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Dumbing down of Calculus Based Physics

  1. Jul 8, 2011 #1
    I am trying to learn calculus based physics, but I am unhappy with the book that I currently use. I want a comprehensive introductory physics resorce that is not afraid to use introductory calculus. (The book that I have sometimes stays away from it). Can anyone suggest such a resorce?
    [Edit] Thank you for moving this topic [Edit]
    Last edited: Jul 8, 2011
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 8, 2011 #2


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    Depending on what you mean by "introductory" calc, a good possibility to start with might be Kleppner and Kolenknow, An Introduction to Mechanics: http://www.amazon.com/Introduction-...8216/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1310142904&sr=8-1 It has its pros and cons, which you can find out about from the amazon reviews, but it's known as a classic rigorous text for students who have the necessary extremely strong preparation. You can look at the amazon reviews to see if it's likely to be at the right math level for you.

    They Feynman lectures are at a similar intellectual level, but they have no exercises, which makes them essentially useless for self-study.

    When you get beyond mechanics and want to do E&M, the best book by far is Purcell. Purcell tries to teach you vector calc as you go along. It would probably not be wise to attempt it unless you are taking an actual vector calc course concurrently by then.

    I try not to use this forum to hype my own books, but they're free online, and you can easily find them by googling.
  4. Jul 8, 2011 #3

    What I meant was single variable calculus. If you have suggestions for mechanics that don't require that much vector calc and do not require multivariable calc, I appreciate them. I will look into the book you suggest.
    (vecor calc will show up in a mechanics book if they rely on calc for some derivations, am I wrong?:) I cant have it too easy. :) )
  5. Jul 8, 2011 #4
  6. Jul 8, 2011 #5


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    I think Kleppner introduces a little vector calc here and there, but does not assume you know any going in.
  7. Jul 18, 2011 #6
    Do physicists actually use the word "rigorous" to describe the Feynman Lectures? Maybe Ben meant something different by "rigorous" -- I think of "rigorous" as meaning "precise" and "formal" (as in "mathematically rigorous.") I wonder if Ben meant "rigorous" as a synonym for "difficult."

    I had thought the Feynman Lectures were famed for their informal use of mathematics and ability to teach the reader to "think like a physicist." (No fretting over Lebesgue integrals or measure theory here!) And unless my memory is playing tricks, I seem to recall Feynman teasing mathematicians at times in the Lectures.

    Don't get me wrong -- the Feynman Lectures are great precisely because they are mathematically informal, allowing a reader to build up her scientific intuition. (However, I am also not sure I would recommend the Feynman Lectures as a primary text to an undergraduate student -- they form a great supplementary text.)

    When I think of a mathematically rigorous textbook, I think of something like V. I. Arnold's Mathematical Methods of Classical Mechanics. (While Arnold's book was written for third-year undergraduates at Moscow State University, and while it is certainly one of the greatest applied math books of all time, I think it is fairly difficult even for graduate physics students, let alone undergraduates!)

    Are there any introductory physics books that use a mathematically rigorous approach? I am not aware of any.
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