1. Not finding help here? Sign up for a free 30min tutor trial with Chegg Tutors
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

I want to study real physics where to start?

  1. Nov 4, 2006 #1
    Well, I am currently in my senior year and I realise I havent got much time before college... Ive always learnt high school physics with a kind of reluctance - equations arent derived, just imposed. I know this is due to the fact that the level of mathematics needed in order to derive these equations is beyond what is taught at high school, but I do alot of self studying so Im pretty comfortable with anything that would enter first year university (and partially second year). Now I want to aquire good knowledge in several fields of physics... I realise that the best place to start is with classic mechanics. However, I dont know where to look... Im in search of a textbook that presents the matter throught proofs and explanations. Now I am aking you, is there any textbook of the sort?
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 4, 2006 #2
    Start with Introduction to Mechanics by Kleppner and Kolenkow.
  4. Nov 4, 2006 #3


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Before jumping into a University level Physics text like Mechanics, you need to be able to solve simple differential equations. If you cannot derive the basic laws of motion from

    [tex] \ddot x = -g [/tex]

    you may want concentrate on Math. That is Calculus and Differential equations.
    Last edited: Nov 4, 2006
  5. Nov 4, 2006 #4
    Well what do you mean? I understand the mathematics for motion on a straight line perfectly... As I said, I have a soild grasp of calculus already... I'am going to start studying calculus of multiple variables very soon I hope, so I'm not worry on the mathematics level...

    Edit: courtrigrad, thanks for the recommendation. Althought, nothing more wallet-friendly?
    Last edited: Nov 4, 2006
  6. Nov 4, 2006 #5
    Werg, Integral meant for you to do something that has to do with his screen name ;)

    Those dots above the x are like primes, but they signify that it's with respect to time.
  7. Nov 4, 2006 #6


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper
    Gold Member

    You can find books on the internet and in library too, don't forget.. you're gonna have to buy a ~100$ book for your mechanics class in uni anyway. That's enough.

    On my part, we used the book 'Mechanics' by Symon. I'd say it fits your criteria of "presents the matter throught proofs and explanations". But I heard the new book by Taylor was like the Griffiths of mechanics (i.e. light and friendly but complete and rigourous nonetheless). I'd certainly want to look at this book if I were you.

    Last edited: Nov 4, 2006
  8. Nov 4, 2006 #7
    In my school with did a lot of proofs of the equations given axioms like "s = d/t" etc. I don't know if those simple proofs suffice or not but it was good to learn where the equations came from anyway (at least in some respect).
  9. Nov 4, 2006 #8


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    One can start with various math and physics tutorials found on PF.

    and there is also a good reference in Hyperphysics

    MIT Open CourseWare - Physics (undergraduate)

    Calculus-Based Physics

    Basic high school physics
  10. Nov 4, 2006 #9
  11. Nov 5, 2006 #10
    You want to learn physics, here is what you do:

    1. Buy Kleppner and Kolenkow and Read it

    2. Buy Feynman's lectures and read them

    3. Buy Purcell and read it

    when you are done with these steps, I guarentee you will be better off than most undergrad juniors in the U.S of A.

    About the price: For those things i listed above, its worth it, no doubts about it. After that, if you are seriously in a position where you cant afford proper books, you will be able to find what you need online with a little searching, but those are necessary. And yes, START WITH KandK.
  12. Nov 5, 2006 #11


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    Do you know where you're going to go to college yet? If so, find out which textbook they use for your first physics course there, buy it, and start working through it. You'll have to buy one when you take the course, anyway, so you might as well spend the money now. It will probably be a calculus-based general physics book like Halliday & Resnick.

    Kleppner is the kind of book that most schools use for a second-year mechanics course. (except at places like MIT... :devil: )
  13. Nov 5, 2006 #12
    If you want to study classical mechanics, look no further than Landau Volume 1. It is a beautifully elegant textbook with no words wasted. I find too many physics textbooks just babble on with hand waving explanations. If your maths is good, go straight to Classical mechanics by Arnold, be warned you need a solid grasp of differential geometry as he formulates the hamiltonian formulism using sympletic geometry.

    Definately don't waste too much time studying trivial books like griffiths or something along those lines, it doesn't give you real insight and there is no rigour in the derivations. There is also a excellent online notes offered by Daniel Tong from the university of oxford, just google Daniel Tong + classical mechanics and you'll find it.

    Good luck on your question to learn proper physics,
  14. Nov 5, 2006 #13
    Landau's Mechanics for a high school student?! Well, I guess it gives him something to aim for.

    French's Newtonian Mechanics is about on the right level. I don't know the Kleppner book.

    I second The Feynman Lectures Volume I, and I'd also suggest Taylor & Wheeler's Spacetime Physics.
  15. Nov 5, 2006 #14
    Oh, i thought he said he was a senior, i thought that meant your in your last year of undergrad. In that case, i probaly wont' start leanning physics yet, do more maths dude.

    Study the following books:

    Linear Algebra by Serge Lang
    Calculus by Spivak
    Calculus on Manifolds by Spivak
    Real Analysis by Rudin
  16. Nov 5, 2006 #15
    :grumpy: I keep on repeating myself... I already have a solid grasp of calculus, differentials etc. and matrix theory. I have plenty of text books at home on the subject, so that's not the worry. Anyway, should I look into Kleppner's book on mechanics?
  17. Nov 5, 2006 #16
    To be fair to Serenity, the books he/she listed go way beyond the introductory level. Spivak's Calculus on Manifolds, for example, is an very dense little book.

    How about a book of problems like 200 Puzzling Physics Problems.

    Also, we've already had some threads on this topic. See

    Last edited: Nov 5, 2006
  18. Nov 5, 2006 #17


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper
    Gold Member

  19. Nov 5, 2006 #18
    well im gonna add my (biased) review of all the books recommended above as i have experience with many of them:

    First let me say that from what youre saying, it seems you are familiar with introductory calculus and linear algebra which is a great start, but you will find yourself confused very soon if you do not continue studying math along with your physics for the next several years.

    MATH: you will need to get to a level where you are comfortable with vector calculus (ASAP), advanced linear algebra, differential equations, some real analysis, all of applied complex analysis, and then differential geometry at a minimum to be studying theoretical physics at the undergraduate level.

    Spivak's Calculus: Fantastic rigorous study of calculus for those not yet ready for a true course in real analysis. If you don't consider taylor series to be something you were born understanding, this may be the book for you.

    Spivak's Manifold Calculus: Rigorous introduction to what i classified above as differential geometry. This book will need a good solid grasp of real analysis before you try to tackle it so you will have to wait a while for this.

    Rudin: Great books on real analysis but if you can understand them before taking an introductory course on real and complex analysis, my hats off to you.

    Lang: Solid text on linear algebra but probably too advanced for an undergrad physicist to learn from since you very quickly need to develop a working knowledge of linear algebra and this book may bog you down with mathematical detail too long to achieve that. This may be good for a second study of linear algebra, the first time through i would recommend a simple linear algebra book such as Lay's linear algebra if you are not too confident or friedberg, insel, and spence if you really have a solid understanding of how pure mathematics works.

    As for the other math concepts I mentioned, to get a quick introduction to vector calclus which you will DEFINITELY need, try "div, grad, curl and all that". Its a short and simple book but will give you a working knowledge of vector calculus as it is used in physics. Differential equations you will probably just pick up along the way. Complex analysis the choices are endless, just about any book on mathematical physics will cover what you need from complex analysis. I actually learned it from Complex Variables by Churchhill, this book is a classic and not too hard to understand. Differential geometry you will need to worry about after all the other things i listed are second nature to you, for this, depending on how quick you pick things up, you may be able to get away with just learning general relativity and picking up differential geometry as you go. If that is not your style, and you have a decent grasp of analysis at that point, you could try Spivak's introduction to differential geometry. (or of course his calculus on manifolds if you are a sado masochist)


    Kleppner and Kolenkow: This is a book on basic mechanics but it studies the topic with a level of rigor that will prepare you for all the things you want to study afterwards. I really can't stress enough how helpful it was to force myself to learn mechanics from KandK as opposed to some simpler book for my future in physics. This book is genious, fantastic, words can't describe how good it is for a first physics book.

    Purcell: I mentioned this book above, this is a natural choice to continue with electricity and magnetism after you have finished KandK. The value of this book is that along with teaching you standard EandM, Purcell is able to instill a physical intuition that I don't know where else I could have gotten. Even if you learn EandM somewhere else, this may be a good choice simply because of the great physical intuition that Purcell has and this book's ability to pass that on to the student.

    Intro books like halliday, resnick, walker: Well the only two intro books i've had experience with is the halliday one and "University physics" by young and freedman. My recommendation would be to study from these books if you are having trouble understanding anything that is going on in kleppner and kolenkow, otherwise, forget they even exist. (In my opinion, halliday is better than the young and freedman book)

    Feynman Lecture in Physics: This is a three volume set of lectures given by (arguably) the greatest physicist to ever live. Feynman understood things like no one else and if reading his lectures give you a little bit of that insight, you should thank the physics gods. The notes are from a 2 year series he taught at caltech that started from introductory mechanics and ended up covering just about everything you should learn from the first 2-3 years at a university. These books will not replace proper textbooks on the subject nor will they teach you everything you need to know about the subjects. What they will do is teach you to tackle physics problems and teach you to think like a physicist, and this might be more valuable than anything else.

    Landau and Lif****z: this is a 10 volume set that is meant to be a rigorous study of just about every topic in physics. These are dense and not meant to be the book that you learn a topic from for the first time. However these are invaluable as a reference source. You should avoid these books until you feel you understand the topic that each of the volumes teaches about. Then you should open up the landau to realize how little you truly understand. (volume 1 is mechanics, volume 2 is classical field theory, volume 3 is quantum mechanics, volume 4 is quantum electrodynamics, and on and on)

    Another thing i should add is that i have to disagree with serenity above, griffiths is a great physics writer and his books are great tools to study from. This is especially true for his book on quantum mechanics which in my opinion is the best book to begin learning quantum mechanics from.

    Well hopefully you were willing to actually read through all that stuff I wrote and hopefully it answers your questions. Don't forget that physics is pretty hard and you have four years to get through what you need to learn as an undergraduate. In my opinion, it is better to spend more time but work through the proper books on a subject, rather than get frustrated and just assume that halliday, resnick, and walker, is what physics is all about, because that is just plain wrong.
  20. Nov 5, 2006 #19
    dimachka, thanks alot for the in depth awnser. I'll look into you have suggested.
  21. Nov 5, 2006 #20
    I suggest you learn the basics of mechanics and electromagnetism (and other stuff if you have time) with Halliday, Resnick, Walker's Fundamentals of Physics. It's a good place to start.

    At the same time, you should study some calculus, differential equations, and linear algebra so you'll be ready for more advanced physics.
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook

Have something to add?

Similar Discussions: I want to study real physics where to start?