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Schools Personal pre-university curriculum

  1. Jan 4, 2008 #1
    Hi guys,

    I am a senior in high school intending on becoming a physicist. I would like to know what books/textbooks I should buy and start working on to get ahead in university. I am particularly talking about math books. I have a few goals:

    1.Prepare myself for university
    2.Have a good knowledge of the subjects that I will learn at university before they are taught
    3.Getting into the juicy quantum mechanics math as soon as possible without skipping anything (I think that I would like to make a career out of research in fundamental QM)
    4.Be able to do summer research in physics at my university (you can as early as 1st year)

    I know that I at least should get books in (I know I must be forgetting subjects):

    1.Calculus (I currently have just about no calculus training. Could I benefit from Spivak?)

    What physics books should I buy?

    I am also looking for a QM book that is harder than those I have currently read (mostly a non-mathematical hodge-podge of books with a few chapters on QM).

    I have Dirac's QM book as well as Shankar's. These are both too hard for me now.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 5, 2008 #2
    i think a solid introductory level text on calculus-based physics is sufficient.

    the halliday, resnick, and krane vol. 1 and 2 even have a bit of special relativity and "modern physics"-level quantum mechanics.

    when i was a whipper-snapper, i used another text, but it lacked the extra chapters on QM. (though the friggin' solutions manual had those chapters! what a tease!)

    don't forget to spend the necessary time applying for colleges! when i was a senior, i spent all of my time doing homework, "funwork," and watching cartoons. my apps were quite a bit rushed and my selection of schools was not at all strategic.
  4. Jan 5, 2008 #3


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    Read Lee Smolin's book The Trouble with Physics.
  5. Jan 5, 2008 #4
    Although I obviously do not have the education to really tell what is going on, string theory (and unification through playing with numbers) seems like a lot of baloney to me. I will read the book though. I am specifically interested experimentally testable stuff giving us insight into the working of QM, possibly one day providing us enough to unify physics: Serge Haroche, Bose-Einstein condensates, Alain Aspect, maybe looking for quantum effects in space.

    I already know that I will go to the local university. They are known for their physics program. A grad student even talked about me to the QM teacher and I got to meet him. Current research is mostly in optics and includes (I will get to work on this stuff as early as 1st year):
    Supraluminal propagation experiments (Canada photonics chair)
    Thin Films (Internationally known photonics/thin film group)
    Photovoltaics / Electroluminesce
    And other cool stuff I won’t mention

    I know that there are a lot of threads already about this stuff, but I was unable to find any that allowed me to make any decisions. I am going to read the Feynman lectures and QED, but I would like stuff to set me on the right path before university. I want to read some more complicated QM as soon as possible but I don’t want to gloss over it. I don’t want to be the guy that knows all of QM but fails everything else. From what I see, this means I will need a very good vector textbook, an excellent understanding of calculus, partial derivatives and probably a bunch of stuff I don’t even know exists.

    I am interested in buying the Morrison QM books, but will I be able to understand them yet? (So far Shankar and Dirac seem too hard)
  6. Jan 8, 2008 #5
    I'm actually trying to learn QM as fast as possible like in your case, except I'm already a freshman at my local U. I was a little frustrated with the pace in my math class (precal) so I was forced to resort to self-studying applied calculus. You could borrow/buy Morris Kline's "Calculus: A Physical and Intuitive Approach" - this book helped me to understand alot of concepts without too much rigor in calculuations. There's tons of manageable word problems that reinforces what you learn and its actually good enough if you only have a basic trig understanding and some algebra experience.

    I just can't wait to learn QM in general. The patience is killing me! Next term I hope I don't kill myself with "Differential Equations & Linear Algebra" Do all you can to learn the materials because time is ticking! (Note: This might not be great advice for everyone)
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2008
  7. Jan 9, 2008 #6


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    I see! I thought you wanted to work on the fundationnal problem of QM from a theoretical point of view. I'm glad that I was wrong because my impressions from reading Smolin is that it is basically impossible to get a job working on that subject. But experimental QM is probably something else! There are more than interesting questions that I don't think the theory has an opinion about. For instance, at which size does an object becomes quamtum-mechanical in its behavior? How is this change happening? Smoothly or dicretely? I read an article once in a popular science magazine that said physicists had succeeded in maintaining a 140-something atoms in a quantum state.

    Anyway, good luck to you! I hope you realize your dreams.
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