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Must read books for aspiring Physicist

  1. Aug 3, 2009 #1
    I am a Senior in high school and am looking to study physics in college. I have read a few Stephen hawkings books: Theory of Everything, Universe in a Nutshell, A Brief History of Time. I am reading The Elegant Universe and own Fabric of the Cosmos and The God Theory but havent started them yet. Any other "must reads"?
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 4, 2009 #2
    Yes, you must read "Blackholes and Time Warps" by Kip Thorne. It is an excellent book.
  4. Aug 4, 2009 #3


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    The Feynman Lectures is a pretty good read.
  5. Aug 4, 2009 #4
    You Must be Joking Mr. Feynman!
    An Introduction to the Philosophy of Physics: Locality, Fields, Energy, and Mass
    Black Holes and Time Warps

    A little Quantitative(Algebra,Trigonometry, A little Calculus)
    Physics for Scientists & Engineers-Tipler
    The Feynman Lectures on Physics-Feynman?
    Introduction to Mechanics-Kleppner

    More Quantitative(Single Variable Calculus, Multivariate Calculus)
    Introduction to Electromagnetism-Griffiths
  6. Aug 4, 2009 #5


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    These books might be above his level right now.
  7. Aug 4, 2009 #6
    Which is why I put it under more quantitative. He could possibly study off them in a year or two.

    EDIT: Or now, depending how "aspiring" he is. A lot of high schoolers now are looking through higher than school-standard texts.
  8. Aug 4, 2009 #7
    I myself don't enjoy Universe in a Nutshell by Hawking. His books are very pretty with the pictures, but I feel they stay so surface level, that you don't really get anything from them. That is my opinion though. I feel like if you read the books I list below, you will come out with something substantial and tangible, whereas Hawking just gives a bunch of eye and physics candy. I have never understood the stranglehold his books have. I have the same opinion of Brian Greene's books. Although I know he's very capable, he just strikes me as a car salesman who his selling a scientific theory, which has continued to bumble along for year after year, producing no real physics (in my opinion). String theory to my knowledge, has produced a ton of mathematics, but has no physical predictions that are correct and there isn't even a cohesive effort or theory. I think of it as sort of a popular fringe theory at this point, because although it may be useful in the future, I think there is better physics to be done right now.

    The few books I recommend are:
    https://www.amazon.com/QED-Strange-...sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1249444794&sr=8-1" by Richard Feynman
    The best introduction to QED and quantum behavior out there, and it doesn't require higher mathematics.
    https://www.amazon.com/Six-Easy-Pieces-Essentials-Brilliant/dp/0465023924/ref=pd_bxgy_b_img_b" by Richard Feynman
    These six pieces are some of Feynman's more elementary material from his famous Lectures on Physics.
    https://www.amazon.com/Gravity-Geor...sr_1_6?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1249444970&sr=1-6" by George Gamow
    A very good tour of the theories of gravity, from Newton to Einstein. Anything by Gamow is good, so look him up. He wrote Thirty Years that Shook Physics, which I've been wanting to read myself.
    https://www.amazon.com/Understandin...sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1249445261&sr=1-2" by Isaac Asimov
    A lesser known book than Feynman's Lectures on Physics, this is from the author who wrote I, Robot, but this book is not fiction. It is a fantastic introduction to physics, all the way from mechanics, electricity and magnetism, to quantum physics. It does not require higher mathematics to read it.
    https://www.amazon.com/Isaac-Newton...sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1249445430&sr=1-1" by James Gleick
    You have to know some history to understand science, so why not start with the man who set modern day physics and mathematics into motion? This probably isn't the most comprehensive biography in terms information, but the story that Gleick presents is very readable and investigative.

    Actually, the four authors above have written several books on physics and science, which are some of the best out there. Gleick wrote a great book on chaos, a biography of Feynman, Gamow wrote many books, including the fun Mr. Tompkins books, Asimov wrote a New Guide to Science (a huge tome on science), and Feynman of course has his books which are basically collections of stories throughout his life, both scientific and personal.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  9. Aug 5, 2009 #8
    Surely you're joking Mr. Feynman (I know it was already said but I figured i'd just second it and give the correct title)
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