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Best Books for Physics.

  1. Feb 2, 2012 #1
    Hi, so at the moment i'm in what we call Secondary School in England - i'm not to sure what this is in America and other countries of the sort, so ill put my age - i'm 15.

    I love physics (as implied by me being on a forum), and I want to understand it in more depth. I understand things such as; dark matter and energy, E=mc2, E2=m2c4+p2c2, The Standard Model, Quantum Mechanics, String Theory, E=hc/λ, black holes and things of that nature, etc, etc.

    Im wondering is there any books that can help cement my knowledge of physics? Maybe give me an even better insight into string theory, or some more Quantum Mechanics? Or can you give me some more theories and equations to look into?

    I also want to know, what books would teach me the equations behind String Theory and things of that nature - I understand most of it, just I cant come to grips with the equations at this current moment in time.

    All help will be greatly appreciated, thanks :)
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 2, 2012 #2
    not to be rude or condescending, but what do you mean when you say "understand". I'm a physics undergrad and I don't understand energy. High energy physics requires some pretty nasty math that will not help you at all unless you have spent a lot of time thinking about math. If you really understand all of that jazz, you shouldn't waste your time asking for advice on this forum. However, there are lots of very interesting things that can lead you in the right direction, but require less mathematical maturity.

    A better understanding of your mathematical knowledge will make book recommendations possible. (I still won't be able to recommend any good string theory books no matter what your answer.)
  4. Feb 2, 2012 #3
    No, you don't..
    You might understand some broad analogy that is wrong in many ways but you don't understand those things. No one does
    String theory is very advanced stuff and I really doubt you are ready for it.

    Step 1.
    you need maths and a lot of it, you need to understand linear vector spaces, you need to understand calculus of multiple variables, you need to understand differential geometry
    that will point you in the right direction

    Step 2.
    2.1 Get some feel for F=ma type problems, don't play with thermodynamics yet, it'll just confuse you.
    2.2 Learn about least action, the lagrangian, the hamiltionan reformulation, the canonical equations, symmetries and conservation laws, phase space, integrability of equations
    2.3 Learn electrodynamics without involving the action principle
    2.4 Learn relativity and use the relatavistic action
    2.5 Learn electrodynamics in this framework
    2.6 Learn general relativity
    2.7 Learn quantum mechanics and onwards, from here you should know where to go next

    That will give you some sort of a guide

    I'd also reccomend Landau and Lifgarbagez series of books, A Course of Theoretical Physics. They're pretty good.

    To summarise
    Maths first, physics later.

    Good luck on your mathematical and physical journey my friend!
  5. Feb 3, 2012 #4
    I would suggest an informal calculus book like "Calculus Made Easy". Then you should be able to start on some basic physics texts.

    You'll need to be patient if your goal is to learn string theory. It takes many years of study in math and physics even to get to that level.
  6. Feb 3, 2012 #5
    Thanks for the suggestions!
    To start me off i'm reading through http://www.trillia.com/d7/zakon-basic-a4-two.pdf "Basic Concepts of Mathematics."

    I will of came of very arrogant by the way I put everything before, the way I said it made me look to say that I completely understand it all. I only know the surface to them, the very basics. I know of no math (bar the simple equations I noted) to do with the theories. So all the steps you said will be a new thing for me, hopefully helping me to learn more and more physics!

    Once again, thanks!
  7. Feb 3, 2012 #6
    I just read the preface, and I think it sounds fantastic! It looks a little difficult for a secondary school student (maybe even for a high school student) but if you can swallow it, good for you.

    However, you should realize that this is a book in pure mathematics, and will probably not be very useful for you if you want to understand the math behind physical theories. In that case, the "plug n' chug" style the author talks about in the preface will be more effective, despite the lack of rigour.
  8. Feb 3, 2012 #7
    Where I come from highschool is secondary school :surprised

    I also half agree and half disagree with you.. it depends on what kind of person 96hicksy is.
    With me I found that knowing more of the deeper workings of mathematics has helped me understand a lot of results in physics a lot better, especially when you get to more advanced formalisms. Other people I know go on fine without knowing it though.

    Although when you're at such an early level you're really going to want to focus on getting to grips with the top layer of maths, the "plug n' chug" type stuff first. Knowing what's going on there will guide you into what you do or do not want to learn (and you will hopefully have developed the skills to learn from textbooks well enough to digest pure maths textbooks by then, learning from a textbook, specifically a maths textbook, is a skill that has to be practiced).
  9. Feb 4, 2012 #8
    Despite Generic's tone and the fact that he/she recommends Physics as a second step to math (which I totally disagree with) I would second Hooft's website as an excellent guide. You will need a lot more sources, but it helps give you a road map. That book that you're reading seems cool, but calculus will be very important too. While knowing more foundations of math will certainly not hurt, I know a number of good physics students that have minimal understanding of the subject.

    You should be able to DO calculus as well as understand it. These are two different things. There are tons of free books and there are videos on YouTube and iTunes U. The quality varies, but I personally respond better to seeing things as well as reading.

    Here for physics:
    Ask questions when they arise. (I'm pretty sure the author posts here)

    Most importantly, don't shy away from Newtonian Mechanics in search of the new theories. A lot of the same principles arise in QM etc. Also, classical mechanics still has a number of subfields with active research! It isn't a closed book.
  10. Feb 4, 2012 #9
    This*100, hamiltonian dynamics and poisson brackets are going to be one of your only guiding lights when you enter the world of quantum mechanics
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