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Good Books?

  1. Mar 4, 2008 #1
    I was wondering if there were any good books or courses out there that I could use to learn physics. I'm completed a basic high school level course in physics, but that's all. Are there any good teach-yourself books out there? I'm mainly interested in quantum / particle physics, but I know that's not a good place to start.
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 4, 2008 #2
    Look for books by the late, great Richard P. Feynman. There are alot of books by him or about him which are for all different abilities. 6 Easy Pieces and then 6 Not So Easy Pieces are good books.
    I have also read Surely Your Joking Mr. Feynman, which is a semi autobiographical look at his life and work...very funny and very interesting. But that isn't strictly a factual book.

    I know other books but they are more degree level, such as KASAP, which is a book dealing with the physics behind semi-conductors such as diodes and transistors etc.
  4. Mar 5, 2008 #3
    Hmm, I wouldn't use Feynman with "just" highschool knowledge. I'd actually say Feynman is a bit overrated. True, I haven't read it as thoroughly as I should, but I did use it seldom on occassion. Seems more of a "overview" book rather than a "learning" one. But still, have a look. Its said to be one of the best books out there.

    For starter physics, I can reccommend two titles.
    1) Fundamentals of Physics by Halliday and Resnick Physics. If you get the extended edition they have things on baby quantum and particles. This is a calc based text, and is pretty much essential in first year physics.
    2) Cutnell and Johnson Physics. This is an algebra text and covers mostly what Halliday's book does but at a lower level.

    These are the standard books. They are quite basic, but explain all the fundamental ideas you'll use over and over in physics. I'd go with Halliday over Cutnell, and learn some calc alongside because its actually easier than pure algebra. Not to mention physics is always calc based.

    Ofcourse, if you've got strong grounds in math (that means calc) you can try Griffiths Intro to Quantum mechanics. That should occupy you plenty in the quantum / particle parts. I dunno how far you'd get in Griffiths though, because quantum and particle physics are very heavy on math. You'd need differential equations and multiple integrals. Even some linear algebra. Unless you've done this, stick to Halliday who gives a less rigorous introduction to the topics more suitable for first years.
  5. Mar 5, 2008 #4
    Each to their own, personally when I was in secondary, or high, school the first books I read about anything more advanced were by Feynman, well him and a book called 'Time Travel In Einstein's Universe'.

    I found it useful to have more 'hand-waving' arguments rather than diving into the maths with no idea where it was leading you. Personally I found it helpful to know where everything was going before being presented with diagrams and/or formulae. But then again that's down more to personal preference. Still I recommend books written by or about Feynman, he had an passion and enthusiasm about lecturing physics that comes across in the texts.
  6. Mar 5, 2008 #5
    Thank you so much! As for math...I haven't gotten to calculus yet, so it's probably better for me to stick with the second book (Cutnell and Johnson) for now. However, do you know any good books for learning calc, or should I post that in the math section?
  7. Mar 6, 2008 #6
    Okay, but if you've already did physics in highschool Cutnell would be review. I really don't know where you stand, or if you plan to go to university.

    For calc?

    Well I got two books.
    1) James Stewart - Calculus & Early Transcendals. This is kind of a "dumbed down" book on calc, meaning it skips mathemtical proofs and rigour. It will teach you calc and its operations, but little theory. Very easy to read. Should have more than you need to take on Halliday.
    2) Spivak - Calculus. A rigorous book on calculus. This means it will teach you proofs and theory. This is way harder, but will give you a deeper footing in calculus. I only reccommend this if you have seen atleast basic calc (ie. differentiation and limits).

    Stewart will teach you math the way your used to learning... how to calculate derivatives and stuff. Spivak will teach you how to proove things like the existance of a limit. If you've never seen proofs before, Stewarts inutitive approach may be more suitable.

    @Mike. Thats quite impressive if you understood Feyman level physics in secondary. I understand long ago people learned more in highschool. These days, our curriculum is dumbed down. Unfortunately, I knew very little until I went to university.
  8. Mar 6, 2008 #7
    @ Howers - I'm only 20. I just loved looking up very complicated, for the time and indeed now, physics. I had a bit of a competition with my Physics teachers at high school and college.
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