway robbery. Or if you find the old first edition its not too bad as far as price is concerned.

    You'll get way more out of it, especially from working the problems.
     
  8. Feb 19, 2017 #7
    Wow, the reviews are fantastic! I'm definitely gonna get them! I need to shop around for some better prices, though (or look through the dark web hehe). Seriously, this is awesome. Thank you!!
     
  9. Feb 20, 2017 #8
    Apostol calculus looks like an awful book for a physicist or engineer; lots of arcane, useless formalism, much less of an emphasis on practical application.
     
  10. Feb 20, 2017 #9

    Student100

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    That's about as far from the truth as possible.
     
  11. Feb 20, 2017 #10
    Find a course on this list whose syllabus requires or even recommends Apostol:
    http://exploredegrees.stanford.edu/schoolofengineering/mechanicalengineering/#bachelorstext

    Find a course on this list whose syllabus requires or even recommends Apostol:
    http://exploredegrees.stanford.edu/schoolofhumanitiesandsciences/physics/#bachelorstext

    OP:
    Apostol is a book intended for the math department. It's intended to be for pre-Analysis students. If you are considering the math department route, consider getting it. If you are not, then it's main use to you will be as a paper weight.
     
  12. Feb 20, 2017 #11
    Reading is fine but I'd try to put as much time as possible on problem-solving. I've found reading to be too passive for just about everyone when trying to learn physics. Make the ratio of solving problems to reading as large as you can.

    I also second the recommendation for K & K, a few years ago I came to this forum looking for a better textbook that was more challenging. That book changed my view on physics and physics problems, it's great.
     
  13. Feb 20, 2017 #12

    Student100

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    Really, now you're reviewing a book.... without having read it?

    Sweet, yes OP... he definitely knows what he's talking about. :rolleyes:
     
  14. Feb 20, 2017 #13
    Speaking of not reading, I see you still haven't found a course a Stanford engineering or physics student is recommended to take that would use Apostol.
     
  15. Feb 20, 2017 #14

    Student100

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    Why don't we just ask Tom? Heres a picture from my crumbling dust cover...


    Funny how he mentions all those examples that stress applications, which I guess don't exist?
     

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  16. Feb 20, 2017 #15

    Mister T

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    Whichever one you prefer. There's no right answer. I find some of Knight's explanations needlessly wordy. And he doesn't always get them right, either.
     
  17. Feb 20, 2017 #16
    Yeah, I've felt that way during the time I've spent reading chapters from Knight's book. But while he can be really wordy, Tipler sometimes lacks clear and precise explanations. I guess they're both not perfect books at the end of the day, but hopefully they can at least introduce me to more advanced topics while I continue solidifying my foundation in mechanics and E&M with the books Student100 recommended.

    These books, even used, can be a bit pricey, so I might lay off of getting that Apostol book for now. I'll definitely keep it in mind though!
     
  18. Feb 20, 2017 #17
    Point taken. I'll admit, it takes much more effort to solve problems than to just read, but I know it's absolutely necessary. Thank you!
     
  19. Feb 20, 2017 #18

    Student100

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    Apostol is free online, I believe legally, since the copyright appears to expired. Physical older first editions can be had for not too much. It is the next logically step after high school calculus for those interested in the physical sciences and engineering.

    You only have so much time between now and then, you want to get the most bang for your buck that will make the transition to university as painless as possible. Good luck.
     
  20. Feb 21, 2017 #19

    Mister T

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    Look for older editions. Knight, 2nd edition is just as good as the 1st edition and you can get it for just a couple of dollars, plus shipping. You can also visit professor's offices and ask for older editions. They will be glad to get rid of the clutter.
     
  21. Feb 21, 2017 #20

    Mister T

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    He's a bit messy about the distinction between weight and gravitational force. He's very messy when it comes to the concept of thermal energy. Most physics books get these two concepts messed up in one way or another. There's no consensus on the right way to describe the physics.
     
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