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Good books to buy for an intro to theoretical physics

  1. Jan 16, 2006 #1
    I'm not sure that this is the right place to post this, but anyway, I wanted to know if there were any good books for an introduction to theoretical physics. The level I am looking for is undergraduate/high secondary school level (Those who are not English, that means 17-18 years old). I'm doing further maths, so I'm not concerned about the amount of maths in the books, any suggestions are welcome.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 16, 2006 #2
    Not concerned? I'm not exactly sure I'm familiar with "further math", but I'm guessing multivariable calculus? Can you elaborate on your past math/physics exposure?
  4. Jan 16, 2006 #3
    Well, a very brief list of what is covered by 'further maths' is: Taylor series, hyperbolic functions, imaginary numbers (complex exponentials included), differentiation/integration with inverse trig functions, polar coordinates (area and path length of sectors etc), matricies (2x2 and 3x3), some work on proofs, but I don't think that's relevent for physics, and I'm going to be learning about vectors (this is supposed to be more indepth that what I can currently do), multivarible calculus, and group theory in the next couple of weeks. In terms of my mechanics, I have done stuff like projectile motion (with and without air resistance), forces (obviously), vectors, moments, centre of masses of systems, impulse/momentum, energy (0.5mv^2, that kind of thing), and frameworks.

    As for physics, I've had a fair amount of exposure to classical mechanics problems, things that I've mentioned above, but also basic gravitational field theory, and a little work on electrostatic forces (coulomb's law). Elasticity of materials (Hooke's law etc), some work on gases and simple harmonic motion.

    At the moment that's everything that I can remember, but there may be a few other things that I haven't included.
    All this is extra to my normal maths work. So, what do you guys think?

    Edit: I forgot, I have got an understanding of first order differential equations.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 16, 2006
  5. Feb 7, 2006 #4
    First a couple things:

    If you say High School level, to most people that will mean single variable calculus at the most, but you're clearly at a higher level than that, so just say undergrad level when you're asking these questions.

    That brings me to my question: When you ask for an introduction to theoretical physics, what exactly do you mean? An actual Theoretical physics course will cover largely mathematical techniques for studying physical systems. I suspect you are more likely referring to Quantum Mechanics and Relativity theory, yes? If that is the case, a standard university Modern Physics text will cover both of those at a level well within the reach of your math capabilities (multivariable calculus with a little vector calculus, and still pretty light on those.).
  6. Feb 12, 2006 #5
    Are there any Modern Physics texts that anyone could recommend for undergraduate level?
  7. Feb 12, 2006 #6


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    Although some of these may be advanced now, you may be able to learn a little bit or at least see what lies ahead so that you can prepare yourself:

    "Theoretical Concepts in Physics : An Alternative View of Theoretical Reasoning in Physics" by Longair

    "A unified grand tour of theoretical physics" by Lawrie

    some course notes:


    "Courses taught by Richard Fitzpatrick at UT Austin"
  8. Feb 12, 2006 #7

    George Jones

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    A standard text for second or third year courses (in North America) is Modern Physics by Tipler and Llewellyn. To find others go the books section on amazon.com, and, in the title field of the advanced search, type modern physics. Almost all the books that come up will be at the same level.

    Alternative, I have a recommendation of a completely ilk - The Road to Reality: A Complete Guide to the Laws of the Universe by Sir Roger Penrose. Penrose intended this 1100 page tome to be for everyto be one from interested laypersons to research scientists.

    Also, it's not necessarily meant to be read from cover - just open it to whatever topic tickles your fancy. If you don't understand something in one pargraph, try to find some background elsewhere in the book, or go on to the next paragraph.

  9. Feb 12, 2006 #8
    Thank you for the excellant links and references, I'm looking at them right now (possibly not when you read this message, but you know what I mean!), I think a little trip to the city library (or to amazon.com) will get me on my way.:wink:
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