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High school student (and prospective physics major) looking for rigorous physics text

  1. Dec 26, 2008 #1

    It's Christmas, and I got a pretty hefty sum of money from my family. Guess what I plan to do with it?=> Buy physics books of course! I'm so excited, I never really had enough money to buy the classic physics books I wanted, and now, I am left with a very difficult choice. I am a prospective physics major, and am enrolled in both Physics C and Calculus BC, but I also am studying differential equations and Calc III at home. Keep in mind that I'll buy a book for physics self study, so I won't have a teacher to guide me or solve problems for me.

    My goal is to ace my 1st year physics class in college, as well as gain a strong understanding and flexible problems solving skills (the kind of skills that would be needed to do Olympiad level physics for example). I am probably going to enroll in a course equivalent to 8.012 at MIT, a course that uses Kleppner and Kolenkow and Purcell.

    I already am using an intro book in physics C, which is Physics by Scientists and engineers by Paul A. Tipler. As far as my credentials are concerned, I can solve most problems in Halliday resnick and tipler (there is 1-3 problems every chapter I can't solve). I have narrowed my choices to the following:

    - Feynman's physics lectures (vol.I-III): I'm slightly concerned that this book will give me only superficial understanding b/c of the lack of practice exercises and mostly theory coverage.
    - Introduction to Classical Mechanics by David Morin:I'm concerned this book is too advanced for me and will discourage me.
    - Irodov problems in general physics
    - Introduction to Mechanics by Kleppner and Kolenkow Both Irodov and K.&K. don't have solution manuals, which kind of sucks because I most probably can't solve all the problems. How would you describe the difference between Irodov and K.&K. problems? Are they about the same difficulty level?

    Unfortunately, I don't have enough money to buy all of them , I can only buy one of them. Which one would you recommend me, knowing my goals and aspirations?

    Thanks so much!
    Last edited: Dec 26, 2008
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 28, 2008 #2


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    Re: High school student (and prospective physics major) looking for rigorous physics

    I recommend Feynman's lectures. As long as you supplement it with problem solving (from Irodov or a similar collection of problems), instead of just reading the book, you will learn a lot from a serious study of Feynman.
  4. Dec 29, 2008 #3


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    Re: High school student (and prospective physics major) looking for rigorous physics

    Morin has lots of worked examples and problems with solutions. It is a text for the first mechanics course after a general physics course but given your goals perhaps is worth looking at seriously.
  5. Jan 7, 2009 #4
    Re: High school student (and prospective physics major) looking for rigorous physics

    I will strongly recommend against Feynman. His chatty style is entertaining, and you can say that he provides a few chapters of pure brilliance, but the extreme lack of math and the deviation into useless side topics like the biological design of squid eyes negate all thats good, for a beginner.
    Get some grips on vector calculus and a good book on analytical mechanics. The one I had was half an inch thick and kept me busy for half a year (well and there were some courses to attend to...). As many European universities place analytical mechanics in the second semester, it is probably the hardest part of the educaion, after one has passed all the high school type problems and dives into pure math.
    The book I had was brilliant but it was not in English, but they should all teach very similar things.
  6. Mar 6, 2010 #5
    Re: High school student (and prospective physics major) looking for rigorous physics

    wow, 1st I hear someone suggesting Feynman's lectures would be superficial, and then I hear that Feynman's lectures aren't any good. Jeez louise, did I miss something? You're talking about the man who has probably inspired more physicists today than any other man. It's not because of his genius or what he accomplished, it's because of how he taught people. My father was educated in England and even the English thought he was a hero. He was glowing when I showed him my copy of the lectures.
    Something very wrong has happened with physics education in mainstream lately. Somewhere along the line people started thinking that physics was 100% mathematics. Let me tell you this, physics is 100% theory and concepts. If you don't think so than do engineering instead. The mathematics is just a concrete way to utilize the concepts. That's why Feynman is such a great physicist. He's a great mathematician, but he understands and illuminates the importance of concepts to physics. Problems from a book don't mean anything to anyone.
    1st advice, get the lectures. Get it paperback and used, and also get Kleppner and Kolenkow paperback and used. If you'd like alot of books to read, go for pb and used. If you'd like them on your shelf, get hardback. Also, depending on where you go, high school physics is nothing like college physics. On a more personal side note, it seems kind of unnecessary to say that you can answer every question ever in those books. Physics is about understanding, not about plugging and chugging. "Stating your credentials" as you did seems kind of egotistical to me.
    You should also check out the books you're using, just look at the reviews that your text gets https://www.amazon.com/Physics-Scientists-Engineers-Extended-Version/dp/0716743892. You don't have to use your class text for the class. Even when I used Resnick, I read kleppner instead.
  7. Mar 6, 2010 #6
    Re: High school student (and prospective physics major) looking for rigorous physics

    I have the Feynman lectures, it was a waste of money.

    Morin and Kleppner are good if you are having your FIRST course in mechanics at a university level. If you already studied Tipler, then a lot of stuff would be review. Instead, try

    Classical Mechanics-Gregory https://www.amazon.com/Classical-Mechanics-R-Douglas-Gregory/dp/0521534097

    Also, consider buying
    Theoretical Physics- Joos https://www.amazon.com/Classical-Mechanics-R-Douglas-Gregory/dp/0521534097

    Which may have been the best book I have ever purchased.
  8. Mar 6, 2010 #7
    Re: High school student (and prospective physics major) looking for rigorous physics

    You give the same link twice.

    Feynman Lectures are not a waste of money. It is true that its not a good introduction course but considering he already used Halliday resnick and tipler, Feynman Lectures might be useful. Plus, he will get it soon or later.

    There is a solution manual for "Irodov problems in general physics" though its not by Irodov. It's called "Solutions to I.E. Irodov problems in General Physics." by A.K Singh. I hear there's many errors though.
  9. Mar 6, 2010 #8
    Re: High school student (and prospective physics major) looking for rigorous physics

    The section on the eye on the Feynman Lectures is of course out of date. It's silly to dismiss the lectures for this one section. As for "extreme lack of maths", the Lectures were aimed at first and second year students and actually use more math than typical big Freshman Physics texts.
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