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Physics Books For The Average Joe?

  1. Mar 26, 2009 #1
    Physics Books For The Average Joe??

    I just finished reading A brief History Of Time, My very first experience reading on ANY physics topic, and am now wanting to delve a little further and get a more in depth understanding of the concepts in the book.

    I will mention that i have no education with Physics or Math, but judge myself to be a somewhat smart individual.

    What i'm looking for is recommendations for topics and books that would be a good starting point for my understanding to a greater degree the concepts in A Brief history of Time, books to get me to the next step in my quest to understand Physics, but in a laymens way, (not a math book) at least to start, (but not a childrens book either)

    Interested in topics such as:

    Specific Relativity
    General Relativity
    Quantum Physics
    Black Holes
    Or Any of the subject covered in History Of Time

    Can Anyone help me out?
    Last edited: Mar 26, 2009
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 26, 2009 #2


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    Re: Physics Books For The Average Joe??

    I always liked John Gribben's "In search of.." books. They are bit old now but at this level not much has changed.
  4. Mar 26, 2009 #3
    Re: Physics Books For The Average Joe??

    brian greene's the elegant universe and the fabric of the cosmos are both brilliant. they are written in a way that those without formal training in physics can understand, enjoy, and learn from. a brief history of time was also the first book i read on physics, though i did have half year of conceptual physics under my belt, and greene was where i went from there.

    of course there is also black holes and baby universes and other essays, the universe in a nutshell, and a briefer history of time, all also by hawking.

    relativity: the special and the general theory didn't seem too in-depth for me personally, and i read it having not much experience in physics.
  5. Mar 26, 2009 #4
    Re: Physics Books For The Average Joe??

    Before you read anything else, read "A Short History of Nearly Everything". Bill Bryson, the author, does an awesome job of simplifying things, but not to the point that you aren't learning anything interesting.

    If you're interested in Quantum and SR and such, I highly recommend "Entanglement: The Greatest Mystery in Physics" by Amir D Aczel.

    I also really liked "The Physics of the Impossible" by Michio Kaku. He also wrote a book called "Hyperspace". I haven't read that, but I know it's more to do with time and black holes and some of the more spooky stuff that it sounds like you're into.

    A fun one is "The Physics of Superheroes" by James Kakalios.

    If you haven't had any education in physics, than there is some catching up you need to do before you can really appreciate SR and quantum. You really should learn as much as you can about mechanics and electromagnetism before you keep pursuing the heavy stuff. I'm not saying you won't understand the heavy stuff. I'm only saying that when people aren't anchored to reality by a foundation of cold, hard, reliable Newtonian physics, they can be convinced that anything complicated enough is true. If you have a good foundation, you'll be a much more critical learner, and you will go much further.
  6. Mar 26, 2009 #5


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    Re: Physics Books For The Average Joe??

    The books mentioned so far are great popular science books, and I myself have read many of them. Reading them you should expect similar caliber explanations as you received in A Brief History of Time, in that no mathematical physics is invoked but the concepts are explained in a way that makes a lot of sense.

    That said, if your goal is to peak your interest in physics with all sorts of fascinating concepts such as black holes, worm holes, extra dimensions, special and general relativity paradoxes and interesting situations, and such, then these popular science books will certainly do this. Most of them give great descriptions often with apt analogies so that you can have a feel for what's going on without really understanding it.
    You should realize that all these "interesting" topics are extremely high level, and even the simplest of which requires at least a year of university caliber physics and mathematics to understand and describe. So, like Archosaur says, if you want to attempt to pursue a more mathematical, complete understanding of some topics you really do need to start with mechanics and electromagnetism (the stuff one learns in a 1st year introductory physics course).

    That said, my recommendation is this:
  7. Mar 26, 2009 #6
    Re: Physics Books For The Average Joe??

    A good book for starting into General Relativity and Special Relativity, is Einstein for Dummies. It also has quite a bit about the life of Einstein, which was interesting.
  8. Mar 26, 2009 #7
    Re: Physics Books For The Average Joe??

    The universe in a nutshell..Hawkins sequel to a brief history of time
  9. Mar 26, 2009 #8
    Re: Physics Books For The Average Joe??

    Isaac Asimov wrote the books that got me started. A delightful set of paperbacks called "Understanding Physics", probably his less famous trilogy :-) These lay some of the groundwork you might need to appreciate the sexier topics like relativity and cosmology. I also recommend his book _The Neutrino_, which has interesting historical details about how science is done.

    I echo the The Physics of Superheroes suggestion, too. You might also consider something that's not overtly a physics book, such as _Genius_, the biography of Richard Feynman by James Gleick.

    _Cosmos_, Carl Sagan
    _The Ring of Truth_, Philip and Phylis Morrison

    http://www.lightandmatter.com by Benjamin Crowell.
  10. Mar 26, 2009 #9


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    Re: Physics Books For The Average Joe??

    Anything by Carl Sagan or Tim Ferris is a fun and educational read. They both have a tremendous ability to boil down hard science into something understandable by anyone. Larry Niven has a similar ability, although he's far better known for his fiction.
    Asimov was one of my earliest influences, but you have to remember that he was a biochemist. Every once in a wee while he made mistakes about physics. (Minor ones, to be sure.)
  11. Mar 28, 2009 #10
    Re: Physics Books For The Average Joe??

    Thanks for all your help everyone!
  12. Mar 29, 2009 #11
    Re: Physics Books For The Average Joe??

    books on qantum mechanics by john stewart bell
  13. Mar 29, 2009 #12
    Re: Physics Books For The Average Joe??

    the first book i read on physics was actually a quantum mechanics book called "Quantum: A Guide for the Perplexed, by Jim Al Khalili". It's a pretty good book and it also talks about the quest for the ultimate theory.
  14. Mar 29, 2009 #13


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    Re: Physics Books For The Average Joe??

    Unfortunately, you can't learn anything from most popular science books. The most they can give you is entertainment. The only exception I can think of is "QED: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter" by Richard Feynman.
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