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How do I teach myself undergrad physics?

  1. Nov 28, 2008 #1
    Right now, I'm in the third year of my degree in Computer Engineering. Though I'm extremely fond of my subject, I've realised that for far too long, I've neglected one of my first loves - physics. I genuinely miss the fun I used to have solving complex physics problems. So now, having mastered all the mathematics that engineering has thrown at me, I'm trying to get back into the physics scene for the challenge it used to provide me with.

    Thanks to the ridiculously hard engineering mathematics syllabus of our university, I can consider myself pretty proficient at whatever is needed. We are expected, in our first three semesters, to master traditional calculus on the real line including series expansions of functions, complex algebra and calculus, vector calculus, linear algebra, the solution methods for linear differential equations, Fourier analysis, the Z transform, and the Laplace transform. Hopefully this will be sufficient. If not, I'll study whatever additional mathematics is needed. As for the introductory physics needed, I've essentially covered the contents of Young and Freedman's University Physics as part of our school syllabus, so that shouldn't be a problem. I know that Resnick and Halliday is considered a more thorough treatment, so I'll check it out if necessary.

    I'm looking for books which will allow me to master the traditional branches of physics at an undergraduate level (classical mechanics, including the Hamiltonian and Lagrangian formalisms, classical electrodynamics, basic quantum theory, and basic relativity). However, I need books which I can use to learn on my own without any external support of any kind. I'll essentially be studying in complete isolation. I cannot approach any professor or mentor for help. The books will be my only refuge.

    So are there any recommendations? The study plan goes thus: a quick review of basic school physics (Resnick and Halliday), followed by classical mechanics including the formalisms, then classical electrodynamics, then basic relativity, and finally the basics of quantum theory. I want to do mechanics and electromagnetism in their full, rigorous glory, and the latter two only for purposes of understanding the nature of the new reality.

    Also - have no qualms about cost. I'm in India, and we get books very, very cheaply. For example, a book costing $150 (Principles of Mathematical Analysis) cost me less than that amount in Rupees - and a rupee is around one fiftieth of a dollar. As they are also one of the few luxuries I allow myself, I can afford to buy multiple books for the same subject and refer to different books for different topics. So feel free in recommending multiple books - I am lucky enough to be able to afford them.

    Any suggestions for how to structure my study and what books to use?
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 29, 2008 #2
    The only way to really do it is to open up the book and read. :yuck:

    Modern Physics, by Shubhra Kakani

    Applied Physics, by T. Bhima Sankaram
     
  4. Nov 29, 2008 #3

    jtbell

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    Staff: Mentor

    This forum has a subforum, "Science Book Discussion." You'll find recommendations and comparisons of books in many physics subjects there.
     
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