Mechanics by Arnold Sommerfeld- review

In summary, Arnold Sommerfeld is a renowned theoretical-physics teacher whose work spans a wide range of classical mechanics topics. His books "Lectures on theoretical physics" and "Lectures on partial differential equations of mathematical physics" are both highly recommended, but should be supplemented with more recent texts on the same subject.f
  • #1
I am trying to dig deep into classical mechanics. Among many suggestions, this was an odd one to me. I know of Arnold Sommerfeld and his work, but I have not read any of his works(books, papers, .etc). I tried to find reviews of this book online to no avail. If there are people who have read the book, may I ask you to give me a brief review? What inclinations and school of thought does Sommerfeld adhere to? I have gone through the book, its chapters but I thought I'd get some opinions before I begin studying it in detail. I thank all responses in advance.
  • #2
Sommerfeld was one of the greatest theoretical-physics teachers of all time. Just look at the Nobel-prize winners' list and check, who is a pupil of Sommerfeld's. The six-volume set "Lectures on theoretical physics" immediately shows, how this comes about. It's simply very good. He gives precisely all the mathmatical steps in a derivation with utmost clarity. Nevertheless, it's not a simple read. In my opinion the best volume of the entire great set is Vol. 6 on partial differential equations of mathematical physics.

Of course, these books are pretty old (written in the 1940ies and 50ies) and thus not always up to date (e.g., he uses the "##\mathrm{i} c t## metric" for relativity or no Dirac ##\delta## distribution to define Green's functions although in fact he has invented this idea as early as around 1910). You should definitely have a look at Sommerfeld's textbooks but make sure to also have a look at more recent textbooks on the same subject. Of course, as far classical physics is concerned, there's not too much to be desired.
  • #3
Believe me, there's always a benefit from reading a well-written, not outdated textbook. For classical mechanics, there are 2 major textbooks of the 1920's: the one by Sommerfeld and the one by Whittaker. 1930s brought us a third amazing piece of writing: the 1st volume of the Landau & Lifschitz series.
  • #4
Another great older work are Pauli's lectures. They are in the Sommerfeld style but cover also more modern topics as wave mechanics (the best book on wave mechanics I know). Interestingly there's no classical mechanics, but the series starts with electrodynamics. The last volume is about quantum field theory. It's a good source to learn about the details of free propagagors in time-position representation but otherwise this volume is only of a historical interest. The other 5 volumes are masterpieces with high value also for modern students.
  • #5
Thank you all so very much. This is certainly enlightening.
@vanhees71: Now that is some studentship Sommerfeld had, goodness me! I am overwhelmed, it seems he nurtured modern physics in his classrooms. I never knew that he was this central to Quantum theory.
  • #6
I would have to recommend Herbert Goldstein. I have 2nd edition, and chapters 1, 2, 8, 9, 10, 11 do a great job preparing you for quantum physics at the level of J. J. Sakurai's text on Modern Quantum Mechanics. To give you and idea of what I mean, I'm attaching a step-by-step word document I extracted from Goldstein, chapters 1, 2, 8, 9, and 10 connecting classical physics to old quantum mechanics, and the Schrodinger and Heisenberg's paths to QM. Please share the file if it's useful.


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