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Landau and Lifschitz series

I was reading the volume on mechanics and I think the way they determine the dependence of the action function for a free particle to be on the velocity alone is just beautiful, how they rule out any dependence of the action function on the coordinates based solely on the isotropy of space, and the same for the time coordinate.
And all of this without even making use of any generalized coordinates, or restrictions in the motion, or any calculations at all to determine the explicit form of the action function!

Any similar experiences you've had with any volume from this series? you know, one of those arguments of reason that almost take your breath.
 

maajdl

Gold Member
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Read the volume on field theory.
You will see there how the Maxwell's equations are almost a necessity, based on very few assumptions.
The same for the derivations of the General theory of relativity.
This series is really exceptional.
You will also see special discussion or even exercises that are just eye-opening.
 
What are the prerequisites to reading these books? More specifically volumes 1 and 2? For example, would I be able to comfortably read volume 1 if I've had a decent exposure to Newtonian mechanics, I know vector calculus, and am getting acquainted with calculus of variations?
 
What are the prerequisites to reading these books? More specifically volumes 1 and 2? For example, would I be able to comfortably read volume 1 if I've had a decent exposure to Newtonian mechanics, I know vector calculus, and am getting acquainted with calculus of variations?

I would say that in order to read the volume on mechanics you would need to be very confortable with analytical mechanics first, at the level of goldstein or so, in particular with its treatment of generalized coordinates and the derivation of the lagrangian function.
This is because the treatment of the subject in this landau and lifschitz book is very brief (takes a lot of previous knowledge on the subject for granted) and has a lot of subtle theoretical implications.
I am not advising you against reading it whatsoever, since reading it can't be at all that bad, but you might miss a few points here and there, some very important perhaps.
What I'd do in your situation is to get a copy of the books by landau and lifschitz, maybe from a local library and go through the first chapters, and just see how you feel, if you dont feel that you're truly getting some deep insight into the subject soon, it's probably too soon to read them.

hope this helps :)
 
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Landau and Lifshitz is about the deepest set of volumes available in theoretical physics. I would say excellently prepared graduate students will have trouble with it. I know of one school that tried volume 3 Quantum Mechanics as a textbook (upper-level undergraduate). I believe it was a mistake in that it was too difficult. Morse and Feshbach's two volumes doesn't treat as much but is at a similar level.
 
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Before looking at Pathria (now Pathria Beale) Statistical Mechanics, I tried to learn statistical mechanics from volume 5. I liked that treatment. I do not like the thin volume 1 on Mechanics (too terse and limited in the selection of topics). A good graduate course in mechanics will treat a some of field theory found in volume 2 Classical Theory of Fields.
I am told by experts in the fields that Books 6 and electrodynamics of continuous matter are the best volumes. I think the book on Physical Kinetics treats much of plasma physics.

Generally, the treatment of illustrative problems and arguments is too terse. I do not see these volumes supplanting Goldstein,Jackson,Sakurai level texts in graduate physics education. Maybe a good background in vector calculus, analytical mechanics and introduction to calculus of variations is OK to start reading LL.
 

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