Physics/Math Course of Study

In summary, if you are a computer programmer looking to learn about physics and mathematics, there are several books you can start with. For brushing up on math skills, you can try "Conceptual Physics" by Hewitt, "College Physics" by Serway, or "Calculus" by Stewart. For more advanced topics, you can try "Physics for Scientists and Engineers" by Serway, "Introduction to Linear Algebra" by Strang, and "Introduction to Quantum Mechanics" by Griffiths. You can also supplement your studies with "Feynman's Lectures on Physics" and other recommended books.
  • #1
I'm a 33 year old computer programmer. I have been reading ABOUT physics for some time, and enjoyed it in high school, but I'd like to start learning how to DO physics and mathematics. I've never taken calculus, and my other math skills haven't been used for some time. My biggest interests are cosmology and quantum mechanics. I'm looking for a starting point on books to get started with. I'd like a text-book type format, with problems to work through and hopefully the answers explained somewhere.

Any direction is appreciated.

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  • #2
Brush up on your trig, algebra and geometry. I really don't have any suggestions on what books to get to brush up on this stuff. If you want to get a flavor for physics, while you get your math up to par, you can try a conceptual physics book like Hewitt's "Conceptual Physics." The book is very basic, and is essentially aimed at college kids who are NOT science majors.

If you want to try something with a bit more substance (and trig/algebra based), try Serway's College Physics.

For Calculus, any standard fare calc book will do. Some like Stewarts Calculus, I like Larson. Either will do just fine. Once you get your hands dirty with differentiation and integration, you can do Serway's "Physics for Scientists and Engineers", others will recommend Halliday and Resnick. Again, either will do, but I do prefer Serway's. You can supplement the text with The Feynman Lectures.

Once you get through all this, you can move on to a text like "Modern Physics" by Taylor or "Quantum Physics" by Eisenberg and Resnick. You can supplement these with "Understanding Quantum Physics" by MOrrison and "THe Mathematics of Relativity for the Rest of Us" by Jaggerman. You can also try your hand at elementary linear algebra with "Elementary Linear Algebra" by Anton and "Introduction to Ordinary Differential Equations" by Ross.

This about covers what you would cover in two years of a Physics (and Math) major at a college.

I think the suggestions I've given you are very good for self-studying. Many people may suggest other books that are much more rigorous like Spivak's Calculus, many will suggest books that are beyond your level (Im sure someone is going to chime in and say "Griffiths for QM" and "Axler for Linear Algebra"). While those books are fine books, they may not lend themselves to self-study as well (and in some cases, certainly not what you want on a first exposure to the subject), in my opinion.

If you are interested in where to go after you've completed this list, hit me up and I'll suggest more:

Conceptual Physics - Hewitt
Serway's College Physics
Serway's Physics for Scientist and Engineer
Larson's Calculus
Elementary Linear Algebra - Anton
Intro to ODE - Ross
Modern Physics - Taylor

Feynman Lectures on Physics I-III
Understanding Quantum Physics - Morrison
The Mathematics of General Relativity for the Rest of Us - Jaggerman
  • #3
Here is a list of books in sequence that should help you. For best results work through all of them, but pace yourself.

Precalculus: Mathematics for Calculus - Stewart

Calculus - Stewart
Supplement with: Div, Grad, Curl, and All That: An Informal Text on Vector Calculus - Schey

Physics for Scientists and Engineers with Modern Physics - Serway
Supplement with: Feynman's Lectures on Physics - Feynman

Differential Equations - Blanchard

Introduction to Linear Algebra - Strang

An Introduction to Partial Differential Equations - Asmar

Introduction to Quantum Mechanics - Griffiths
  • #4
Thanks to both of you! This is exactly what I was looking for. I'll be back after I get through these!

  • #5
I'd start off with something like Calculus Made Easy rather than a doorstop-sized textbook.

Then the Feynman Lectures on Physics.

What is the difference between physics and math?

Physics is the study of the natural world and its behavior through the use of mathematical models and experiments, while math is a broad field that deals with abstract concepts and logic.

Which subjects are included in a physics/math course of study?

A typical physics/math course of study will include subjects such as calculus, mechanics, electromagnetism, thermodynamics, and statistics. Other subjects may vary depending on the specific program and level of study.

What skills are required for a physics/math course of study?

Having a strong foundation in math is essential for success in a physics/math course of study. Other important skills include critical thinking, problem-solving, and the ability to work with abstract concepts and complex equations.

What career options are available with a physics/math degree?

A degree in physics/math can lead to a wide range of career opportunities, including research positions in academia or government, engineering, data analysis, finance, and teaching.

How can I prepare for a physics/math course of study?

To prepare for a physics/math course of study, it is recommended to take as many math and science courses as possible in high school. It is also beneficial to develop strong critical thinking and problem-solving skills, and to familiarize oneself with basic concepts in physics and math before starting the program.

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