1. Limited time only! Sign up for a free 30min personal tutor trial with Chegg Tutors
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Physics self study request

  1. Jul 2, 2015 #1
    Hello, I just finished high school and will be starting a math degree next year. However, I have recently become interested in physics and am thinking of switching to a joint math/physics degree in year 2, so I will want to spend my first year privately studying some select physics books.

    My physics background is as follows. I know units 1-4 here and the mechanics 1-3 units http://www.ocr.org.uk/Images/75811-specification.pdf [Broken], and that's about it. However, I have a strong discrete math/problem solving background and am able to solve several math olympiad problems -- including a few IMO problems (primarily algebra and number theory). I know math up to calculus, as taught in Apostol's two calculus volumes.

    I have looked around and decided that a reasonable sequence of books to study would be: kleppner --> morin --> purcell, but I am highly open to recommendations; for instance, I've heard good things about the Feynman lectures. I would say I learn best with books that explain the material clearly (and rigorously, so including mathematical proofs where possible) and include very challenging problems. I prefer thick comprehensive books to ones that cover many topics at once (so called "general physics" books). I think I learn best when I learn one topic at a time deeply rather than many topics at a time and less deeply, which is why I tend to stay away from books like Halliday/Resnick (I've tried learning from this one in the past but it didn't go well).

    Looking forward to any advice I can get. (:
    Last edited by a moderator: May 7, 2017
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 2, 2015 #2
    Do not use it entirely by itself, but do consider reading the Feynman lectures along with whatever book you do go with. It's available for free on Caltech's website. Its (major) drawback is that it doesn't have any practice problems, but it's an excellent read.

    That said, higher level mathematics like analysis, abstract algebra, and set theory is never used in freshman-junior level physics courses. The most you'll need for introductory physics is single-variable calculus, and then if you know multivariable calculus and differential equations, you could go into classical mechanics and electromagnetism.

    Unfortunately, I used Halliday and Resnick for my intro physics courses, so they would be my first suggestion. I'm sure others here will have some good intro books to suggest.
  4. Jul 2, 2015 #3
    Thank you for your reply axmls; it's good to know that I won't be needing the fancier advanced math topics because I will be learning those next year and wanted to start learning physics as soon as possible. I will probably be getting the Feynman lectures box set soon as they seem to be quite fundamental for learning the subject well. Looking forward to more replies. (:
  5. Jul 2, 2015 #4


    User Avatar
    Homework Helper

    I haven't read Morin (except a few chapters) but the problems are exceptionally good. If you can do the 3/4 star problems in that book, you will definitely have a solid understanding.

    Quote from the preface:
    In my opinion the problems are the main attraction for that book (the writing is also good, from what I've read, but the problems are the real fun).

    Again, I've only explored the first half of that book (and for some chapters I just went straight to the problems) so I can't make a full review of the book. Just wanted to let you know that this is a book for people who enjoy solving tricky problems.
  6. Jul 2, 2015 #5


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Morin is a problem book, you can use it concurrently with Kleppner as a source of extra problems if you want. Alternatively, you can jump into Purcell right after Kleppner.
    However, these books are very physical so do not count on seeing a lot of mathematical proofs there. For a mechanics book with a mathematical inclination I have seen https://www.amazon.com/Classical-Mechanics-R-Douglas-Gregory/dp/0521534097 being recommended here.
  7. Jul 2, 2015 #6
    Wow, thanks for the informative quote Nathanael -- seems like this book was made for me! And thanks for your advice montadhar, the two books look like they make a good combination. I don't mind physical reasoning at all; what I meant by mathematical proofs was that I prefer equations to be derived rather than just stated as they are in the rubbish school textbooks I've been using.
    Last edited: Jul 2, 2015
  8. Jul 2, 2015 #7


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Then these books will have what you want, you will love them if you like challenging yourself :smile: The Feynman lectures are very insightful, I think they would make the most impact by reading the corresponding chapter in them after finishing the problems of that chapter in your main textbooks. However, I would be interested to see what the others' experiences are with them.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook