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Looking for inroads to higher-level physics

  1. Sep 26, 2007 #1
    I'm a 2nd year college undergrad who is very interested in physics. I'm in my 3rd semester of physics courses, currently introductory E&M, but I really want to learn more advanced physics as well, or at least enough to understand things at a semi-technical level.

    I posted this here because it really isn't one specific topic that I'm interested in, but it all. GR, QM, SM, and beyond.

    I guess I am looking for book recommendations for starters. I'm currently taking a Linear Algebra course, so I'm looking for somewhere between the pop-sci level of "The Elegant Universe" and "QED" (both of which I've read this past summer) and a full-on textbook. I'm not even sure if this stuff exists, which is why I'm asking. My university have a fairly extensive science library, so if the only thing above pop-sci are textbooks, by all means recommend some.

    Along with this I wanted to know what mathematics I should look into beyond differential equations in order to understand higher level physics. Like this summer I tried reading some of Einstein's technical work, but that didn't make sense to me yet (It was the selections from Hawking's "On the shoulders..." so if that should have made sense with a background in Calc, tell me and I'll just give it another shot, or seek a professor's help).

    Well, that ended up being a lot longer than I expected, but any advice/help is much appreciated.
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 27, 2007 #2
    I'm not sure there's such a thing as a book aimed somewhere between popular science and a "full-on" textbook....

    Have you done any special relativity? You might take a look at textbook called "Modern Physics" by Bernstein, Fishbane and Gasiorowicz. That also covers some beginning QM.

    You can learn GR without doing tensors - try having a look at Hartle's text.

    You will probably need to take a course in complex analysis and Green's functions (that will let you see where Feynman diagrams come from!). PDEs are important for understanding waves and fluids. Group theory is useful because it describes crystalline materials as well as symmetries which physical laws seem to obey.
  4. Sep 27, 2007 #3


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    If you are in a linear algebra course, you should probably be able to understand Griffith's "Introduction to Quantum Mechanics." It is a textbook, but it written in a style that is easily readable and interesting. I taught myself some QM out of it a while back, and liked it very much. As long as you have some basic linear algebra and differential equation knowledge you should be fine with it.
  5. Sep 27, 2007 #4
    I think Griffiths is a really good book for learning the formalism of QM, but I think a more wordy introduction is better - it's nicer to motivate QM by looking at the photoelectric effect and what people like Planck and Boltzmann thought about light at the end of the 1800's. But if you want to go look at particles in potential wells, then Griffiths is your man.
  6. Sep 27, 2007 #5
    Well, I'm going to check out that Bernstein book, but my library doesn't have the Griffith text, any recommendations for a more wordy introduction?
  7. Sep 27, 2007 #6


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    Robbinett's "Quantum Mechanics" is quite good and is used at some universities in introductory QM.
    Haaken&Wolf "The Physics of Atoms and Quanta" is a also quite common, but as far as I remember it relies more on mathematical formalism than Robbinett's book
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