# New to Physics

1. Sep 27, 2004

### TheShapeOfTime

Hey,

I'm in grade 11 and have begun my first true Physics class at school. I've found everything, so far, interesting and wish to persue the subject further on my own time. I'm looking for any general advice on how to get started. What are the basics I need to get down? Important people? Important theorys? Keywords for Googling? Popular Books?

Recently I bought a book on the history of E=mc2 and "The Universe in a Nutshell" and "A brief history of time" by Hawkings.

Chris

2. Sep 27, 2004

### Integral

Staff Emeritus
The absolute best place to start is right where you are. In a class room with a text book.

I call the books you listed "coffee table" physics books they can expose you to some aspects of the RESULTS of doing physics but they DO NOT teach you physics. If you wish to learn physics start with the basics and sound math skills then, apply yourself to what may often seem like pure drudge work. The understanding you need to get can only be had through perseverance.

3. Sep 27, 2004

### TheShapeOfTime

Hey,

I understand that the class room is where to start, but what can I do to persue Physics on my own time? Are there any [good] books that teach to a certain extent instead of being "coffee table" physics books?

4. Sep 27, 2004

### KaneOris

I mainly persue it on the net myself, get next level text book, talk on places like this etc

5. Sep 28, 2004

### primal schemer

Personally, I dont find that those 'coffee table' books are that easy to learn physics off, as Integral mentioned they only really give you the results of physics. I find it very hard to accept someone explaining the effects of, say, relativity, without saying why it is true.

At the start of a brief history of time, Hawkins writes something to the effect of 'Im only going to put one formula in this book to make it as accessible as possible'
Personally, I dont like this approach as I dont see anything wrong with putting in a few formulae here and there.
I like the approach of feynman, as he isn`t afraid to throw formulae in, 6 easy pieces, and 6 not so easy pieces are very good (both books contain 6 selected chapters from the feynman lectures on physics). He also gives very good examples and thought experiments.

6. Sep 28, 2004

### Cod

If you want to pursue physics more on your own time, stop by your local public library and pick up some of the self-help books for physics (e.g. Physics: The Easy Way) and other related books. Also, if you have the money, go to a local college or university and buy the physics textbook that they use on that campus. Because for the most part, textbooks are the best way to learn physics.....inside and outside the classroom.

Here's a few online sources that you can purchase physics textbooks from:

http://search.barnesandnoble.com/textbooks/booksearch/results.asp?TXT=Y&querylocation=7&userid=6Y4ng28Ajo&TTL=&ATH=&WRD=Physics&Search.x=0&Search.y=0 [Broken]
http://catalogs.mhhe.com/mhhe/viewDiscipline.do?descr=Physical+Science&parid=70&catid=82

Like I said above, if you have the money and are willing to spend it towards your education, then definitely look into purchasing a college textbook.

Last edited by a moderator: May 1, 2017
7. Sep 28, 2004

### ZapperZ

Staff Emeritus
Let me just say that you are getting excellent suggestions here on what you should be reading/studying. I will echo the suggestion that you pick up an intro physics text that they use for 1st year physics. Books like Serway et al., and Halliday/Resinik/etc. not only convey a survey of physics, but they also have "stories" associated with each chapter or principles being presented. This tends to put those lessons in perspective to what we encounter everyday (or almost everyday).

You will not learn physics from pop-science books/articles - they are not meant for that. So use them only for bedtime/bathroom readings. :)

Zz.

8. Sep 28, 2004

### Mk

yeah, I'm purely internet and self pursuing, how I got into physics was my background in interest of theoretical cosmology, I looked at the pictures and captions in Hawkings, "The Universe In a Nutshell." Then Art Bell, got me into loving theoretical physics. He had Professor Michio Kaku... the rest is obvious. "The Elegant Universe," is a good book to start with, and yeah, start with a texbook.

9. Sep 28, 2004

### chroot

Staff Emeritus
There are three kinds of books, in my opinion:

1) Books which aim to entertain and inspire, but not really to educate. They rarely use math. Hawking's popular books are an example.

2) Books which aim to teach you to solve physics problems. These books use lots of rigorous math and show every teeny tiny step in full detail. A basic freshman textbook like Halliday & Resnick is absolutely the way to go for learning the nuts and bolts of how to solve physics problems. It's even reasonably entertaining!

3) Books which aim to educate, but don't concern themselves with homework problems; they're more aimed at self-teachers. These books have lots of math, but are not rigorous -- they skip over many of the proofs and details you'd need to actually solve problems. If you'd like to see physics painted with a broader brush, check out the Feynman Lectures on Physics. The three volume set will cost you about the same as H&R, but covers many more topics. (And you might want to just start with the first volume.) Like the coffee table books, Feynman will not teach you to solve physics problems. He will, however, introduce you to a broad range of subjects and give you a good sense of how physics is done, and what it's all about.

Based on your responses in this thread TheShapeOfTime, I strongly recommend the Feynman lectures. I believe you can browse some excerpts from the books on amazon.com, and most large bookstores carry the books, too.

- Warren

10. Sep 28, 2004

### Gokul43201

Staff Emeritus
If you've got yourself a copy of Resnick & Halliday, you're all set for the next several months.

If not...what are you waiting for ?

And most importantly, do the problems. That's the only way to learn Physics - by solving problems. If you run into difficulties, there's always PF !

11. Sep 28, 2004

### TheShapeOfTime

Hey,

Thanks for all the help. I'm definitly going to check out Halliday & Resnick, and the The Feynman Lectures. I'm looking at The Elegant Universe, too.

What I've found so far:
http://www.amazon.ca/exec/obidos/AS...01089/sr=1-2/ref=sr_1_2_2/701-4528702-6298763
http://www.amazon.ca/exec/obidos/AS...01235/sr=1-7/ref=sr_1_0_7/701-4528702-6298763
http://www.amazon.ca/exec/obidos/AS...797/sr=1-11/ref=sr_1_0_11/701-4528702-6298763

I'm assuming this is what you all are refering to?

Anyway, thanks again. I've got plenty to do for a while and I'm definitly going to be sticking around here :).

Last edited by a moderator: May 1, 2017
12. Sep 28, 2004

### chroot

Staff Emeritus
TheShapeOfTime,

You have the right books there. :) Note that the Feynman lectures are also available in paperback for $15 less per volume, if you're low on cash. You might instead consider buying the books Six Easy Pieces and Six Not-So-Easy Pieces, each of which contains six chapters from the lectures, to get started. I bought a copy of both books for about$6 each at a used bookstore.

All in all, just don't lose sight of the fact that one book will not teach you everything -- you will need to learn the same things several times from different perspectives to really understand them. If you get stuck in one book, you can often find the way out in another.

- Warren

13. Sep 28, 2004

### TheShapeOfTime

Cool, thanks.

14. Sep 29, 2004

### Mk

Welcome to physicsforums! I had the same reaction "Wow! I'm staying here!"

15. Sep 29, 2004

### JasonRox

Go to a used book store, and get some textbooks. Look through them a bit or even read the first chapter, to make sure it is a level you can comprehend. Cheap and easy.

Second, never skip chapters. Never think you don't need to know something. Always work out the details.

Third, without math you'll be reading coffee books for the rest of your life. Pay attention in math, and I mean very close attention. Also, if you are getting 90's in math, that has nothing to do with whether or not you understand it. It simply tells you that you can solve questions on a test that are very similiar to your homework questions. Try to understand what is happening with the numbers or graphs.

Note: I bought a textbook off Amazon.com and waited 2 months for delivery, and at the end of the 2 months they told be they were sold out!!! I would certainly avoid dealing with them since they don't update anything. Also, I was buying it new, so they should have it updated.

16. Sep 29, 2004

### Chronos

Do lots of math. Work out every problem at the end of each chapter until you get it right. When you catch yourself having the urge to integrate words that start with a capital S, you know you are on the right track.

17. Sep 29, 2004

### physicsisphirst

ya! used bookstores are great! so are places like value village and salvation army. i got

halliday resnick $5 atomic physics (U of pittsburg 1931)$4
classical mechanics (barger olsson) $3 thermodynamics (a beautiful book by young)$3

there's much more and these are Canadian dollars!!!

i've been so busy being so pleased with my finds and the prices, that i haven't even had time to read the books. :rofl:

while some of the material is admittedly dated, much in physics isn't going to change so one certainly doesn't need the latest and greatest - which often it isn't.

also, there is a real sense of adventure with some of the older books because they take you back to a time when some of the neat things were actually happening.

btw, baez has an excellent page entitled "How to Learn Math and Physics" where he also lists books. his whole site is superb - even for those of us who don't understand most of it, yet:

http://math.ucr.edu/home/baez/books.html

in friendship,

18. Sep 29, 2004

### TheShapeOfTime

Thanks for the continued responses. I shall take all your advice into consideration. I've got a few little questions though:

Since I'm just starting out, do you recommend I stick here, in the general board? Check them all out? Check some out? I guess it can't really hurt either way, but I'm just curious for your opinions.

I'm used to studying Computer Science on my own time, in which time can be spent doing things like programming or web design. What do you guys do besides read/study/whatever? How do you apply your knowledge on a day-to-day basis?

Last edited by a moderator: Sep 29, 2004
19. Sep 30, 2004

### Chronos

Peruse whatever you find interesting and apply your knowledge to ask questions or give answers. Stick to what you understand and you will be fine. I play golf when I need a reality check.

20. Sep 30, 2004

### JasonRox

We do it for self-satisfaction, and not to apply to everything we see, or atleast we try to do that. I find it satisfying to know how everything works.

What else do we do?

I love hockey, but there's a lockout now, so that equals no life for a Canadian. Sorry, I can't think beyond that.

21. Oct 1, 2004

### subodei

There are physics problems everywhere

You don't really understand your physics unless you can see something to calculate or figure out wherever you are. Litterally.

When I was first learning kinematics something I loved to play with was those little fluffie ice cream cone toys that shoot the icecream at people. Cut off the rope and see if you can figure out how to predict where the ice cream will land, numerically, based on the inclination and experimental results to determine the strength of the shot.

There are physics problems everywhere you just need to look for them.

Here's an easy one: Derive a formula to calculate how far away a thunderstorm is based on the time difference between lightning strikes and the thunder sound.

Last edited: Oct 1, 2004
22. Oct 1, 2004

### TheShapeOfTime

Cool, thanks.

23. Oct 1, 2004

### Mitchell

I am in my first year of Engineering at College and in am taking Physics for Scientists and Engineers (Serway) and concurrently enrolled in Calc I. I have spent hours on just on physics problem. It's to bad the school doesn't offer Persiverance 101. I look at Calculus as a means of acquiring tools for my tool box and Physics as the garage to use the tools. Good Luck!