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Best physics books!

  1. Oct 7, 2006 #1
    Could you suggest some good books to read b/c I don't really have time in my hand to read everyother book. Telling me about an author could also help like, Stephen Hawking and Brian Greene's books are normally pretty good. I would also appreciate if you guys could tell me about places online where I can find good articles and/or ebooks like stephenhawking.com

    Thx a lot.
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 7, 2006 #2


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  4. Oct 8, 2006 #3
    I'm not big on physics "poetry" books, but one of my favorites is B. K. Ridely, Time, Space, and Things, because he discusses some fundamental physical ideas in a way that's actually useful.

    Some other favorites:

    Feynman et al, Lectures on Physics, vols. 1-3

    Fermi, Thermodynamics.

    Schwartz, Principles of Electrodynamics.

    Landau, et al Course of Theoretical Physics (I only have the first 4 volumes so far).

    Misner, Thorne & Wheeler, Gravitation. Yeah, it's not optimal as a GR text, but still great fun to read.
  5. Oct 8, 2006 #4


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    What do you like about Fermi and Schwartz's books?
  6. Oct 8, 2006 #5
    It depends on how much you are prepared to work and what your educational background is. So called popular science books, of which Stephen King is the finest example, may get you excited and teach you a few terminologies and pretty diagrams, but they won't tell you anything about physics. All you'll get from reading these a sense of satisfaction, with nothing substantial behind it.

    If you really want to know physics, then you have to learn the math. Just like there's no royal road to geometry, there's no non-mathematical way to physics.

    RP Feynman's Lectures in Physics is a highly recommended book, though I personally found it very difficult to understand. If you didn't have math in high-school then you will have to learn essential concepts like algebra, analytical geometry and most importantly, calculus. You must know your calculus back-to-front, and also have some ideas of abstract algebra, topology, complex analysis. Roger Penrose's Road to Reality may be helpful as a crash course on required topics.

    Now that you have the math under your belt, it's time for the unfortunate truth: the only way to learn physics is using good textbooks. If you didn't have physics in high-school, then start with Halliday and Resnick's Physics (not Fundamentals of Physics) and HC Verma's Concepts of Physics. Try to do the problems, at least some of them. If you truly love physics, then doing good problems should get your pulse racing.

    After you have covered the basics, move onto more specialised stuff:-

    1)Kleppner and Kolenkow-Intro to Mechanics
    2)Griffiths-Intro to Electrodynamics
    3)Thermodynamics and Statistical Mechanics
    4)Fluid Mechanics
    5)Griffiths-Intro to Quantum Mechanics
    6)Theory of Relativity

    If you are really serious, you may consider pursuing studies to the postgraduate level:-

    1)Shankar-Quantum Mechanics
    3)Goldstein-Classical Mechanics
    4)Statistical Mechanics
    5)Landau et al.-Course in Theoretical Physics

    If you really cover all this material without enrolling in a university, then you are a genius and I wouldn't be surprised if your name starts appearing in journals.
  7. Oct 8, 2006 #6
    Feynman might be putting math there but he writes it all in highly intriguing and interesting way so you don't really notice mathematics :))
  8. Oct 8, 2006 #7
    Fermi's book is very clearly written. Schwartz's book is very lucid on all the topics he covers. I especially like his treatment of radiation and diffraction. He does use the old [itex]ict[/itex] notation in his discussion of relativity, though.

    EDIT: thinking about it, I think one thing that impressed me about the Fermi book (which is from 1936) was the writing style. A lot of physics books tend to be written in a rather flat manner.
    Last edited: Oct 8, 2006
  9. Oct 8, 2006 #8


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    How would you compare Fermi's book with Reif?
  10. Oct 8, 2006 #9
    I don't them, so I can't answer them, about my level of Physics, I am in physics AP right now, all we have done so far is Work physics and an intro in relativity.
  11. Oct 8, 2006 #10
    I'm not familiar with Reif. Fermi's book is just on thermo; no stat mech or kinetic theory. For thermo, I think Fermi is more accessible to a general audience (that is, a general audience with some knowledge of calculus.)

    I recently got the Dover book Equilibrium Statistical Mechanics by Atlee Jackson, which is at the undergrad level, and looks good, but I've only had a chance to page through it so far.
  12. Oct 8, 2006 #11
    I'd still recommend Ridley's short little Time, Space, and Things.

    Just about anything by George Gamow, particularly Gravity and Thirty Years That Shook Physics.

    For relativity, It's About Time by N. David Mermin. Spacetime Physics by Taylor is more challenging. Geometry, Relativity,and the Fourth Dimension by Rudy Rucker is fun if you ignore the mystical stuff he throws in.

    Almost All About Waves by John R. Pierce.

    For some math, Fundamentals of Scientific Mathematics by George E. Owen.
  13. Oct 8, 2006 #12
    Stephen King? I'm not following you... :redface:

    Abstract algebra and topology in Feynman? I don't recall any. And no complex analysis, either, just complex numbers.
  14. Oct 8, 2006 #13


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    I see, thanks.
  15. Oct 9, 2006 #14
    :blushing: HAWking

    I didn't say there was abstract algebra and topology in Feynman, I was saying that these are general topics in Mathematics you should have an idea of to understand physics. Complex analysis is something everyone should study if only for the sheer delight of it: I've rarely come across something so beutiful, complete and elegant.
  16. Oct 9, 2006 #15
    What's Work physics? Anyway, unless I'm mistaken Physics AP is a high-school level course? In which case you will cover the equivalent of Halliday Resnick and Verma as part of your course. Finish your textbooks first. After that move on to the undergrad level, beginning with Kleppner and Kolenkow, a solid base of classical mechanics is a prerquisite for anything else.

    You've already covered single-variable real calculus and introductory differential equations? In that case cover multi-variable real calculus thoroughly with special attention to the part known as vector calculus (of course not without first studying linear algebra). Try Apostol's two-volume Calculus for the whole package. I'm currently skimming through the first volume and while he's a bit unorthodox, he is thorough, rigorous and clear. Pick up what other math you need as you go along.
  17. Oct 9, 2006 #16

    George Jones

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    Here are a couple of serious attempts at popularizations of physics. Even though they are populariztions, they both require work to read.

    Deep Down Things: The Breathtaking Beauty of Particle Physics, by Bruce Schumm takes on modern elementary particle physics and the quantum theory of gauge fields.

    A nice book on relativity is General Relativity from A to B by a master, Robert Geroch.

    Sean, in his grad text on relativity, writes "A truly beuatiful exposition of the workings of spacetime." about Geroch's book.

    Speaking of Sean Carroll, his blog entry on popular-level quantum theory books generated a lot of comments.
  18. Oct 9, 2006 #17
    I agree with you that complex analysis is a really beautiful subject. But you can probably learn to do contour integrals in an afternoon. And I think only a smattering of topology and abstract algebra is needed. And none of these subjects are really needed in the undergrad physics curriculum.
  19. Oct 9, 2006 #18
    What about articles, online ebooks, do you guys know any links? I would really appreciate that.
  20. Oct 10, 2006 #19

    I am enjoying Roger Penrose's book "The Road to Reality". Warning though, the math is wild, but interesting. You should really have at least complex analysis and topology to understand it. He tries to cover all modern physics and math in a thousand pages, but really only hits the high points (of course) and has an interesting (say unusual) persepective.
  21. Oct 11, 2006 #20
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