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Studying Beginning physics knowledge while in middle school

  1. Feb 12, 2017 #1
    Hi, I'm slowly making my way through eighth grade, and bored - though I'm set to enroll in an ib high school next year in order to dodge the costly mess, still for the duration of 8th grade I'll probably have a lot of free time, since I have no means of transportation right now. I think that I've gotten and read all the books on physics I could find from the local library, which extends mostly to shallow explanations of classical mechanics, and no mathematics at all. It's probably pointless to study things that I will take full years on in high school, or attempt to backwardly study higher concepts that I can't fully understand yet. I would be happier than anything if anyone on here could point me towards anything that I could chew on within the bounds of self-study, before I take those much-dreamed-of high school classes. I'm very interested in physics, chemistry, music, and literature. Thank you very much for your time.
    Last edited: Feb 12, 2017
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 12, 2017 #2


    Staff: Mentor

    Susskinds books are pretty good. They are aimed at folks who took physics ages ago and now want to have a deeper understanding. He has two books right now one on Quantum Mechanics and one of Classical Mechanics. The math explanations are good but may be beyond your current understanding.

    Another good resource are Benjamin Crowell's online books at www.lightandmatter.com

    They are free and the one on Conceptual physics maybe of interest to you as the others require some higher level math that you may not have had yet i.e. Trigonometry and Calculus.
  4. Feb 12, 2017 #3
    I had a great Physical Science course at about that age, and we provided a similar course for our own home schooled teens. It's more or less semester of physics and one semester of chemistry. Most concepts were illustrated with quantitative problem solving - not as deep as a good high school course, but some simple projectile motion, Newton's 2nd law, simple machines, collisions, conservation of energy, etc.

    If you have a bit of a budget, you can do Derek Owens Physical Science for $58 a month and ALEKS Chemistry for $20 a month. Both are excellent. Coursera has a great astrophysics course (through Duke U), but that one will definitely stretch your math skills.
  5. Feb 12, 2017 #4
    Thank you for your reply - I'll look at these ones.
  6. Feb 12, 2017 #5
    I appreciate it, I'm glad to know resources to start if need be.
  7. Feb 12, 2017 #6


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    Staff: Mentor

    What math do you know already: algebra, trigonometry, maybe even some calculus?

    Studying "real" physics requires some math, at least algebra and some trigonometry. Without some calculus, you'll have to accept as given, equations that require calculus to derive, but you'd still get something out of it.

    Otherwise I'd concentrate on books etc. that are basically about the history and development of physics, and the people behind it. You'll get an idea of the different areas and how they fit together. When you start studying those areas seriously, with math, you'll have a framework on which to hang them, so to speak.

    When I was in middle and high school (more than 40 years ago!), I read things like George Gamow's "Thirty Years That Shook Physics", which is about the period during which quantum mechanics was discovered.
  8. Feb 13, 2017 #7
    I took algebra/geometry through my school and various exercises and courses for trigonometry online through open access college/education things; I go into precalc sometimes and see familiar topics, but I hear that calculus is daunting. There was one book at the library called "The Age of Entanglement", by Louisa Gilder, that I think I read through on the subject. Now, I see that it is only reinforced that books are the most universal solution. Thank you for the advice.
  9. Jun 2, 2017 #8
    You strike me as an individual with unrestrained curiosity and much potential. For that reason, I honestly think you should go ahead and indulge yourself in physics and math as much as possible. If I were you, I'd work on sharpening algebra, geometry and precalc skills to ensure you have a rigorous foundation in math before you start learning calculus. I'm not too sure what books you should use to solidify this foundation, so hopefully others can chime in here, but you can do some Khan academy practice, though I'm not sure how helpful that is.

    You can start studying physics concurrently with calculus. I'd recommend a beginner textbook like Knight's "Physics for Scientists and Engineers" or "Fundamental Physics" by Halliday and Resnick.
  10. Jun 2, 2017 #9


    Staff: Mentor

  11. Jun 15, 2017 #10
    I can't help you much on physics resources, but I self-studied a decent amount of math at about the level you're at so here are some good resources:

    https://betterexplained.com (a favorite of mine, although it's mostly calculus and up)

    So it's not for everyone, but I am a fan of the Life of Fred series. It's a narrative story that teaches you math as you go-- you read about the adventures of Fred, a 5 year old math professor, and he encounters many bizarre situations that he has to use math to solve. Yes it's absurd and ridiculous, which I love but again isn't for everybody. Some people think it could be more rigorous but I found it to be much more thorough than what I learned in my normal math classes. There is a physics/pre-algebra book, obviously you're far past pre algebra so that might be boring for you. But maybe you'd learn some of the physics? I haven't personally used that book.

    You can also check out Art of Problem Solving, I don't know how relevant it is to physics but there are lots of resources there for accelerated math students.

    The International Physics Olympiad/US physics olympiad (if you aren't in the US your country probably has some form of it) might be of interest to you. Academic competitions aren't for everyone (they aren't for me) but some people really like them. Here's some info on the U.S. chapter. Even if you aren't interested in competing, there are probably other self studying resources connected to it and maybe some classes.
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