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Classical mechanics

  1. Feb 15, 2010 #1
    I can already tell this semester is going to be a rough one. With two weeks until the semester begins, I've been attempting to work through the notes for my classical mechanics course (lagrangian & hamiltonian mechanics). Wow. Really dense stuff. I'm having a pretty difficult time following the concepts, and the textbook they've prescribed cannot be found anywhere. So, I've started this thread for two reasons:

    1) Could anyone recommend a decent introductory classical mechanics textbook(s)?

    2) I'd like to hear your experiences with classical mechanics. Is it really a difficult course? Any study tips you could share?
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 15, 2010 #2
    It will probably be easier with explanation from the instructor. Lagrangian really isn't so bad... you basically subtract the potential energy from the kinetic and solve a 1st order differential equation for the motion.

    As for textbooks, my first intro to L+H was Marion & Thornton, it seemed to work alright. My second time through it was Goldstein, also alright.
  4. Feb 15, 2010 #3
    Marion & Thornton and Hand & Finch are two good books for first-time Classical Mechanics.

    As Mororvia points out, the Lagrangian is generally the difference between kinetic and potential energies (there can be cases where it's not, though you'll likely not see them in your first time through) and will be solving one second order differential equations, not first order (it's [itex]D_t^2x=-\omega^2x[/itex], not [itex]D_tx=-\omega^2x[/itex]!).
    The Hamiltonian formulation of mechanics is usually the total energy (it is not the total energy if the Lagrangian depends on time explicitly) and you'll be solving two first order differential equations.

    Tips for doing well:
    --Do all the homework the professor assigns
    --Do problems the professor doesn't assign for help
    --Read ahead always
    --Work out the solved examples in your text on your own & compare results
    --Don't be afraid to ask questions
  5. Feb 15, 2010 #4
    Oops. Yes, second order. Thats what I get for not reviewing after its been so long! Sorry for any confusion.
  6. Feb 15, 2010 #5
    I have made a thread on online CM resources:

    My generic booklist for CM would be:

    Classical Mechanics-Gregory
    Classical Mechanics-Kibble

    Classical Dynamics-Jose/Saletan
    Mathematical Methods of Classical Mechanics-Arnold(if you dare)

    EDIT: What is your obscure book, anyway?
  7. Feb 15, 2010 #6
    You are brave to call Jose/Saletan & Arnold "Intermediate." We used Jose/Saletan for my graduate mechanics course and I don't understand much of it (fortunately, I had Marion & Thornton, Greiner, and Goldstein at my disposal to learn the mechanics part and Frankel's Geometry of Physics to learn the differential geometry part). I would label these "Advanced" with emphasizing a lot of mathematical background, specifically differential geometry.

    Now that I mention it, the Greiner series and Landau/Lifschitz series are excellent books for all of their subject areas (I think Greiner is better than Landau b/c the latter tends to be very wordy).
  8. May 5, 2011 #7


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    How would you compare Kibble to Marion and Thornton? So far, I'm noticing that Marion and Thornton seem more useful for specific problems since it seems to have more concrete examples. Especially on things like many-body systems
  9. May 5, 2011 #8
    Alot of my physics major friends took CM with the Kibble book and hated it, the professor specifically chose Kibble because it didn't have alot of examples nor a solutions manual and my friends all found it very difficult to study for the course (though the fact the professor gave 6 exams not including the final might've had something to do with it).
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