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Feynmann Lecture on Physics

  1. Feb 3, 2004 #1
    Hi folks,

    I'm a huge physics buff - the obsession is either dormant for some time or hits me in waves - however, my life has led me to another path.. I'm in a healthcare profession now, never to see any real mathematics or physics unless I learn it on my own..

    I've been reading about quantum physics and a little bit of particle physics for the last five years or so, and as far as my background in calculus and physics it is restricted to a first year university class (i'm in second year now), and my algebra and geometry is only highschool level..

    So my dilemma: I'm in love with the ideas, but do not understand the math. I've asked a prof or two of mine and they've recommended me some Feynmann to learn the mathematics behind it all since i'm somewhat familiar with the physics already.. Not to worry, I love mathematics, and I have a knack for it (except for stats.. but thats something I'm willing to work on :P)

    I was hoping to get the opinion of some of you people here - I gather some of you are real hardcore physicists and maybe even professors. I've already done a search and surprisingly no real review of this rather famous set of books is posted.. Its merely mentioned in passing in random posts.

    I would really appreciate any input.. I've managed to find the hardcover set at a bookstore around campus, and I'm wondering if its worth purchasing at about 115 dollars (canadian). I do not mind in the least, as long as it is a worthy reference book.. which I gather it is, I just want to make sure ;)

  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 3, 2004 #2


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    $115 seems a bit steep, but yes, the books are considered very good.
  4. Feb 3, 2004 #3


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    Volume I deals with atomic theory, classical mechanics, and first-year physics concepts.

    Volume II deals with electricity and magnetism.

    Volume III deals with quantum mechanics and particle physics.

    Each volume is about $35 or $40.

    The books are very, very good, and are very easy to read. They do not include problem sets, or examples, or anything else you'd need to actually be able to solve your own problems. In short -- they are not good for learning to do physics, but are paramount for learning to understand physics.

    Keep in mind that Volume III treats quantum-mechanics in a pretty backwards fashion compared to contemporary texts. Also keep in mind that much has changed in particle physics since the 1960's, and quite a bit of the material on particle physics is outdated now.

    If you're only interested in quantum and particle physics, Volumes I and II will not interest you. Overall, though, the Feynman lectures are a beautiful, if not entirely useful, piece of work.

    A good book I found recently on particle physics is "The Ideas of Particle Physics" by J. E. Dodd. It goes deeper than Feynman, is more up-to-date, and is fairly cheap. It doesn't explain everything in exhaustive detail, however.

    - Warren
  5. Feb 3, 2004 #4
    Thank you kindly for your replies.

    I was afraid it might be a little outdated.. But you say that its very helpful in helping you understand physics eh? Hmm. As much as I would like to jump right into quantum field theory and general realitivity, I think I need to have a solid foundation in physics at the risk of frustrating myself to the extent of getting annoyed with the subject.. And you say only the third volume would be somewhat archaic.. Does that mean the first two are solid references?

    For one of my courses last year, I looked into Halliday, Resnick, and Walker's 'Fundamentals of Physics' and found them very helpful.. However, the scope of my experience is limited.. I'm tempted to get a hold of that instead of the first two volumes of Feynmann's, however, this is a whimsical decision on my part.. Anyone familiar with these authors?

    I suppose that only leaves particle physics, quantum mechanics, field theory, string theory, and special/general relativity.. Don't suppose there's another author to compare with Feynmann who's managed to address all these topics with as much efficiency and depth? ;)

    Thanks for the recommendation, I'm however reluctant to dish out money for any book that isnt exhaustive.. I'm not rich just yet :)
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2004
  6. Feb 3, 2004 #5


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    They aren't really intended to be references, but yes, the material in them is not outdated -- if that's what you're asking.
    HRW is one of the most well-known (and best) textbooks for first-year calculus-based physics. It does not cover quantum mechanics, relativity, or particle physics at all (though it hints at these subjects a few times). It is textbook about inertia, classical mechanics, the work-energy theorem, basic thermodynamics, electronics, and so on.
    No. You're talking about close to ten years of physics education there.

    - Warren
  7. Feb 3, 2004 #6


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    Use your library.

    - Warren
  8. Feb 3, 2004 #7
    Good call about the library, I just wanted some physics textbooks at home.

    Haza! So my physics prof was correct when he told me HRW is pretty damn good.. Well, now you know the question on my mind.. are they better than Feynmann's first two volumes?

    Haha.. I'm glad you said that. Its so easy for me to lose track of what it all means.. ten years huh? I'm not surprised.. I suppose I'll have to settle for all the classical business first.

    Don't suppose you know a really good book for quantum mechanics and field theory? I know next to nothing about relativity, but the quantum world, definetely floats my boat..

    I appreciate the time you're taking to answer Warren. Thanks.
  9. Feb 3, 2004 #8


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    They are completely different. One is a textbook. One is a more of a survey. The Feynman books are more profound, but HRW is much more useful. If you want to be able to solve physics problems, Feynman is worthless. If you just want to be mesmerized by the beauty of physics, HRW will seem dry. Feynman packs a lot more "wow" into his pages, and goes a lot deeper into the subjects than does HRW, but HRW will teach you to solve problems, and Feynman won't.
    I recommend Griffiths' "Introduction to Quantum Mechanics" for introductory self-study.

    - Warren
  10. Feb 3, 2004 #9
    hmm an important distinction indeed. Very well, you've convinced me. A friend of mine just reminded me that I can get feynmann's lectures in pdf.. I think I'll just print them out - cant read properly off a screen..

    I'll check it out as soon as I have time. Midterms popping up about now.

    Don't suppose you know any books on special/general relativity that are in the same vein as Feynmann's 'wow' style? I'm willing to put up with the tediousness in quantum mechanics because i'm already dazzled.. I figure the same approach will ensure that I fall in love with Einstein's babies too :)
  11. Feb 4, 2004 #10
    Yes Feynmann's lecture are in PDF U can find links to them in PHYSICS NAPSTERS
  12. Feb 13, 2004 #11
    I was able to get almost all of the lectures from the alt.binaries.sounds.mp3.spoken-word newsgroup based on chroot's suggestion in another thread. I also own the three-volume series in print.

    Our positions are very much the same; I am a software engineer who has always had a passion for the sciences, especially physics and astronomy. As a result I have a much more profound understanding of the qualitative, and less of the quantitative. I understand a large part of the math, but I'm not as comfortable as I am writing code, for example.

    I've read so many books that I can't really keep count, and some of those had been the proverbial pop-science books that the pundits sometimes admonish; however, they offer a great deal of information that the inquisitive reader can then expound on with additional resources. I find that appreciating the quantitative is easier for me when I first have the qualitative; I believe this might be inverted from those with more formal backgrounds. I think relegating any phenomenon to its quantitative elements lends itself to too much of a mechanical process, and the qualitative allows me to "see", perhaps pictorially, what they are saying. Enough of that now...

    There are quite a number of books on SR/GR relativity of course, and I've read several that are good; however, none that really seem to stand above the rest. I did find Einstein's book on relativity to be slightly abstruse, but only because of the translation. The likes of chroot probably have a lot more recommendations on this topic. The Usenet Physics FAQ has a booklist that might be helpful as well.
  13. Mar 23, 2004 #12
    As far as math goes the main things you will have to become familiar with are:

    Ordinary Differential Equations
    Partial Differential Equations
    Vector Calculus
    Tensor Calculus
    Differential Forms
    Matrix Algebra
    Group Theory
    Lie Theory
    Calculus of Variations / Lagrangian Dynamics
    Chaos Theory / Phase Space Analysis

    The last five are extras, in a way.
  14. Mar 24, 2004 #13


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    Yes, but only little bits of the bottom part of the list. You forgot Clifford Algebras, by the way. The late Pertti Louenesto's book is good. He was a little bit of a p***k but he wrote a swell book.
  15. Mar 25, 2004 #14
    Clifford Algebra, aka Geometric Algebra is very cool.

    http://carol.science.uva.nl/~leo/clifford/ [Broken]

    Here is a link to some software that Lounesto wrote, with an accompaning manual - both are an excellent introduction to the subject:

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