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Planck's General Mechanics Book

  1. Apr 23, 2014 #1
    Recently, I've come across Planck's lectures in theoretical physics and I have a couple questions. Although I'm curious about the series as a whole, I'm mostly interested in volume 1: General Mechanics and maybe Mechanics of Deformable Bodies.

    The Series consists of: General Mechanics, Mechanics of Deformable Bodies, E&M, Optics, Theory of Heat. I am not referring to the 8 Lectures book that is currently a Dover reprint.

    1. Any one have experience with General Mechanics or any of the texts in the series?
    2. Which books in the series would still be the most valid?
    3. What level (upper undergrad, early graduate, etc.) would they be?
    4. Anyone know if there is still a copyright on them or if the copyright has expired? I've looked for any info on the copyright status of these books and was unable to find anything. Just to make this clear, if the copyright is still valid and if I still decide to read them, I will be buying it used off of Amazon.
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 23, 2014 #2


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    I would suggest that you read a more modern treatment; these pre-date the use of vector notation and the ideas of linear algebra.

    If you are a beginner, try the Feynman lectures on physics.

    If you are at the graduate level, try Goldstein's Classical Mechanics, or Landau & Lifshitz' Mechanics.

    Unless, of course, you are interested in the history of how it is taught - then read away.
  4. Apr 23, 2014 #3
    Well, at some point, I'd still be interested in reading it due to the difference in the way of looking at it and that Planck was the one who wrote it. Despite the notation, any warnings for what might not be valid anymore? Also any idea on the copyright issue, if it has expired or not.

    Anyways, as for my background, I'm in AP Physics C (calculus-based) although we are more or less done learning new material. I am working through Taylor's Classical Mechanics currently (although slowly since I don't have much time to devote to it currently). I have looked at Goldstein, although I could very slowly attempt to work through it now, but I decided Taylor would be best to do first. I have looked at L&L before and I definitely need to do Taylor or equivalent first to even attempt that. As for math, I have done Calculus 1-3 (so I have done single and multi-variable) and am currently in differential equations.
  5. Apr 24, 2014 #4


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    Here, I'm a bit undecided. On the one hand it's right that these books are about 100 years old, and for sure for a beginner a more modern treatment (my favorites are Goldstein, Landau-Lifshitz 1, and Scheck) is better. On the other hand the textbooks by the great physicists of this time are marvelous. Particularly the books by Helmholtz and Planck are particularly good. The best books about theoretical classical physics ever written are, imho, the ones by Sommerfeld. It becomes immediately clear why his Munich school of theoretical physics produced more Nobel Prize winners than any other academic school ever. From the next generation, and of course heavily influenced from his teacher Sommerfeld, Pauli's lectures (6 volumes) are also a gem (except the last volume on QFT which is quite outdated from today's point of view).

    Of course, everything concerning quantum theory, including statistical physics, is quite outdated nowadays. The only exception are Pauli's lectures on non-relativistic quantum mechanics, which are a great and timeless exhibition of the wave-mechanical approach.
  6. Apr 24, 2014 #5
    I have come across both Pauli and Sommerfeld's lectures before, I will look into them further thanks to your opinion. Also, next semester (next Fall) I'm going to be taking both Physical Chemistry 2 (Intro to quantum chemistry, kinetics, and intro to statistical mechanics) in addition to doing a directed study with a professor for (graduate, chemistry) Statistical Mechanics and some of Simple Liquid Theory. What would I need (prerequisite-wise) to go through L&L's Statistical Physics Vol. 1? Would any of his other volumes be at least somewhat applicable. Any other suggestions for books on the physics side of it?

    By the way, as for the texts for the directed study:
    Statistical Mechanics by McQuarrie
    Theory of Simple Liquids 4th by Hansen & McDonald
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