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Books for self learning physics?

  1. May 6, 2005 #1
    I have a job as a salesman in a store that gets maybe 5 customers a day if I'm lucky. No excessive chores (vacuum, clean bathrooms, takes maybe an hour all together), so I'm left with hours of time of not doing anything. So I figure (especially over the summer) that I might as well learn a thing or two on my own.

    But I don't want to just pick up a text book and start reading it. I don't want this to be a substitute for a physics course, just something that will ease me into higher physics. Some math is good, but I'd rather it be more about conceptual stuff.

    To give you an idea of what I can handle, my math goes to Calculus III, and my physics includes 1 quarter each of: classical mechanics, E&M, fluids, heat, and either sound or light later this quarter.

    I know I'm being very picky here, but if I start reading something that is too complex or boring, I'll quickly lose interest. =/

    Also, is C++ easy to learn on your own? I'm taking a class now, and I really don't understand the book at all, but when the prof explains it, I get it instantly. Is it just the book that's crappy, or does an explanation go a long way?

  2. jcsd
  3. May 6, 2005 #2
    In general, the less you put in, the less you get out, as I'm sure you know from your JJ training. No pain, no gain. If you browse through some of the forums here, you'll see people who claim to understand more than they do because they've read pop-physics books that focus strictly on the conceptual. Their understanding, in reality, is quite superficial. In order to learn some physics, you'll need to put in hard work solving problems.

    As for book recs, I find that Griffiths' Introduction to Elementary Particles to be highly readable, even though it is a textbook. As I recall, you're in high school still? So you only have done high school math and physics. Griffiths might still be too advanced for you. You should probably learn vector calculus, linear algebra, and Fourier analysis first. Still, maybe you'll understand some portion of it.

    I've never looked at his quantum mechanics textbook, but it's supposed to be pretty good. His E&M book is great, and could be used in a freshman year physics major course at a good university.

    I would check out Spacetime Physics for an introduction to special relativity.

    Otherwise just stick with The Elegant Universe if you are allergic to equations and want a description of string theory and general relativity for laymen.
  4. May 6, 2005 #3


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    You should read this article ("Why is Quantum Mechanics SO Difficult") before you decide that you would rather just have a conceptual understanding without the mathematics.

    https://www.physicsforums.com/journal.php?s=&action=view&journalid=6230&perpage=10&page=1 [Broken]

    Even if you aren't specifically interested in QM, I think I can safely say that no area of physics can be fully understood without learning the math.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 2, 2017
  5. May 6, 2005 #4
    the text book by SERWAY..."PHysics" is an elementary book very light reading with lots of examples.

    the new novel by Penrose...should be a good read though its got alot of math
  6. May 6, 2005 #5
    No, I'm in first year college. The physics courses I'm taking definately weren't offered in my high school. The math was, but I never got that far. I took a year of calc in HS, and that wasn't enough to bump me over 1st year college math. Right now I'm taking sequences and series.

    If you say knowing the math is really important, then I guess I have no choice. I want to know physics, not just think I know physics. Right now I'm using Physics for Scientists and Engineers 3rd Edition by Giancoli, and it sucks. It has maybe a paragraph explaining what's going on, and then jumps into the math wihtout me really catching on. Without it being explained by my prof I would be lost. But I'll check out that Griffith book you recommended.

    Also, that is a great article. :)

    It's not that I don't like math, it's just that when I try to read it, I don't usually understand it unless I already know the math. So if the physics book uses math I already know, it should be fine. But if I have to learn new math just to understand the book, I'll probably give up and cry in a corner somewhere.

  7. May 11, 2005 #6
    For C++ i dont think you need extra help
    you can check some forums on web with your doubts
    I learnt my c++ on my own using
    Thinking in C++ ( Freely available on net google it) (First Book)
    C++ Primer Lippman & Lajoie ( Second Book)
    The C++ language (By The God o Mighty of c++ Bjarne Stroutsoup) (Reference Book)
  8. May 11, 2005 #7
    My honest advice

    I highly advise not to buy Bjarne book, it is not necessary, stick to books like

    C++ Primer,
    Acelerated C++,
    C++ Templates by Nicolai,
    STL by Nicolai

    thats 100% enough for you to go, If i were you, I never waste my money on dictionary-like books, because things in those books are all put up on the Internet, a right or left click on your mouse takes you there.

    Again, don't buy Bjarne books, buy Schildt ones, instead, he gives you more concrete examples for you to go. I don't know for sure but I guess Schildt is not supported by most people in most of the web forums owned by Earthlink, Jupiter or something similar perhaps because he is not joining the fun with those companies. :biggrin:
    His books are all in Japanese school libraries.
    Never go to forums to ask for books because they only want to advertise their OWN books that are to me junk-like thingies.

    Please think of it carefully before making your mind to pick up some books for your study, Money is always hard to find....Just an advice.
    Last edited: May 11, 2005
  9. May 11, 2005 #8
    Stroustrup would be a horrible first book for learning C++, I agree.
  10. May 11, 2005 #9


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    a book for the general public that my dad gave me as a kid, is "a non mathematical survey of quanta", by louis de broglie.

    i am not a physicist, so can only say as a layperson in this area i enjoyed it greatly. ( i am a mathematician.)
  11. May 11, 2005 #10
    Really ? I as always, like real true people :blushing:
  12. May 11, 2005 #11


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    Agreed, you can't go wrong with Herb Schildt, I own five or six of his books and they are all excellent.
  13. May 11, 2005 #12
    Hey man when i say bjarne that's for refrence you have to be einstein to learn c++ from it.but during coding frequently you feel like to consult some documentation and that's when bjarne comes in handy
  14. May 11, 2005 #13
    For C++ I will take another class over the summer (data structures... I hear this is the worst programming job EVER) just so I have something to work on. The book I am using right now is Absolute C++ by Walter Savitch. The compiler that came with it is HORRIBLE. I'll have to get Visual Studio through the school somehow (there's a way you can get it for like $30 my friend said). The explanations he gives are bad too. I don't understand any of the text, I just look at his examples and try to figure it out from there.

  15. May 12, 2005 #14
    For c++ Compiler why not try gnu compilers or still better install linux kmost distributions comes with all tools needed for software development.
  16. May 12, 2005 #15
    I had Linux before. Not good for games (yet. Companies are starting to make their games compatible with Linux), and I don't want to play around with dual boots again. I'll try GNU whatever that is. :)

  17. May 18, 2005 #16
    I'm the same way. What I do is browse the library or large bookstore and cherry-pick the books to find the ones at the just-right level for me. As I learn, the level changes. I suggest Thinking Physics and Relativity Visualized, by the same author, Lewis Carroll Epstein. These will help hone your intuition re physics.

    Maybe your prof is great, but there are so many books on C++ that many must be great as well, for you. Again I'd browse the bookstore or library and browse a chapter of each book to find ones that meet your level. C++ is a subject you don't need a dry textbook for, outside of a class.
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