# An Introduction to Mechanics by Daniel Kleppner and Robert J. Kolenkow

• Classical
• bcrowell
In summary, this book is a comprehensive introduction to mechanics for first-year students. It covers the fundamental concepts of Newtonian mechanics, momentum, work and energy, force and energy, rigid body motion, and special relativity. Some mathematical preliminaries are introduced, and the book includes many challenging problems.

## For those who have used this book

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bcrowell
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1. Vectors and kinematics - a few mathematical preliminaries
2. Newton's laws - the foundations of Newtonian mechanics
3. Momentum
4. Work and energy
5. Some mathematical aspects of force and energy
6. Angular momentum and fixed axis rotation
7. Rigid body motion and the conservation of angular momentum
8. Noninertial systems and fictitious forces
9. Central force motion
10. The harmonic oscillator
11. The special theory of relativity
12. Relativistic kinematics
13. Relativistic momentum and energy
14. Four-vectors and relativistic invariance.

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These days I teach physics for a living, but in 1982 I used this book as a freshman in an honors class. Here are some impressions from going back over the book three decades later.

For a long time, I don't think there was any alternative to Kleppner and Kolenkow for a student who really wanted to know the whys and wherefores of freshman mechanics. The big-selling texts like Halliday may carefully derive certain things, but in other cases they just pop an equation onto the page and expect the student to use it without question. Today, however, there are many free, online alternatives to the big-budget commercial texts, and some of these do provide a level of intellectual honesty similar to K&K's. In addition, there is a recent commercial text by Morin that targets the same type of student as K&K.

There are many challenging problems that are of very high quality. The focus of these problems is on symbolic rather than numerical computation.

The book includes many topics that are not typically included in a freshman text, e.g., nutation, the moment of inertia tensor, and relativistic four-vectors.

The book is designed for highly motivated and talented students, at schools with highly selective admissions, who have already taken a rigorous high school physics course, and who have already completed about a year of calculus. It would be a disaster to try to use this book with a less highly selected population.

The book was originally published in 1973. McGraw-Hill kept it in print over the decades, but hiked the price outrageously and showed no interest in bringing out a new edition. Eventually the authors got the rights back from McGraw-Hill, redid the manuscript in LaTeX, made some changes, and published the 2nd edition in 2010 (37 years after the first edition!) through Cambridge University press. Cambridge brought the price way back down, which is great.

The changes made in the second edition are good ones, but they are mostly extremely minimal, and the book still shows its age. There is no discussion of numerical integration of the equations of motion. Attempts are made to help the student check symbolic results of homework problems, e.g., by giving the output for a specific input, but today this would be far better done using open-source computer software such as LON-CAPA. Diagrams show common student lab apparatus from the Sputnik era. (The line art appears to have been redrawn on a computer, but is basically exactly the same.) The book predates essentially all modern pedagogical research in physics, and it does not do any of the things that that research shows can have an impact on common conceptual difficulties.

The book was unusual for first-semester freshman texts of its time in providing a fairly thorough introduction to special relativity. This is especially important if the students are to move on to Purcell's Electricity and Magnetism (also available in a new edition from CUP), which assumes a thorough familiarity with SR. Although the treatment of SR has been updated significantly in the second edition, to my taste it is still dreary and slavishly traditional, and compares poorly with the much nicer and more modern approach used in Morin. K&K still use the relativistic mass convention, which professional relativists stopped using ca. 1950. K&K use Einstein's 1905 axiomatization of special relativity, which to my mind reflects a century-old world-view and would be better replaced with an approach based on symmetry, as in Morin. The examples and the presentation of experimental tests of SR have essentially not been updated since the 1973 edition. For example, the old edition presented the concepts of GPS, which was being developed in the 70s. That was cool for its time, but the new edition merely sticks in the modern acronym GPS into the preexisting text. One important improvement is the elimination of ict from the four-vectors, which at least gives the book more of a feel of having been written after 1950.

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I came across this wonderful book in the library by chance. I had already read Halliday and Resnick then. Kleppner and Kolenkow is one of my favourite books. Right up there with the Feynman lectures. Just thinking about it makes me happy. I hope to own a copy one day:)

koolraj09
atyy said:
I came across this wonderful book in the library by chance. I had already read Halliday and Resnick then. Kleppner and Kolenkow is one of my favourite books. Right up there with the Feynman lectures. Just thinking about it makes me happy. I hope to own a copy one day:)
Too bad you don't live near me I have an extra copy because I got one a long while back then thought I lost it had to get a new one for class then found it again and was stuck with two. Cheers =D!

WannabeNewton said:
Too bad you don't live near me I have an extra copy because I got one a long while back then thought I lost it had to get a new one for class then found it again and was stuck with two. Cheers =D!

=D With today's price tag, I had half a mind to add "after I strike gold".

Edit: Hmm, seems to be not terrible actually at USD 45. I somehow remembered it as USD 300!

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atyy said:
=D With today's price tag, I had half a mind to add "after I strike gold".

Edit: Hmm, seems to be not terrible actually at USD 45. I somehow remembered it as USD 300!
Wow when did you last see it

atyy said:
Edit: Hmm, seems to be not terrible actually at USD 45. I somehow remembered it as USD 300!
Your memory is right - it was hugely expensive in 2005 or 2006 when I first looked into getting a copy. Then it changed publishers and was down to only $75 when I bought a copy in 2010. Now it's$45 (and still in hardback), a great deal considering that many paperback textbooks cost more than that.

I've been using this book to teach myself classical mechanics, and I love it!

guitarphysics said:
I've been using this book to teach myself classical mechanics, and I love it!
Some of those end of chapter exercises really make you want to rip your hair out don't they =D? I remember there was one in chapter 4, near the end, about a moving wall, a stationary wall, and a ball bouncing back and forth between the two that made me consume like 6 full cans of coke in one sitting before I got it. God this is such a good book!

poseidon721

WannabeNewton said:
Some of those end of chapter exercises really make you want to rip your hair out don't they =D? I remember there was one in chapter 4, near the end, about a moving wall, a stationary wall, and a ball bouncing back and forth between the two that made me consume like 6 full cans of coke in one sitting before I got it. God this is such a good book!
Yes, they do :), but that's one of my favorite things about this book. The problems are really original and Kleppner knows how to make you think!

I've really been considering looking into this book. A few months ago I came across an old edition (early 60's) of Halliday & Resnick's combined Physics vol I-II. It is an enjoyable book to work through, but I often wonder if I would be getting more out of a book like Kleppner and Kolenkow's. I am a mechanical engineering student and do wish to really get a solid foundation on these topics. Any thoughts?

I used this book for a course that used Alonso and Finn, I never looked at Alonso and Finn. :-)

Though I didn't do every exercise in the book, the exercises I did do were nice and interesting.

And some still ask me questions on my posts I did on the assignments back from 2006-2007, (6-7 years :-), time passes by).

mindheavy said:
I am a mechanical engineering student and do wish to really get a solid foundation on these topics. Any thoughts?
I'm not sure if I'm the right person to be giving you advice because I'm only 16, but this book has given me a really thorough understanding of mechanics. I feel like a have a really good foundation on all these topics now, so my advice is to definitely get this book. However, be prepared to work hard.

bcrowell said:
The book shows its age (38 years!) in many ways. It presents various examples of applications of relativity, but they are all extremely old and dusty. [...]

To my taste, the treatment of special relativity is dreary and slavishly traditional, with too little geometrical insight.

Is the edition on sale now (dated 2010 on amazon.com) simply a reprint of the 1973 edition (which I have), or has it been updated?

I happened to look at its treatment of relativity just now, to see how it handles "relativistic mass." It does introduce "relativistic mass" in connection with relativistic momentum. However, in practice it almost always uses "rest mass" from that point on in derivations, examples, and exercises, usually (but not always) labeling it as m0 and identifying it as "rest mass." This is for the 1973 version; has it changed at all?

I have the 2010 copy jtbell and it doesn't look any different from the older edition as far as I can tell. It may be my bias leaking in here but considering it's the greatest mechanics textbook ever written I doubt there was much reason to change anything in the older copy :D.

The relativity section needs to be updated:
include spacetime and energy-momentum diagrams [instead of just "spatial" diagrams]
and
dump ict.

Except for that, it is a great textbook.

Please consider CLASSICAL MECHANICS by John Taylor. Check out the reviews on Amazon.com- they are phenomenal. I ordered the book recently and have gone thru the 1st 3 chapters so far. All the reviews on this textbook are true! It is EXCELLENT!
(While in college many yrs ago we were brought up with MECHANICS by Keith Symon. The problems are next to impossible to solve which can be VERY discouraging.)

Would this book be appropriate for someone that is fairly advanced mathematically (calculus on level of Apostol/Spivak, some diff. geometry, analysis 1, abstract algebra 1&2, etc.), but has never taken a physics course?

Would this be an appropriate book to use as a supplement/reference for a first semester calculus based physics course? I'm gathering that this is basically a freshmen level text, though more rigorous/advanced than books like Freedman, Tipler, Resnick etc.

I'm starting University Physics this coming spring, and we're going to be using the Tipler book, which I've heard is great. I want some type of supplement with additional problems and more rigorous explanations though as well. Would this be a good choice?

At some schools, this text is used as the "introductory physics course" for physics majors,
usually followed by Purcell's E&M text.

robphy said:
At some schools, this text is used as the "introductory physics course" for physics majors,
usually followed by Purcell's E&M text.

I was looking at the Purcell E&M text as well. That sounds like an excellent book as well.

They're both brilliant books. Kleppner is quite doable if you keep at it but Purcell is hardcore. You should make sure you're prepared beforehand. For example the 3rd edition of Purcell assumes you've seen a comprehensive introduction to SR (special relativity) beforehand.

1 person
I know what you mean by that. I will be taking E&M this fall and I want to use Purcell as my choice to read from after lecture.

I'm learning EM right now, and I've found that it's best to learn it with Purcell and Griffiths side by side (as suggested by WannabeNewton :D). As for Kleppner, go for it! I loved it, but let me warn you, it's hard (you might find it easier than I did though because I was learning calc at the same time...)

guitarphysics said:
I'm learning EM right now, and I've found that it's best to learn it with Purcell and Griffiths side by side (as suggested by WannabeNewton :D). As for Kleppner, go for it! I loved it, but let me warn you, it's hard (you might find it easier than I did though because I was learning calc at the same time...)

I'll be using Kleppner along with the Tipler book while I'm taking Physics 1. I'll have already taken Calculus I though, and I will be in Calc II concurrently, so that should make it considerably easier. I'll also be using the Purcell book alongside the Tipler book during Physics II, and I don't know if I want to incorporate a third book into the mix. The Griffiths book sounds like a really good one though, judging from what I've read online. It sounds like it's considerably more difficult though.

edit-I also have a copy of the Feynman Lectures on their way to me right now, so I'll have them too. I'll likely hold off on a lot of that material until later on though.

QuantumCurt said:
I'll be using Kleppner along with the Tipler book while I'm taking Physics 1. I'll have already taken Calculus I though, and I will be in Calc II concurrently, so that should make it considerably easier. I'll also be using the Purcell book alongside the Tipler book during Physics II, and I don't know if I want to incorporate a third book into the mix. The Griffiths book sounds like a really good one though, judging from what I've read online. It sounds like it's considerably more difficult though.

edit-I also have a copy of the Feynman Lectures on their way to me right now, so I'll have them too. I'll likely hold off on a lot of that material until later on though.

Feynman is great for stuff that you've already learned, if you're bored for an afternoon, or anything like that- he's amazing. For learning for school, though, I don't like his lectures very much, because you don't learn anything about problem-solving (he's amazing for intuition and new perspectives though!). I like to just look through the table of contents sometimes and read a chapter that looks interesting (and doesn't require too much stuff from previous chapters).

It's good that you already took calc I (I'm not sure if that includes diff. equations, but there's a couple in Kleppner, so it might be good for you to be familiar-ish with them)..
I've actually found Griffiths a lot easier than Purcell- I think Purcell goes more in depth and his problems are harder (also, he introduces magnetism with SR). The only thing (I think) that makes Griffiths harder is that later in his book, Griffiths has a lot more stuff than Purcell (although I haven't gotten there yet).

guitarphysics said:
I've actually found Griffiths a lot easier than Purcell- I think Purcell goes more in depth and his problems are harder (also, he introduces magnetism with SR).
My feelings as well my friend :)

theoristo said:

Math: algebra, geometry, trig, and calculus (some diff eqs, but that's not completely necessary- I didn't know anything about them before reading KK).

Physics: an intro physics class would probably be helpful (before KK, I had about 3 months of physics at my school where we used Giancoli as a textbook). You can skim Giancoli, or Halliday-Resnick to get a general idea. But it's not necessary to know any physics beforehand.

I have a copy of an edition published in 1973 by McGraw-Hill. Are the quantity and quality of the concepts of this book suitable enough to prepare for international physics competitions?

Also are there any significant differences between 2010 and 1973 editions?

I'm not sure what kind of competitions you'll be participating in.. BUT- my teacher has a book with all the problems from the European physics olympics from 1970-1980 (I'm not sure if those are the exact years, but it's something like that), and about half of their problems on mechanics I've seen in Kleppner's book! It's pretty incredible; I'd say Kleppner's perfect for preparing for physics competitions- really makes you think, and has some classic problems.

As far as I know, they're the same exact edition (the 2010 and 1973), just different printings.

1 person
I just received the 2nd edition which came out a few days ago. Looks great! I was a bit disappointed to find only hints to select problems. For those that self study, did you try to verify answers online?

oneleaf said:
I just received the 2nd edition which came out a few days ago. Looks great! I was a bit disappointed to find only hints to select problems. For those that self study, did you try to verify answers online?

That's one venue or you could post on the HW help subforum

1 person
Whoa, new edition- that's awesome :D! Has the SR section been updated??

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