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Other Introduction to physics and chemistry

  1. Sep 13, 2016 #1


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    Hello everybody. First of all I want to make clear that this is not for me. I'll try to describe the kind of thing I want and the background that can be assumed.

    I am look for introductory physics and chemistry books. The background in physics and chemistry is zero. So the person this is for literally knows nothing about physics and chemistry. For example, he has no idea about forces, Newton's laws. He has no idea what an atom or molecule is.

    However, the math knowledge is quite good. He knows everything up to differentiation very well, and is currently learning integration.

    So basically, I want a book that introduces physics and chemistry literally from scratch, but that also isn't afraid to use calculus to derive things.

    I know some of you will introduce books like Halliday, which I have no problem with. But they are very fat books, which is discouraging. Some shorter books are preferred.

    I already took a look at Shankar for physics, which I think is great. So it might be nice to get books similar to that for physics or chemistry.
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  3. Sep 13, 2016 #2
    For Physics, I'd say French (French alone, not the one with Obison): "https://www.amazon.com/Newtonian-Me...17&sr=1-1&keywords=french+newtonian+mechanics". This is in my opinion the best introduction to physics for someone who does not know what physics is.

    For Chemistry, meh, I'd have a look at https://www.amazon.com/Chemical-Principles-Peter-Atkins/dp/1429288973 (not Atkins alone, the one with Loretta Jones): "Chemical Principles - The quest for insight". You can find older editions at reasonable price.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 8, 2017
  4. Sep 13, 2016 #3


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    Given that there is no prior knowledge in Physics, I think that a "general" book like Understanding Physics by Mansfield and O'Sullivan, should do fine. Reading its preface "Goals and Perspectives" shows a good fit. I have not read it from front cover to back, but selectively on some topics and I find it good enough. It is a big book but it gives the first principles and basic concepts at undergraduate level, as well as it prepares students for intermediate and advanced concepts. I think it's better to start this way and after acquiring the basic notions, he/she can delve into more targeted books on each field.

    In Chemistry I don't have a so informed opinion but I think that going the same way as above should do fine.

    EDIT: Here's the link for Understanding Physics https://www.amazon.com/Understanding-Physics-Michael-Mansfield/dp/0470746378
    Last edited by a moderator: May 8, 2017
  5. Sep 13, 2016 #4

    I would have said Savov but for someone who already knows calculus, it may be a little boring...
    In my opinion the best book for the purpose you list is the two volumes (not fat at all) of Verma. These are excellent books that uses math to explain the concepts of Physics and nowhere near as dry as Resnick-Halliday.


    I know there are no previews available but this set is one of the clearest and most succinctly written texts available today. I am surprised that these books are not used more widely...

    Volume 1 Contents
    Chapter 1: Introduction to Physics
    Chapter 2: Physics and Mathematics
    Chapter 3: Rest and Motion: Kinematics
    Chapter 4: The Forces
    Chapter 5: Newton's Laws of Motion
    Chapter 6: Friction
    Chapter 7: Circular Motion
    Chapter 8: Work and Energy
    Chapter 9: Centre of Mass, Linear Momentum, Collision
    Chapter 10: Rotational Mechanics
    Chapter 11: Gravitation
    Chapter 12: Simple Harmonic Motion
    Chapter 13: Fluid Mechanics
    Chapter 14: Some Mechanical Properties of Matter
    Chapter 15: Wave Motion and Waves on a String
    Chapter 16: Sound Waves
    Chapter 17: Light Waves
    Chapter 18: Geometrical Optics
    Chapter 19: Optical Instruments
    Chapter 20: Dispersion and Spectra
    Chapter 21: Speed of Light
    Chapter 22: Photometry

    Volume 2 Contents
    Chapter 23: Reat and Temperature
    Chapter 24: Kinetic Theory of gases
    Chapter 25: Calorimetry
    Chapter 26: Law of thermodynamics
    Chapter 27: Specific heat Capacities of gases
    Chapter 28: Heat Transfer
    Chapter 29: Electric field and potential
    Chapter 30: Gauss's Law
    Chapter 31: Capacitors
    Chapter 32: Electric current in conductors
    Chapter 33: Thermal and chemical effects of electric current
    Chapter 34: Magnetic field
    Chapter 35: Magnetic field due to a current
    Chapter 36: Permanent Magnets
    Chapter 37: Magnetic properties of matter
    Chapter 38: Electromagnetic Induction
    Chapter 39: Alternating current
    Chapter 40: Electromagnetic Waves
    Chapter 41: Electric Current through gases
    Chapter 42: Photoelectric Effect and wave- Particle Duality
    Chapter 43: Bohr's Model and Physics of the Atom
    Chapter 44: X-rays
    Chapter 45: Semiconductors and Semiconductor Devices
    Chapter 46: The Nucleus
    Chapter 47: The special theory of relativity
  6. Sep 13, 2016 #5


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    I felt the same way but discovered that the Halliday textbook is also available split into two volumes. The two smaller books are *much* easier to handle than the single giant one and quite a bit less intimidating. I quite like them. Also, the Halliday book has a student solutions manual available (also split into two volumes) should it be needed.

    Shankar's two books closely follow the associated online lectures. He has a pretty good sense of humour too which make his lectures fun. The online materials also provide problem sets and solutions for each lecture.

    That said, the content of his books are too close to what is said in the online lectures, so I prefer to combine the lectures with the Halliday/Resnick book.

    For chemistry, I asked a friend about this and he recommended Zumdahl as being "Halliday/Resnick"-like.

    Of the two, apparently "Chemistry" is geared more towards Chem majors.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 8, 2017
  7. Sep 13, 2016 #6
    I second this recommendation for an introductory chemistry text. I used it last year (self-study/self-improvement) with only the experience of a middle school chemistry course behind me and it was an excellent text. I still use it for reference, and I have been wanting to try to work it all the way through but haven't gotten the chance yet.

    The edition which I have (sixth?) has about 30 pages of introduction to get used to the basics of chemistry before getting to the "meat" of the course (this intro section covers atoms, molecules, conversions, needed physics, fundamental acid and base material, and some other things which I unfortunately can't recall right now). With that said, I had self-studied mechanics (to a fair depth, probably not the same as a calc-based university course but more than an algebra-based HS one) out of Young and Freedman prior to that, which was very helpful for some physics parts of the book. So if possible I would suggest that the person gets the basics of mechanics down first and then moves onto Atkins.

    I have also heard that Zumdahl is a good text, possibly easier than Atkins, but have never used it myself.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 8, 2017
  8. Sep 13, 2016 #7
    I just recalled another book by Atkins that might serve as an enjoyable preface to Chemical Principles if the person finds that text too difficult. The Periodic Kingdom is a popular science book, which means it does not have exercises or math beyond basic algebra. With that said, I have heard great things about it, and it shouldn't be too long of a read given their background. Looking through a copy, it seems to be quite accurate (it has correct diagrams of electron orbitals for instance, and does not seem to have much "fluff"), and is possibly the closest one can get to an actual science text without being a textbook. It should give sufficient preparation on what atoms and molecules are to prepare a person with zero chemistry knowledge for Chemical Principles.

    But, given the person's background, the introductory section to Chemical Principles will most likely be sufficient, and so I would recommend reading through The Periodic Kingdom only for enjoyment or if they hit an chemistry-knowledge-related impasse in their reading.

    P.S. I have the fourth edition of Chemical Principles which has the introductory portion that I have mentioned. I assume the other later editions would have a similar prologue, but I do not know for sure.
  9. Sep 14, 2016 #8
    I second Newtonian Mechanics. French does an excellent job of explaining the physics behind everything. There's also the occasional historical note; The book can be wordy at times as a result, but it's good nonetheless.

    I would also like to suggest an alternative to HRW: Matter and Interactions by Sherwood/Chabay. Its at the same level, but much better written, In my opinion of course. Could be worth checking out.

    Sadly, I have yet to find a chemistry book that isn't a 1200 page tome that works for me..
  10. Nov 6, 2016 #9
    Since this person knows Calculus:

    I was first introduced to chemistry using Linus Pauling: General Chemistry. It is a bit outdated, but the basics are covered well. You can supplement it with Oxotoby.
    For Physics, Alonso and Finn: Fundamental's of University Physics. The explanations are not shy of using mathematics. Almost everything is presented mathematically, talks about the experiments and history, great selection of topics that are usually found in more advance courses.
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