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Kleppner & Kolenkow's or David Morin for mechanics (IPhO)

  1. Apr 4, 2015 #1
    I've been down to these two books on classical mechanics, and I can decide as to which to choose. I've heard that the David Morin book has rather nice problems, but isn't quite that excellent with the explanations. As for the book by Daniel Kleppner and Robert Kolenkow, it seems to be good with the explanations of the subject in itself, but doesn't have solutions to the problems (I've seen the Preview). However, David Morin also has another book, solely on problems and solutions on Mechanics - would that cover all, if not more, of the questions on the actual introductory mechanics book itself? I'm not sure as to which of the following combinations I should go with:
    1) Kleppner and Kolenkow's, supplemented with Problems and Solutions on Introductory mechanics by David Morin
    2) Just David Morin's "Introduction to Classical Mechanics".

    Also, if you know of any nice follow-ups to those books that might complement a university physics course, do tell me!

    Last edited: Apr 4, 2015
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 6, 2015 #2
    Working through K&K has been fine for me. David Morin's book has a more modern approach to Special Relativity, which will be better if you plan on using Purcell for E&M. But both are fine. Looking through Morin, it also seems like it's harder to me.
  4. Apr 9, 2015 #3
    Thanks! I think I'll just go with K & K, and then get the book entitled "problems and solutions on introductory mechanics" by David Morin. Relativity is something I think I'll settle, by getting another book solely on it. Do you have any of such to suggest?
  5. Apr 9, 2015 #4
    Last edited by a moderator: May 7, 2017
  6. Apr 9, 2015 #5


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    You have to confirm this, but it is possible that Morin's problem book does not have the difficult problems of Morin's mechanics book. If it does not, then that renders it useless.
    I would recommend Morin's mechanics since the problems are rated in difficulty, with the four starred ones being claimed as incredibly difficult, and has solutions for half of the problems at the back.
    Edit: In addition to there being many more problems, at least in the sample chapters.
  7. Apr 10, 2015 #6
    I just had a look on a few preview chapters on the book entitled " Problems and Solutions on introductory mechanics" by David Morin, and indeed, the questions in it aren't quite as hard as those in that of Morin's actual mechanics book (source: http://www.people.fas.harvard.edu/~djmorin/book.html). I might get Morin instead then.
  8. Apr 10, 2015 #7


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    I'm a big fan of reaching the top when studying for competitions like the IPhO, by which I mean, learning things the right way the first time. So I suppose the question is, is either of those books going to do it?

    1. K&K is from the seventies. It is really good and that quality doesn't diminish BUT surely it's a given that any test taker in a competition this tough knows everything in K&K as a starting point. The lowest entrant could be at this level quite easily. And the test setters are going to want to split the field, so they are going to take that as a starting point.

    So if you were to learn everything in K&K and look at past IPhO papers and answer the questions that K&K has allowed you to answer, probably it's not enough. So that is my gut feeling, what it covers is necessary and I think you are absolutely right not to look at a book below it, but it won't be enough.

    2. Morin is a very modern book and I've heard that the first calculus course at Harvard is a several variables course because they assume entrants have done calculus. So Morin could be written with these Harvard superstars in mind as well as being on some kind of cutting edge. So that makes it interesting.

    On the other hand, no knowledge of partial derivatives is required for the IPhO and perhaps a lot of Morin is about 3 dimensions and partial derivatives. So you may find that a lot of it is not applicable. If you see what I'm saying, it may be advanced in the wrong way for this particular competition.

    3. For that reason, and because I know how good K&K is, I'd still recommend K&K as necessary knowledge from a mathematical point of view, it has the math you need. Probably it doesn't have all the physics you need. But it is a more conceptual book and you'll want that conceptual knowledge to stand you in good stead for the competition. And it was written for advanced MIT students so it is no slouch.

    4. And I particularly like how it handles torque. This is a tough topic for high school students to really understand well and this is an example of why this book would be an entry point, because the setters would assume you know do know it, so you need to get that knowledge and have it be thoroughly understood.

    Looking at the syllabus, relativity is in in a big way. A dedicated book may well be worthwhile. And for the coverage if nothing else, consider getting an 11th edition of University Physics as well, I see them for $12 on amazon.com. It'll fill any gaps between whatever other books you get.

    So if you get the 1st edition of K&K and the 11th of UP, that shouldn't cost too much. Another good conceptual book is French - Vibrations and Waves, I see it for $10 on amazon. That is a good way to cover that part of the syllabus.

    That leaves E&M and Relativity. Looking at the syllabus, a lot of E&M is crossed out, probably because they consider it to be too dependent on advanced math to require deep knowledge there. So I think you wouldn't actually need Purcell. UP would cover those topics and if you look at past IPhO's, you would get a good feel of what is expected. But relativity looks to be in in a big way, probably a dedicated book would be wise.
  9. Apr 11, 2015 #8
    Thanks for all your help. I really appreciate it. As I think about it, I likely should get a book that has tougher questions, after reading K&K (likely "Problems and Solutions on Mechanics" by Yung Kuo Lim) to know the concepts. As for University Physics, I think I shall buy it soon enough, as from what I see, I think I'll be requiring it in 3 years for school (still high school) anyways. I don't think I'll be getting it from Amazon though, because where I live, the shipping isn't very convenient. As for E&M, I think I might get the one by Griffiths, as I managed to get it for a good enough price, although its mainly for the fun of it. As for relativity, I'm guessing only special relativity would be tested. They probably don't expect us to do tensor calculus yet. I think I'll go with the book on special relativity by A.P. French (to get it right conceptually), and perhaps I might get problems on relativity in the book by Yung- Kuo Lim.
  10. Apr 11, 2015 #9


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    I've changed my mind about what I wrote here. It's not worth being so serious about competing like this, trying to reach a top level in such a competition I mean. Inevitably it should be about some kind of personal challenge, each person should compete to improve themselves, to do what comes naturally and do it for the enjoyment, and not make it a chore.

    So I take it back, I know you want to compete but I just don't think anyone should take academics as seriously as I was taking it in this post.

    That's all I have to say about that.
    Last edited: Apr 12, 2015
  11. Apr 14, 2015 #10
    Here's the thing about Morin: he is trying to teach you to think like a physicist. The result is that the explanations and solutions can appear to be a bag of tricks; he's always doing things like exploiting symmetries or doing dimensional analysis instead of just plugging things into equations. The downside is that if you're stuck, it can be hard to imagine coming up with his clever solution. The upside is that you will learn how to approach problems so that you can come up with clever solutions yourself. It's probably not that great as your only book for self-study, because you're likely to need a live person to get you over some of those hurdles, but there's a lot of really great content in there.
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