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korwynkim

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korwynkim

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andresB

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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.

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Frabjous

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You might consider Purcell instead of Griffiths. Griffiths is an intermediate level text.

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korwynkim

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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?You might consider Purcell instead of Griffiths. Griffiths is an intermediate level text.

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Frabjous

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hutchphd

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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.You might consider Purcell instead of Griffiths. Griffiths is an intermediate level text.

For me the best undergraduate (graduate) book following the "relativity first" approach is Schwartz, Principles of Electrodynamics (Landau&Lifshitz vol 2).

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It's not clear what the OP's goal is. But in my opinion,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).

- 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.

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.

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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, 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 could be used as an

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,

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.

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andresB

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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?

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