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Older Physics Book

  • Thread starter tycon69
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  • #1

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I recently checked out a college physics book from my high school library. It is a Sears and Zemansky College Physics book. The problem is, it was published in 1960. Now I am pretty sure that it is nearly the exact same physics that would be in a more recent physics book, since the physics itself is quite a bit older than that, and i dont think simple mechanics have changed that much, but I still wanted to ask some experts so that my physics learning is not tarnished. So, would my experience self-learning physics from an older physics book have any negative aspects compared to learning it from a newer book?

Answers and Replies

  • #2
I seriously doubt it will have any negative effect. The only thing I can imagine is that the mathematical notation might be different than more current texts, but even that's a stretch.

My university library gets rid of some of their inventory every semester, so I picked up a Modern Physics book published in 1956. The material (even the presentation!) was almost exactly what I covered in my Modern Physics class. Actually, really the only difference is that maybe people were more excited about flying cars and teleporters in the 50s.
  • #3
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I own a 1980s copy of S&Z - nothing fancy in it. I learned most of my early physics from a 60s edition of Resnick & Halliday, and I loved it.
  • #4
I picked up Physics for Scientist and Engineers With Modern Physics along with a solutions guide for like $20 a few months ago.

It's two editions back from the book that's out now and was released in 2000, so far it seems to be really great. It also seems to follow the outline of the video lectures from MIT so that helps out as well, they're great.
  • #5
tycon69> I recently checked out a college physics book from my high school library. It is a Sears and Zemansky College Physics book. The problem is, it was published in 1960. Now I am pretty sure that it is nearly the exact same physics that would be in a more recent physics book...I still wanted to ask...so that my physics learning is not tarnished. So, would my experience self-learning physics from an older physics book have any negative aspects compared to learning it from a newer book?

Off the top of my head...
College Physics - Sears - 1965 Second Edition - Addison Wesley
[I think it was 1960 First Edition and corrected 1965 with the Second Edition]

I think it's one of the finest books around for Non-Calculus Physics. It's one of the deeper explorations of physics [aka one of the thickest books around] for beginners. I think you would get a far more solid foundation than most of the newer texts actually.

I'm hardly an authority, by any means, but I still prefer the First and Second Editions of PSSC physics [1960, 1965]. Sears College Physics is a great supplementary text with it.

A good modern mid 80s text i think was Wilson, it had lots of 1970s 80s casual pen and ink illustrations and no photographs, but it was one of the nicest algebra physics around.

University Physics by Sears and Zemansky [a billion editions in the 60s] is another kettle of fish. If your first year calculus is top notch, and your high school or non calculus physics is first rate [1960 era calculus I and Physics 12]. It's an okay text, though many of that era are not deep enough in the problem sets [do all the problems or die], and the explanations are a bit more generous in today's texts.

University Physics by Sears and Zemansky - pre 1980s would be a good supplementary text. My money would be on Halliday and Resnick Third Edition, 1980s for a better primary text.

[I think 1960 Halliday and Resnick, the yellow and blue for Scientists and Engineers is a wonderful book, though has its terse flaws like the Sears and Zemansky texts of the era. And the 1990s 2000s Halliday and Resnicks are cluttered, with ugly layout, and a bit less clear than 20 years ago, for my taste.]


I'm still not clear if you got:
a.College Physics by Sears- non calculus
b. University Physics by Sears and Zemansky - calculus

I think they are best paired together, just because Sears is extremely detailed on the basics, written in a clear, no frills, no nonsense style, and yet still quite approachable.

For Starting out Physics:
a. The Ideas of Physics SI edition - Giancoli - no algebra, all conceptual
[dont like his textbooks at allthough]
b. The 1960 or 1965, PSSC Physics Course [the 1960-1970 era of High School Physics]
c. College Physics - Sears - Addison-Wesley
d. College Physics - Jerry D. Wilson - 80s to 2000 editions - i think that's the text

First Year Physics:
a. Halliday and Resnick - 80s editions - Third Edition - primary text
b. Serway - any edition 80s to now - supplementary text
c. Sears and Zemansky - any edition 80s to now - supplementary text
d. Physics for Engineers and Scientists - Third Edition - John Markert [an obscure textbook, almost as good as the others, and better than the way too concise and boring Tipler textbooks]
e. possibly the 5 Berkley Physics Series - 1970 ish - good for first and second years
[Mechanics/Electromagnetism/Waves/Atomic Theory/Statistical Mechanics]

and what good is physics classes without a peek or a taste into the 'next step beyond'

Second Year Textbooks:
a. An Introduction to Mechanics - Kleppner and Kolenkow - 1980s McGraw-Hill
b. Mechanics - Keith Symon - Third Edition 1971 Addison-Wesley
[I think Marion is a horror, great supplementary textbook once you finish a and b though, and some think Marion gets worse with time]

good at any level for browsing with the above books.
a. Feynman's Lectures on Physics -
[the first 100 pages are readable, with difficulty - and has been a rough and rocky path for many souls, though now it has a firm cult reputation - now being fully appreciated]
[there is no shame in rereading the text and starting from the beginning all over again for many souls, who encounter it early on - it's actually a joy to reread, from high school to the Phd qualifying levels]
[but you will stall in places, if your toolbox isnt impeccable]
b. Schaum's Outlines - high school to more than halfway through your degree
[REA might be a good supplement too if you want more than what Schaum's offers]
c. Thinking Physics: Understandable Practical Reality*- Lewis Carroll Epstein
[a great tool]
f. French's MIT paperbacks on physics - MIT Introductary Physics Series
[Newtonian Mechanics/Special Relativity/Vibrations & Waves/Quantum Physics] - think of these as similar to the Berkeley Series and way more popular]

Lots of books on physics at this level are great supplementary reading, from 1910 to the 1960s, as long as you know what 70 books were the cream of the crop, and prepared for a little less handholding. With older texts some things were clear, some things muddy.

Popular texts in Math and Physics, sometimes are that way, because to be accepted by the curriculum, you need to fit into the 'cookie cutter mold' of textbooks. Something Feynman's Lectures didnt fit into one bit.

Schaum's Outlines in the 1930s were onto something with 'fully explained problems' that really were like teacher's blackboard explanations, and enough problems to chew through.[something textbooks usually neglected till the 70s and Halliday and Resnick excelled at - being problem heavy] Shame they started changing the Schaums covers in the 1990s and started branching out a bit too 'thin'...[same goes for REA].


At the right price a lot of textbooks are 'decent', and newer isnt always better. Just think of physics and math as trying to build yourself a 'toolbox' and your tools are going to be unique, what you study and read, and deeply soak in concept by concept. A well rounded foundation is basically the only recommended thing you need to know.

My rule of thumb which i recently apply is that for many courses, it's nice to get an easy applied straightforward textbook [say a book on complex variables for engineers/or/Calculus Made Easy - Sylvanuius P Thompson] and then a textbook like [complex variables for pure math geniuses with proofs and theory/or/Calculus by Courant/Spivak/Apostol]
Think of one course as teaching you the dumbass, how to turn the crank, how to do things the easy way, and then nearly taking the course again but going the deep/honours/abstract way, a second time...

Always get two 'decent' textbooks [at least] for a class - [this takes skill, most people who take say a first calculus class will get easily lost trying to follow two texts, if say the teacher's textbook isnt all that clear]

Mastering a course in a concrete, simple and applied way, and then taking the class with a deep, abstract, honours set of texts, i think is one of the easier ways to actually get something out of those 'difficult' pure math texts or things of that nature. I just think rigour is something you best learn and absorb the second time, because the first time you need the 'concepts down cold'.

As for the question... Self-Learning is the best way to learn, older and newer books both if possible. Knowing what's good (for you), takes a while to learn, as long as you know what *you want* and what skills most *courses* one day demand of you.

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