General introductory physics books compared to specific books on each topic

In summary, the difference in approach may be that the Halliday and Resnick book is more math-heavy while the Kleppner and Kolenkow, Griffiths, and Schroeder books are designed for a non-math audience. A person with no physics background can learn from the more specific books without having to read the general book.
  • #1
korwynkim
3
0
What exactly is the difference in the way an general physics book (Halliday and Resnick, Young and Freedman) covers topics like mechanics, EM, and thermodynamics, compared to respective books like Kleppner and Kolenkow, Griffiths, and Schroeder, other than the amount of material covered for each topic? Is it mainly the level of math required or is it more? Could someone who has studied undergraduate mathematics, but knows no physics, learn from the more specific books without reading the general book?
 
Physics news on Phys.org
  • #2
korwynkim said:
Could someone who has studied undergraduate mathematics, but knows no physics, learn from the more specific books without reading the general book?
I would say that yes, such person can definitely learn from the more specific books. Though I still think that books like (early editions) of Halliday or Alonso & Finn books are valuable, even if just for a quick first reading.
 
  • #3
You might consider Purcell instead of Griffiths. Griffiths is an intermediate level text.
 
  • #4
caz said:
You might consider Purcell instead of Griffiths. Griffiths is an intermediate level text.
The table of contents of these two books looks roughly the same. What is the difference in the way the material is presented? Is it mostly just the level of math used?
 
  • #5
Griffiths also treats the physics at a more advanced level. I am not saying not to use it, but that there is a lower level option that is consistent with your stated goals.
 
  • #6
Have you really had no college/university exposure to any physical theory? Then my advice is to first get a rough idea from a general 1000 page textbook meant for first year general studies.
 
  • #7
I think it will take approximately the same effort on your part either way. So only you can decide. In the end it is good to have both the elementary and intermediate texts. You do need to know the math.
 
  • #8
caz said:
You might consider Purcell instead of Griffiths. Griffiths is an intermediate level text.
I'd say the opposite. I find Purcell (if you mean the Berkeley physics course) confusing. It burries the physics under well-meant didactics though I find the ansatz to teach electromagnetism right from the beginning as a relativistic field theory very appealing, but if you don't use the adequate math (Minkowski space and four-vectors), relativity appears to be very much more difficult than it actually is. Griffiths uses the traditional approach to first teach electrodynamics in the usual way and the relativistic formulation only at the end. Though the traditional approach sometimes leads to confusion too, because a non-relativistic treatment of charges and currents sometimes leads to problems, but this is well avoided by Griffiths in introducing relativity and the related issues (like what is called "hidden momentum" and the energy-momentum ballance between fields and matter) in the later chapters.

For me the best undergraduate (graduate) book following the "relativity first" approach is Schwartz, Principles of Electrodynamics (Landau&Lifshitz vol 2).
 
  • Like
Likes hutchphd
  • #9
vanhees71 said:
I'd say the opposite. I find Purcell (if you mean the Berkeley physics course) confusing. It burries the physics under well-meant didactics though I find the ansatz to teach electromagnetism right from the beginning as a relativistic field theory very appealing, but if you don't use the adequate math (Minkowski space and four-vectors), relativity appears to be very much more difficult than it actually is. Griffiths uses the traditional approach to first teach electrodynamics in the usual way and the relativistic formulation only at the end. Though the traditional approach sometimes leads to confusion too, because a non-relativistic treatment of charges and currents sometimes leads to problems, but this is well avoided by Griffiths in introducing relativity and the related issues (like what is called "hidden momentum" and the energy-momentum ballance between fields and matter) in the later chapters.

For me the best undergraduate (graduate) book following the "relativity first" approach is Schwartz, Principles of Electrodynamics (Landau&Lifshitz vol 2).
It's not clear what the OP's goal is. But in my opinion,
  • to learn relativity, I prefer a kinematic approach using spacetime diagrams, supplemented with geometry... (electromagnetism is complex enough as it is).
  • to learn electrodynamics [for practical use and some theoretical], Purcell gives some good intuition and Griffiths provides good mathematical methods (e.g., boundary value problems). Both provide some insights into relativity and some connections between them... but, in my opinion, not enough relativity from a spacetime viewpoint (with geometrical structures and relations, not merely algebraic calculations with transformation formulas).
  • to learn relativity and relativistic electrodynamics, I think a book like Andrew Steane's https://www.amazon.com/dp/019966286X/?tag=pfamazon01-20
    might be good... but this text won't help you with boundary value problems.
There is likely no single text and no sequence of texts that is works universally, partly because we all have different backgrounds, preparations, strengths, and particular goals.
As others have suggested, find a set that seems to cover the topics of interest, then work through them as you see fit... occasionally looking at the other presentations to see what is important and to see the ideas from different points of view.
 
  • Like
Likes vanhees71 and hutchphd
  • #10
I also think (special) relativity should be introduced very early as a spacetime model, and of course it's a geometrical model and Minkowski diagrams may help some students. For me they were more confusing than helping, and the analytical approach helped me better to understand it. At my university (Goethe Uni Frankfurt) it is a long-standing tradition to teach theoretical physics starting in the 1st semester and introduce special relativity at the end of the 1st semester (about mathematical methods and the "non-analytical part" of mechanics). In the 2nd semester analytical mechanics is taught and there of course also relativistic point-particle mechanics is covered. E&M then comes in the 3rd semester, and there some professors teach it in the traditional way with relativistic E&M only at the end, some take the modern relativistic point of view from the very beginning. I'm not sure about, what's the better choice. For me the relativistic treatment is much more lucid and simplifies a lot concerning E&M, particularly the retarded potentials, the Lienard-Wiechert potentials of a point charge, etc. Purcell, in my opinion, hides the beauty of the relativistic approach by avoiding the Minkowski-space formalism in an attempt to be didactical by avoiding apparently "complicated math" at all costs.
 
  • #11
vanhees71 said:
Purcell, in my opinion, hides the beauty of the relativistic approach by avoiding the Minkowski-space formalism in an attempt to be didactical by avoiding apparently "complicated math" at all costs.
Purcell's text is volume 2 of the Berkeley Physics series ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Berkeley_Physics_Course ), which was written in the 1960s.
Purcell could be used as an intermediate level EM text in some places (as it was for me as a college student) or as an introductory honors course for majors in other places (as it was when I was a teaching assistant).
This is my experience and my understanding for schools in the US.

The previous volume in the series was Mechanics by Kittel and did introduce relativity near the end, but not with any Minkowski spacetime viewpoint. So, that would not be enough to use in Purcell.

It seems to me that the only "introductory level" texts from that era that discussed the Minkowski-spacetime was Taylor and Wheeler's Spacetime Physics (from MIT/Princeton) and French's Special Relativity (MIT Introductory Physics series).

So, it's not just Purcell... it's practically all introductory textbooks that avoid Minkowski spacetime.

From what I have seen, Tom Moore's Six Ideas that Shaped Physics ( http://www.physics.pomona.edu/sixideas/ ) is the first modern introductory text/sequence that discusses and advances the spacetime viewpoint. Using his unit R then unit E, electromagnetism is treated with an underlying theme of relativity.
 
  • Like
Likes vanhees71
  • #12
Yes, indeed. Even the Feynman lectures lack in this specific point, which is the more astonishing as Feynman is THE spacetime physicist of his generation (at least concerning Q(F)T).
 
  • Like
Likes robphy
  • #13
vanhees71 said:
At my university (Goethe Uni Frankfurt) it is a long-standing tradition to teach theoretical physics starting in the 1st semester and introduce special relativity at the end of the 1st semester (about mathematical methods and the "non-analytical part" of mechanics). In the 2nd semester analytical mechanics is taught and there of course also relativistic point-particle mechanics is covered.

How in Earth analytical mechanics is covered in 2nd semester?
 

Related to General introductory physics books compared to specific books on each topic

1. What is the difference between general introductory physics books and specific books on each topic?

General introductory physics books cover a broad range of topics and provide a general overview of the fundamental concepts and principles of physics. On the other hand, specific books on each topic focus on a particular area of physics in more depth and detail.

2. Which type of book is better for beginners in physics?

It depends on the individual's learning style and goals. General introductory physics books are great for building a strong foundation and understanding the basics of physics. Specific books on each topic are better for those who want to delve deeper into a particular area of interest.

3. Are general introductory physics books suitable for advanced learners?

While general introductory physics books may provide a good review for advanced learners, they may not cover advanced topics or theories in depth. Specific books on each topic are more suitable for advanced learners as they provide a more comprehensive and detailed understanding of a specific area of physics.

4. Can I use both types of books together for studying?

Yes, using both general introductory physics books and specific books on each topic can be beneficial. General introductory books can provide a broad understanding of the subject, while specific books can offer a deeper understanding of a particular area of interest.

5. How do I choose between a general introductory physics book and a specific book on a topic?

The choice depends on your learning goals and preferences. If you are new to physics and want a general understanding of the subject, a general introductory book may be a good starting point. If you have a specific area of interest or need a more in-depth understanding of a particular topic, a specific book on that topic may be more suitable.

Similar threads

  • Science and Math Textbooks
Replies
14
Views
3K
  • Science and Math Textbooks
Replies
2
Views
763
  • Science and Math Textbooks
Replies
1
Views
1K
  • Science and Math Textbooks
Replies
26
Views
3K
  • Science and Math Textbooks
Replies
11
Views
3K
Replies
5
Views
1K
  • Science and Math Textbooks
Replies
7
Views
2K
  • Science and Math Textbooks
Replies
4
Views
2K
  • Science and Math Textbooks
Replies
15
Views
4K
  • Science and Math Textbooks
Replies
21
Views
2K
Back
Top