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Best Textbook on Electromagnetics

  1. Oct 14, 2017 #1

    I am here to seek advice on a textbook for my second-year undergraduate course in electromagnatic field theory.

    My concern with the recommended textbook is that it isn't easy to read. Any author that proceeds through a proof by simply stating "Next, taking the curl of..." doesn't offer much by way of intuitive understanding. Admittedly, taking the curl of anything relates to an understanding of its rotationality, but in the context of, say, proceeding from one of Maxwell's equation to the general wave equation, a comment in english on the general idea, direction and motivation is surely the hallmark of a considerate teacher.

    So, this is an appeal to anyone who has been fortunate enough to find a book by a good teacher.

    Look forward to your recommendations.

    Best Wishes from India on the auspicious occasion of the Festival of Lights,
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 14, 2017 #2
    What is your recommended textbook? Perhaps you can supplement (instead of replacing) your recommended book with the following?
    A Student's Guide to Maxwell's Equations by Fleisch

    The Other options would be to get another book like Griffiths, Purcell or the best book (perhaps a bit at a higher level than you seek) - Landau . The other favorites of mine are Englert (you can get the Indian edition cheaper I believe), Schwartz, and Nayfeh.
  4. Oct 14, 2017 #3
    Best wishes to you too.

    You can try Irodov, It is not the best book out there but it is free, so you can look into it for some topics that are not well explained in your textbook.
    smodak gave a pretty good list anyways.
  5. Oct 14, 2017 #4
  6. Oct 15, 2017 #5


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    A good choice is also Vol. II of the Feynman Lectures, which are also available online for free:


    It's upper level undergraduate and provides also physics intuition.

    On the graduate level there's of course J. D. Jacksons classic. I'd recommend the 2nd edition, because it uses the Gaussian system of units, and the switch to SI (and then within the book using Gaussian units when it comes to relativity) in the 3rd edition is not justified by the other changes of the book.

    While Jackson is a traditional textbook, Landau&Lifshitz vol. II is modern in introducing the adequate relativistic point of view from the very beginning. It's among the best books with this approach. An alternative is Schwartz's book. The success of vol. II of Berkeley's physics course (Purcell) is an enigma to me. Although using the modern relativistic approach, it's rather confusing in comparison to Landau&Lifshitz or Schwartz.

    Then there is Schwinger's textbook on classical electrodynamics. I'd recommend to read it as a 2nd source since it's a bit unconventional in the mathematical methods, but that's also its strength. Nowhere I have seen a more elegant introduction of the Bessel functions and many other very beautiful mathematical derivations of the classical mathematical methods needed in E&M.
  7. Oct 15, 2017 #6
    I forgot about this. I agree, it will be a great book for OP's purpose. A direct link to the book: http://www.feynmanlectures.caltech.edu/II_toc.html

    This may just be me, but I never got used to this book. It always confuses me and I find Jackson is a hard to read book.

    The Englert book that I mentioned above closely follows Scwinger's approach but is a bit easier to read and ,don't murder me for saying this, the way Schwinger's book should have been written?

    By the way, I am reading and really enjoying Susskind's third book (also takes the relativistic approach from the get go) on field theory. This should also supplement a traditional text book quite nicely.
  8. Oct 16, 2017 #7
    I also think the same after reading the book. I would guess that Purcell's Nobel prize had a hand in it.
  9. Oct 16, 2017 #8


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  10. Oct 17, 2017 #9


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    "On the graduate level there's of course J. D. Jacksons classic. I'd recommend the 2nd edition, because it uses the Gaussian system of units, and the switch to SI (and then within the book using Gaussian units when it comes to relativity) in the 3rd edition is not justified by the other changes of the book.
    This may just be me, but I never got used to this book. It always confuses me and I find Jackson is a hard to read book."

    It is on the same level as Jackson, but is easier to read.
  11. Oct 18, 2017 #10

    Dr Transport

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    Wangsness, by far the best undergrad text I have ever used for electromagnetics
  12. Oct 25, 2017 #11
    First of all, can I just say: Feynman. Considerate.
  13. Oct 27, 2017 #12
    Many thanks for the responses. Thanks everyone - Smodak, Buffu, deskswirl, vanhees71, atyy, clem, Dr Transport.

    Deepavali is now past. But the lights will remain till X'mas. In the meantime, I propose a face-off...

    Who's facing off?

    Sadiku (my current text's author)

    Face-off Protocol

    All recommended authors will be measured on just one metric, which is how they derive these two (2) topics:
    1) the general wave equation from Maxwell's equation
    2) Poynting vector from Maxwell's equations

    Over the next couple of weeks, I will attempt to gather online, free, and library based texts by the authors all of you have recommended.

    Please grow this thread with your participation.

    Look forward!
  14. Oct 27, 2017 #13
    So the face-off begins with the first of 14 authors: Sadiku, Matthew N. O.

    1) the general wave equation from Maxwell's equation


    2) Poynting vector from Maxwell's equations


    What I can't appreciate in Sadiku's approach?

    Above two images highlight Sadiku's approach, which is characterised by statements such as:

    "Taking the curl of both sides..."
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2017
  15. Oct 27, 2017 #14


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    Do Deepavali lights always remain till Christmas?
  16. Oct 27, 2017 #15
    No, this would be the first time we attempt to do so. And that's only because I am finally home having spent the last 20 years in Melbourne -> Mumbai -> Berkeley -> Delhi -> Boston -> Philadelphia and now...in the foothills of the outer Himalayas.

    It's quite nice here.
  17. Oct 27, 2017 #16
    Why did you choose these as the criteria ?
  18. Oct 29, 2017 #17


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    Deriving the wave equation from the two Maxwell curl equations is just a mathematical exercise that is useful because we know a lot about solutions to the wave equation. If you are looking for some deep insight from the derivation then I think you will be dissapointed by every book I am familiar with. The insightful part is examining properties of various solutions: travelling waves in space, guided waves, wave generation (radiation), interference and diffraction.

    Likewise, the motivation for the derivation of Poynting's theorem is that the final result is useful. Examining the terms in Poyntings theorem in different scenarios is the interesting part. Feynman has nice discussions on this.
  19. Oct 29, 2017 #18
    Just take Purcell I myself study it and like it a lot, and many people here like it, Or Griffiths book which is another great electromagnetism book, just one of them or both and you'll be good.
  20. Oct 30, 2017 #19


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    The Poynting vector naturally occurs by the use of Noether's theorem to the space-time translation symmetry of Minkowski space. In the case of electrodynamics, however, there's a subtlety, which is gauge invariance. That is because the densities/currents of the conserved quantities is not uniquely defined by Noether's theorem, and you have to add an appropriate contribution to the canonical energy-momentum-stress tensor to get a gauge invariant one.

    Alternatively you can think about, where the densities/currents really physically occur, and that's general relativity, i.e., the energy-momentum-stress tensor of matter and radiation occurs from the variation of the space-time metric components in the generally covariant matter-radiation Lagrangian providing the energy-momentum-stress tensor as the sources of the gravitational field in Einstein's Equations. Specializing this general derivation afterwards to Minkowski space yields the physical symmetric and gauge invariant energy-momentum-stress tensor of the electromagnetic field as it must be for a physically relevant quantity. Splitting in space-time components with respect to a fixed inertial reference frame yields the usual quantities of the (3+1) (3D vector analysis) formalism, including the Poynting vector as the energy-flow density.

    While Griffiths is a marvelous introductory E&M book, I warn against Purcell. In its attempt to be pedagogical it mystifies the relativistic approach by not introducing the appropriate tensor-analysis formalism beforehand. On the other hand a relativistic approach from the very beginning is in principle good and appropriate for the 21st century. The best book on the graduate level is Landau&Lifhitz vol. 2. A bit more introductory and great in emphasizing physics intuition is the textbook by M. Schwartz (also a Nobel Laureate by the way):

  21. Oct 30, 2017 #20


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