I want to learn Physics But I'm 13

  • Thread starter Buck1000
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  • #26
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The point I'm trying to make (admittedly very indirectly) is that there is little point in trying to learn physics without calculus. Of the three general physics texts listed on the Baez page, the only one I am directly familiar with is the Feynman lectures, which I am taking to be representative of the other two as well. The Feynman lectures are admittedly great for developing conceptual understanding, but they still require at least some calculus background, and they are devoid of problems, which is where the physics learning actually takes place. Assuming the other two books are at roughly the same level, I still maintain that one would be best served reading layman-oriented physics books to develop/maintain interest in the subject while trying to develop sufficient mathematical background to learn physics properly.
did you not take introductory classes in your undergrad? or did you skip directly to gupta's classical mechanics and jackson's e&m? if you haven't then trust you can learn a great deal from intro classes that have very little calculus. if you have do you not remember how little calc they had in them? we're not talking about solving laplace's equation here. we're talking about a general concept like gauss's law in integral form.

proper physics learning probably doesn't take place until you get to grad school anyway.
 
  • #27
cristo
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i want to emphasize how bad i think "layman's" physics books are.
But.. there's nothing wrong with reading popular science books-- they are, in the most part, quite interesting!
honestly how much calculus did you use in your intro physics classes? in my intro mechanics class we were told the work integral, it was not derived and we weren't given functions to integrate. i had to do one, one!, real integral in intro e&m for the force on a point charge from an infinitely long wire. the rest was hand waved away just like solutions to maxwell's equations are hand waved into existence. again i didn't intend to teach anyone calculus, i said i could teach him how much he needed to know for intro courses.
I used no calculus in introductory physics courses, mainly due to the fact that they were designed so that a knowledge of calculus was not required. I have mentioned that it is very possible to undertake a lot of study in physics without knowing any calculus-- especially introductory topics.

In fact, my first electromagnetism course was taught very rigourously, and inclueded a lot of calculus (including the divergence theorem.. etc)
and even then honestly if i did want to teach him calculus in one day i would present the two pedagogical problems, slope at a point and area under a curve, and be done with it. a little fundamental theorem of calculus, a little mean value, rolle's and everything else is details.
See, this is my point. There is no need for him to learn calculus, and he should wait until he learns it rigourously to avoid confusion.
 
  • #28
Chris Hillman
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Ditto Christo (everything he said but the bit about reading popsci books). But on a more positive note: Buck, you might look for Feynman, The Character of Physical Law, and just skip over any math you don't know (don't worry, by the sound of it, you'll be able to understand everything soon enough, although certainly not in one day!). That's sort of a pop book, but I make an exception because Feynman had a reasonably good grasp of physics :wink: unlike many popsci authors.
 
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  • #29
cristo
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Chris, good to see you back; I hope all is well!

Ditto Christo (everything he said but the bit about reading popsci books).
I should probably "defend" what I meant. I never said that reading popular science books will enhance one's techincal knowledge of a discipline; just that they are interesting. For example, I read smolin's trouble with physics recently, and found it a very good read. This, like a lot of popsci books at the moment, was written by a guy with a firm background in his subject, and so, whilst maybe a little biased, can still be taken as being fact.
 
  • #30
robphy
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A second vote for Feynman's "The Character of Physical Law"... and I'd also suggest Feynman's "QED: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter". There are associated videos [with similar content with these books]: the 1964 Messenger Lectures (Cornell) and the Douglas Robb Memorial Lectures (Auckland).

For relativity, Geroch's "General Relativity from A to B" is light on the mathematical requirements [but surprisingly deep in conceptual foundations].

(The above books don't require calculus... and, in my opinion, I don't feel cheated by what I read and learned from those books... unlike some other pop-sci books.)

When I was thirteen, I recall reading many pop-sci books from the public library. They did spur my imagination and whet my appetite for physics. After a while, I grew tired of all of the pop-sci talk....[I think it was Calder's "Einstein's Universe" (together with the BBC video) that was the last straw]. I wanted the details so that I could see things for myself. So, I began a plan [of physics and math courses] to learn to relativity.

...so, in my opinion, the pop-sci books do have some value... but, if you are serious, don't stop there.
 
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  • #31
mathwonk
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when i was about your age i enjoyed lincoln barnett's book: the universe and dr einstein.

when my son was your age he enjoyed "thinking physics" i believe, by lewis carroll epstein.
 
  • #32
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In 7th grade I was given both Beyond Einstein and Hyperspace. Both excellent books (it's written by a string theorist, so portions of it are psedoscience), and both give an excellent overview of the importance, development, and use of modern physics. Plus it is always nice to receive a small mind exercise in visualization.

After you have had your fill of pop-sci, I would suggest going to a local technical bookstore, or going to http://www.powells.com/subsection/PhysicsTextbooks.html and take a look around.

Also putting around amazon.com or your local college/university library (heck, even your standard public library-as many of them have introduction level texts) could also give you a hand.

--------

When you are comfortable with trig, solving equations for particular variables, and can deal with quadratics take the time to get a college level intro book and play around with the problems for a while.


If you want more problems to work with pick up a Physics GRE study book or Schaum's Outlines for physics.



Good luck
 
  • #33
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In 7th grade I was given both Beyond Einstein and Hyperspace. Both excellent books (it's written by a string theorist, so portions of it are psedoscience), and both give an excellent overview of the importance, development, and use of modern physics. Plus it is always nice to receive a small mind exercise in visualization.

After you have had your fill of pop-sci, I would suggest going to a local technical bookstore, or going to http://www.powells.com/subsection/PhysicsTextbooks.html and take a look around.

Also putting around amazon.com or your local college/university library (heck, even your standard public library-as many of them have introduction level texts) could also give you a hand.

--------

When you are comfortable with trig, solving equations for particular variables, and can deal with quadratics take the time to get a college level intro book and play around with the problems for a while.


If you want more problems to work with pick up a Physics GRE study book or Schaum's Outlines for physics.



Good luck
hyperspace is seriously incomprehensible. i must've read it in high school, and i don't remember anything from it. all pop sci books are very pretty and very tempting but they're really really bad for learning anything. it would be the same thing as flipping through a real physics textbook and reading the captions under the pictures that aren't diagrams.
 
  • #35
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"They did spur my imagination and whet my appetite for physics"

that is the most important thing... he has to learn the beauty of physics in order to motivate himself to study "real" math and physics... or he'll just drop it and find another hobby, unless he's one those weirdos who like doing calculations for the hell of it
 
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  • #36
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"They did spur my imagination and whet my appetite for physics"

that is the most important thing... he has to learn the beauty of physics in order to motivate himself to study "real" math and physics... or he'll just drop it and find another hobby, unless he's one those weirdos who like doing calculations for the hell of it
Heh! We're people too!

*Mutters about collapsing a wavefunction and seeing how you'd like it*
 

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