Learn Physics: Self-Study Guide for High School Student

In summary, the conversation discusses a high school student's aspirations to become a theoretical physicist and their plan to teach themselves physics at a deep level before enrolling in a formal course. They ask for advice on which subjects to learn, the order in which to learn them, and recommended sources for learning. The conversation also mentions the importance of mathematics in learning physics and suggests purchasing an A Level physics textbook to work through. One participant suggests a 22-part guide on becoming a physicist and another recommends a website with math videos. The conversation concludes with the student seeking personal recommendations for A Level physics textbooks.
  • #1
Adgorn
130
18
Hello everyone.
I'm assuming many similar threads to this one have been posted previously but I wanted to make one that is fitting to my specific situation, hopefully it's not to much trouble.

So I want to seriously start teaching myself physics at a deep level, and this post is basically my first step in trying to do that. I'm a high-school student at the moment with aspirations to become a theoretical physicist but I already want to start diving into the material, with the plan to have graduate level knowledge before enlisting (Then of course re-learn them all again with a proper course and lecturer, this might make the experience a bit more tedious but hey you win some you lose some).

As I said I want to learn all of physics contained in undergraduate and graduate material to a deep enough degree. Obviously I don't except to become an expert in all these fields but I want to have a deep enough knowledge to be able understand the reasoning behind them and to draw conclusions on my own. I am aware that this is a task of several years so I am ready for a deep long term plan on how to achieve this objective.

As for my current knowledge, I have a deep enough understanding of high-school level mathematics including basic calculus. Although I do also know high-school level physics (Newtonian mechanics, Basic electrostatics and electrodynamics, Waves, etc.) I think it is best to assume I know nothing about physics and start from scratch.

With all that said I am here asking a few questions:
Which subjects do I need to learn (including mathematical background)?
In what order should I learn them?
Which sources can I use to learn each subject?
And just in general if you have any helpful tips.

I am aware of sites such as OCW and Khan academy but they are more supplemental than main resources, also both have a tendency to have incomplete subjects since they are work-in-progresses. so I am hoping to get an encompassing book (with problems, can't learn physics without 'em) for each subject and each mathematical field that I need to learn.

Thanks so much to everyone who takes the time to read this and answer, really looking forward to it.
 
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  • #2
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  • #3
@Adgorn It looks as though you are approaching this in the right frame of mind - that gives you a good chance!
I would say that the first thing you should do is to buy an A Level Physics textbook and work through it. These books tend to be bulky but that just reflects the size of the subject. As to which book you should use, I have looked through quite a few of them and also reviews, before selecting suitable texts for my A level students (a few years ago). Pick one on the basis of the reviews and that will avoid you going too far wrong.
Modern A level syllabi have content about fairly advanced stuff but (as you'd expect) it won't get you to graduate knowledge. There's a lot of stuff about fundamental particles that's little more than 'top trumps' but it gives you something to take you further if you want.
If you can possibly bring yourself to, you should do some of the questions at the end of chapters. The Maths is very relevant.
 
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  • #4
jedishrfu said:
Rather than answer your question you should read this 22 part sequence by @ZapperZ on how to become a physicist. It should answer all your questions.

https://www.physicsforums.com/threads/so-you-want-to-be-a-physicist-22-part-guide.240792/

Also physics is very much a subject of math and so this site mathispower4u.com has many videos on th math you’ll need for first year college. Knowing it will make learning physics a lot easier.

Thanks for the response! The sequence you sent does contain some learning resources (It mentions "Mathematical Methods in the Physical Science" which I will look into) but it mostly deals with how to go through actual university which is less relevant for me at the moment (although I will definitely take its advise into account at a later stage). I'll also look into the site you linked as I know the maths is as important as the physics if one wishes to learn properly.

sophiecentaur said:
@Adgorn It looks as though you are approaching this in the right frame of mind - that gives you a good chance!
I would say that the first thing you should do is to buy an A Level Physics textbook and work through it. These books tend to be bulky but that just reflects the size of the subject. As to which book you should use, I have looked through quite a few of them and also reviews, before selecting suitable texts for my A level students (a few years ago). Pick one on the basis of the reviews and that will avoid you going too far wrong.
Modern A level syllabi have content about fairly advanced stuff but (as you'd expect) it won't get you to graduate knowledge. There's a lot of stuff about fundamental particles that's little more than 'top trumps' but it gives you something to take you further if you want.
If you can possibly bring yourself to, you should do some of the questions at the end of chapters. The Maths is very relevant.

Advice duly taken. I'll look into options for A level physics textbooks and see if I can find something good. Since you have experience with teaching and these books do you have any personal recommendations? All input is welcome after all (especially since I hardly know where to start).
 
  • #5
One book I’ve seen is the Tsokos book for IB Physics available on Amazon.

From my college days, I learned that many NYC students had studied Goldstein Classical Mechanics in high school privately. Old stein is the gold standard for classical physics. The book level is a big step above what is taught in the first college physics survey courses that all freshmen take.

There’s also the Susskinds the Theoretical Minimum books and online courses that are designed for those of us who’ve been away from physics for some time but who still want to learn or relearn it at a deeper level beyond freshman physics close to Goldstein in depth.

So far Susskinds has three books Classical Mechanics, Quantum Mechanics and Special Relativity. All great books to read.
 
  • #6
Adgorn said:
do you have any personal recommendations?
There are bound to be new editions of the books I compared in the UK ten years ago. But I did look at probably half a dozen that basically contained the A level courses of several different examination boards. I would recommend choosing a book that isn't aimed at one particular course but a general textbook like Roger Muncaster's book would probably be better. There are good reviews on Amazon but it's a bit expensive.
 
  • #7
Right, so after looking through some recommended books I have the start of my learning plan. I'll start with Spivak's "Calculus" and continue with Boas's "Mathematical Methods in the Physical Sciences", I think that should give me the mathematical basis I need. After those two I'll go through Muncaster's "A Level Physics".
That should keep me busy for a good while and provide a solid start.
 

Related to Learn Physics: Self-Study Guide for High School Student

1. What is the purpose of this self-study guide?

The purpose of this self-study guide is to provide high school students with a comprehensive and interactive way to learn physics on their own. It covers all the major topics in high school physics and includes practice problems and interactive activities to help students solidify their understanding.

2. Is this guide suitable for all levels of high school physics?

Yes, this guide is suitable for all levels of high school physics. It covers the basic concepts and also includes more advanced topics, making it a useful resource for students at any level.

3. How is this guide different from a textbook?

This guide is different from a textbook in that it is designed specifically for self-study and includes interactive activities and practice problems to help students actively engage with the material. It also provides concise explanations and examples, making it easier for students to understand difficult concepts.

4. Can this guide be used as a substitute for a physics teacher?

This guide is not meant to replace a physics teacher. It is meant to supplement classroom learning and provide students with additional resources for self-study. A physics teacher can provide valuable guidance and explanations that may not be present in this guide.

5. Are there any prerequisites for using this guide?

There are no specific prerequisites for using this guide, but it is recommended that students have a basic understanding of algebra and geometry. This guide also builds upon concepts taught in introductory physics courses, so some prior knowledge of physics may be helpful but not necessary.

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