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Introduction to self-teaching Physics

  1. Dec 25, 2014 #1
    I'm an 11th grader in high school with a lot of free time and curiosity. Over the past years I narrowed my focus a bit too much into Biology/Chemistry but now I've decided that I have a definite interest in physics and that I'd like to self-teach it.

    Academic Background:

    I took an Intro to Physics class in my freshman year but I decided to choose HL Bio and HL Chem as my two sciences for junior/senior year, a decision that I'll never be quite sure of since I'm very indecisive in terms of choosing between the sciences (I might've taken all 3 but that would've meant dropping my lunch period and I'm quite sure that my coursework is too rigorous to handle that much). I'm also currently in Higher Level Math, I've already taken pre-calculus last year with some foundation topics (vectors, matrices, etc.) and am starting actual calculus in this coming semester of junior year. Mathematically, my foundation for learning physics is pretty strong but I haven't had a true in-depth look at the subject.

    Self-teaching Goals:

    Time and obsessiveness are my two biggest resources to start with, I'd be willing to study/read on a pretty regular basis to self teach. However, that's all I have right now. I think I need about 3 books to start out with, the selection of those three is what I need help with.

    I'd appreciate if I could get some guidance in terms of book selections and how to approach the self-teaching process. The books should fall under one or more of the following criteria:

    1. Teaching physics from a somewhat basic level to a decently advanced one. I've already learned a lot of the basics in Newtonian mechanics, electromagnetism, etc. but I need a refresher and I'd like to dive into the more complex concepts in a lot of detail. If I'm going to self teach, I want my knowledge to be more than just 'solid'. For example, I've skimmed through a my friend's IB Physics textbook and it had a variety of chapters ranging from Motion/Forces to Thermodynamics, Electromagnetism, Atomic/Subatomic/Particle Physics, Relativity, Engineering Physics, etc. Of course, the more advanced topics were only an introduction and for the most part the textbook only used mathematical approaches in Algebra/Trigonometry. The point is that I'd like to have something to read that is this comprehensive and perhaps goes even further (I'm not averse to learning calculus based concepts).

    2. Teaching important math concepts that are parallel to going into more advanced levels of physics (Calculus 1-3, Linear Algebra, Vectors). I'll be learning calculus in school but I think the most that I'll cover in high school is Calc 1 type topics while learning more advanced physics will require me to know further mathematical concepts. I also wonder if there are math books that teach calculus in relation to physics using examples or a physics-specific approach to math.

    3. Teaching scientific 'models' in physics that view the universe from a specific set of concepts (i.e Standard Model for particle physics, General Relativity for spacetime and large scale physics, Quantum Mechanics, etc.). I understand that there are a lot of different perspectives in physics used for different purposes and I want to learn what these are.

    I'd appreciate any help regarding this.
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 25, 2014 #2


    Staff: Mentor

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