Insights Ask the Advisors: What's Your Most Memorable Textbook? - Comments

Nugatory

Mentor
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This question even inspires a natural followup question: Now that you've heard what other people are saying, which of these will you want to take a look at for yourself? @pervect has talked me into Bondi.
 

haushofer

Science Advisor
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If I have to name 1 textbook, it should be Zee's "Einstein gravity in a nutshell". It's fun to read, full of all kinds of insights, very modern and up to date and hence very complete. For me the best middle road between physical intuition and mathematical rigour.

If I have to name a math textbook in the same spirit, it is Strogatz' "nonlinear dynamics and chaos", for the same reason. I never thought I'd find a math book I actually really enjoy reading. And I say that as a current math teacher. I used it to prepare myself for a course I'm teaching on dynamical systems.

The world would be a better place if more writers would take a similar attitude towards their textbook writing. With a lot of textbooks, I can only think "did you actually enjoy writing this, and if so, why can't I smell it?"
 
I can think of a few influential books that I will always remember:

mr wizard, don Herbert
learning electronics, forrest m mimms
the radio shack blue data book
gw-basic for my 286 with a phoenix bios, dos 5.0
a book on lasers (old) that introduced my to the ruby laser at the local library
the mini-engineer notebooks at radio shack
a hagen fish keeping manual
the first robot book by Gordon mccomb
redhat Linux 7.2, (I learned how to complile!)
electronics now magazine, 4 books for a penny! and I drooled over electronics workbench software that I couldn't afford.
popular electronics magazine, my first introduction to the pic microcontroller
chaos by gleck, now I was in jail at 18 in kiddie jail, anyways that was my first introduction to any kind of real physics stuff, all these new words but at the end of that book I was talking about the book with a guard saying I want to learn classical mechanics but I'm wasn't sure if I wanted to learn quantum mechanics, when he asked me what that was I looked at him and said I don't know!
 

atyy

Science Advisor
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If I have to name a math textbook in the same spirit, it is Strogatz' "nonlinear dynamics and chaos", for the same reason. I never thought I'd find a math book I actually really enjoy reading. And I say that as a current math teacher. I used it to prepare myself for a course I'm teaching on dynamical systems.
I learnt a lot from it too, and recommend it for as background for those interested in neuroscience.
 

atyy

Science Advisor
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fresh_42 said:
My favorite book which influenced mathematics the most is Arithmetics by Diophantos of Alexandria Volume VI and Arithmetic Arrangements Part I. The book itself ranks probably very low on a list of prominent books, if there wasn’t its most prominent reader Pierre de Fermat (1607-1665) who commented one equation.

“On the contrary, it is impossible to divide either a cube into two cubes, or a double square, or in general any power greater than the square into two powers of the same degree: I have discovered a truly wonderful demonstration that this margin is too narrow to hold.”

This remark basically established entire branches of mathematics, number theory being just one of them. It lasted 3½ centuries until Andrew Wiles really could provide a wonderful demonstration in 1994. Learning to read his proof alone, would equal a study of mathematics.
@fresh_42, what is your reading list for someone who would like to understand Wiles's proof?
 

Demystifier

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2018 Award
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P.R. Holland, The Quantum Theory of Motion
This is a quantum-mechanics textbook written from the Bohmian point of view, that teachs you both the standard and the Bohmian way of thinking. After reading that book (I was 32 at that time), for the first time in my life I had the feeling that now I understand QM intuitively. That book shaped a lot of my subsequent professional research on quantum foundations.
 

CWatters

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In my case it was probably "An introduction to VLSI systems" by Carver Mead and Lyn Conway (early 80s I think it was). At the time I was designing an ASIC using pencil and paper. Ended up quitting my job to work for another company.
 

lavinia

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I have no one textbook as my education is largely informal.

The most enticing math books have been in topology and differential geometry - Milnor's books Characteristic Classes, Topology form the Differentiable Viewpoint, Morse Theory, and Lectures on the H-Cobordism Theorem and Struik's book on Classical Differential Geometry. I would agree with @Svein as well about Ahlfors' Complex Analysis because it derives the theory completely using complex analytical techniques and each theorem is elegantly presented. The book is so well written that it can be taken as an introduction to much of modern mathematics.

And there is Feller's book on probability theory especially volume 1. In some ways this may be the best math book ever.

For Physics Feynmann's Lectures and even more Leonard Susskind's Lectures are completely delicious. Feynmann loves the explanatory power of Physics. Susskind loves its conceptual frameworks. I particularly like Susskind's lectures on Classical Mechanics and his speculative lecture on "Entanglement equals gravity."
 
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There are quite a few physics texts that Ive enjoyed reading over my Undergrad Career. Goldstien Classical Physics, Boas Math Physics, And Griffiths EMT were some very enjoyable reads. Some books are better read in silence at home then in a classroom setting. I haven't finished off either of these texts but by and large They've made a big impression on my undergrad career. I've currently been reading some books from the Demystified series an Schaum's Advanced Mathematics for Engineers it's been nice filling in some of the gaps that I've missed along the way. Its always fun going over some of the problems mentally.
 
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DrDu

Science Advisor
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The book which certainly influenced me most, was "Elementare Quantenchemie" by Hans Primas and Ulrich Müller-Herold. Alas, it has never been translated into english language. I read it as a high school student and learned quantum mechanics from it. Formally certainly a text book, it is one of the strangest text books I ever ran into. I learned and understood from it the Dirac formalism in quantum mechanics, although I learned practically nothing about how to solve applied problems in theoretical chemistry. Hans Primas was a professor at the ETH Zurich and the PhD supervisor of Nobel prize winner Richard Ernst. He was more a science philosopher in the tradition of von Weitzsäcker and especially Wolfgang Pauli.
While the main curriculum of the book is completely self contained and best comparable maybe to Ballentine in that it takes great care to distinguish between kinetics and kinematics and discusses the Gallilean symmetry group as a basis for quantum chemistry. On the other hand side, there are many excursions on topics which I was astonished to find in none of the supposedly more advanced (but in reality mostly of the "shut up and calculate" style) books on quantum mechanics for "real physicists" like C* algebras, superselection rules or operator theory of unbounded operators. Closest in spirit are here the books by Rudolf Haag "Local quantum physics" and John von Neumann's "Mathematical Foundations in Quantum Mechanics".
 

vanhees71

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To call any serious physicist a philosopher is not very kind, and to compare Weizsäcker (clearly a philosopher, no question) with Pauli (clearly a physicist with some interest in philosophy touching even the esoteric, but clearly a physicist) is simply a joke! BTW the worst book claimed to be about physics I've ever started to read (I could stand to read about 60 pages, then I had to stop reading to avoid getting mad) was by Weizsäcker (the book was called "Einheit der Physik").
 

DrDu

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To call any serious physicist a philosopher is not very kind, and to compare Weizsäcker (clearly a philosopher, no question) with Pauli (clearly a physicist with some interest in philosophy touching even the esoteric, but clearly a physicist) is simply a joke! BTW the worst book claimed to be about physics I've ever started to read (I could stand to read about 60 pages, then I had to stop reading to avoid getting mad) was by Weizsäcker (the book was called "Einheit der Physik").
I don't consider it unkind to call a phycistist a science philosopher and I don't think that Primas would have objected.
My statement about Weizsäcker and Pauli was also not meant as judging or comparing their achievements but rather pointing out the philosophic line also among the pupils of your favourite Sommerfeld.
 

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