Learn Physics: Books and Courses for Self-Study

In summary, there are many good books available for learning physics, particularly in the areas of quantum and particle physics. Some recommended authors include Richard P. Feynman, Halliday and Resnick, Cutnell and Johnson, and Griffiths. For those with a strong understanding of math, Griffiths' book may be a good option, but for those still learning calculus, Cutnell and Johnson or James Stewart's Calculus & Early Transcendals may be better choices. Ultimately, it is important to find a book that aligns with personal learning preferences and goals.
  • #1
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I was wondering if there were any good books or courses out there that I could use to learn physics. I'm completed a basic high school level course in physics, but that's all. Are there any good teach-yourself books out there? I'm mainly interested in quantum / particle physics, but I know that's not a good place to start.
 
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  • #2
Look for books by the late, great Richard P. Feynman. There are a lot of books by him or about him which are for all different abilities. 6 Easy Pieces and then 6 Not So Easy Pieces are good books.
I have also read Surely Your Joking Mr. Feynman, which is a semi autobiographical look at his life and work...very funny and very interesting. But that isn't strictly a factual book.

I know other books but they are more degree level, such as KASAP, which is a book dealing with the physics behind semi-conductors such as diodes and transistors etc.
 
  • #3
Hmm, I wouldn't use Feynman with "just" high school knowledge. I'd actually say Feynman is a bit overrated. True, I haven't read it as thoroughly as I should, but I did use it seldom on occassion. Seems more of a "overview" book rather than a "learning" one. But still, have a look. Its said to be one of the best books out there.

For starter physics, I can recommend two titles.
1) Fundamentals of Physics by Halliday and Resnick Physics. If you get the extended edition they have things on baby quantum and particles. This is a calc based text, and is pretty much essential in first year physics.
2) Cutnell and Johnson Physics. This is an algebra text and covers mostly what Halliday's book does but at a lower level.


These are the standard books. They are quite basic, but explain all the fundamental ideas you'll use over and over in physics. I'd go with Halliday over Cutnell, and learn some calc alongside because its actually easier than pure algebra. Not to mention physics is always calc based.

Ofcourse, if you've got strong grounds in math (that means calc) you can try Griffiths Intro to Quantum mechanics. That should occupy you plenty in the quantum / particle parts. I don't know how far you'd get in Griffiths though, because quantum and particle physics are very heavy on math. You'd need differential equations and multiple integrals. Even some linear algebra. Unless you've done this, stick to Halliday who gives a less rigorous introduction to the topics more suitable for first years.
 
  • #4
Each to their own, personally when I was in secondary, or high, school the first books I read about anything more advanced were by Feynman, well him and a book called 'Time Travel In Einstein's Universe'.

I found it useful to have more 'hand-waving' arguments rather than diving into the maths with no idea where it was leading you. Personally I found it helpful to know where everything was going before being presented with diagrams and/or formulae. But then again that's down more to personal preference. Still I recommend books written by or about Feynman, he had an passion and enthusiasm about lecturing physics that comes across in the texts.
 
  • #5
Thank you so much! As for math...I haven't gotten to calculus yet, so it's probably better for me to stick with the second book (Cutnell and Johnson) for now. However, do you know any good books for learning calc, or should I post that in the math section?
 
  • #6
Okay, but if you've already did physics in high school Cutnell would be review. I really don't know where you stand, or if you plan to go to university.

For calc?

Well I got two books.
1) James Stewart - Calculus & Early Transcendals. This is kind of a "dumbed down" book on calc, meaning it skips mathemtical proofs and rigour. It will teach you calc and its operations, but little theory. Very easy to read. Should have more than you need to take on Halliday.
2) Spivak - Calculus. A rigorous book on calculus. This means it will teach you proofs and theory. This is way harder, but will give you a deeper footing in calculus. I only recommend this if you have seen atleast basic calc (ie. differentiation and limits).

Stewart will teach you math the way your used to learning... how to calculate derivatives and stuff. Spivak will teach you how to proove things like the existence of a limit. If you've never seen proofs before, Stewarts inutitive approach may be more suitable.

@Mike. Thats quite impressive if you understood Feyman level physics in secondary. I understand long ago people learned more in high school. These days, our curriculum is dumbed down. Unfortunately, I knew very little until I went to university.
 
  • #7
@ Howers - I'm only 20. I just loved looking up very complicated, for the time and indeed now, physics. I had a bit of a competition with my Physics teachers at high school and college.
 

Related to Learn Physics: Books and Courses for Self-Study

What are the top books for self-studying physics?

The top books for self-studying physics are "Fundamentals of Physics" by Halliday and Resnick, "University Physics" by Young and Freedman, "Concepts of Modern Physics" by Arthur Beiser, "Introduction to Electrodynamics" by David Griffiths, and "Classical Mechanics" by John Taylor. These books cover a wide range of topics and are recommended by many physicists.

What are the best online courses for learning physics?

Some of the best online courses for learning physics are "MITx: Physics I" on edX, "University Physics" on Coursera, and "Introduction to Physics" on Udemy. These courses offer a comprehensive curriculum and are taught by experienced instructors. They also provide interactive activities and practice problems to enhance learning.

How long does it take to self-study physics?

The amount of time it takes to self-study physics varies depending on the individual's prior knowledge and dedication to studying. It can take anywhere from a few months to a year or more to thoroughly understand the concepts and principles of physics. It's important to set a consistent study schedule and practice regularly to see progress.

Do I need a strong math background to self-study physics?

While a strong math background is helpful, it is not necessary to self-study physics. Many introductory physics books and courses include a review of necessary math concepts. It's important to have a basic understanding of algebra, geometry, and trigonometry, but advanced math skills are not required.

What are the benefits of self-studying physics?

Self-studying physics allows for a more flexible and personalized learning experience. It also allows individuals to learn at their own pace and focus on areas that they find most interesting or challenging. Self-studying also promotes critical thinking and problem-solving skills, which are valuable in many fields.

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