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Preparing for a physics class

  1. Mar 14, 2009 #1
    I am majoring in physics at school, and I am finally starting Physics 131 (classical calc-based physics) next semester. I am just finishing up my Calculus courses this summer.

    I would like to find a good book that I can read to get me started so I can have the best chances of doing well in the class when I start this fall.

    Can anyone recommend some good books I can purchase or borrow from the library that covers Newtonian Mechanics, thermodynamics, and classical wave motion? I haven't had a physics course in a long time (over 5 years) and I really want to go into this class as prepared and ready as possible.

  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 14, 2009 #2


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    Staff: Mentor

    Why not simply use whatever textbook you're going to use in the fall? You'll have to buy a copy eventually anyway.
  4. Mar 14, 2009 #3
    That's not a bad idea. I have been watching the MIT OCW lectures by Prof. Lewin, and as it turns out, they use the same textbook that my school uses.

    I think I may do that.

    Some other books might help too though, would you not agree?
  5. Mar 14, 2009 #4


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    I've always been a fan of the Feynman Lectures on Physics for a good overview of everything from mechanics and E&M to relativity and quantum mechanics.
  6. Mar 14, 2009 #5
    The Feynman Lectures are better as an after thought, IMO. Just focus on doing a lot of problems. It will make things a lot easier for you. Learn to like doing problems. Think about your answers and what they mean. Ask your self questions like: Is my answer too big or too small? How would I know if it was too big or too small? Do my units match? Am I sure my units match? Why does this equation mean that? Can I draw the "story" of this equation on paper or play a "movie" of it in my head? Are there similarities between equations that try to describe similar things?

    Visualize as much as possible. Once you have good problem solving skills and visualization techniques, start attempting to derive the physics you have read about on your own.
  7. Mar 15, 2009 #6
    Interesting...we took calc in parallel with our physics courses. Well, calc was a step ahead, we had calc 1 first semester freshman year, then calc 2 and physics 1 in the second semester...

    I'm not sure whether I would have done better, or worse, if I had taken the calculus sequence in its entirety first. Maybe I would have mastered it better...or maybe I would have become annoyed at a lack of direct applications to physics.

    I agree with the previous poster's suggestion to go ahead and obtain a copy of the book you'll be using. You might also browse a bookstore and look for physics guides. I have a ton of Schaum's outline series books and a variety of basic references on my bookshelves.
  8. Mar 15, 2009 #7
    heh, when I said "finishing up my calc courses" i meant calc I. I took calc 1 as a two semester course because I thought I would need the slower pace to keep up (since it had been before that I took high school math). Now I wish I had taken the regular calc 1 course, because the one I am in is going WAY to slow for my taste.

    Anyway, that was another question I was going to ask my physics major adviser at school: is calc 1 enough of a prep for calc-based physics, or would I do better if I took a full year's worth of calculus (1 and 2) before diving into physics?

    I am very excited to start physics, I have been waiting for this for a long time, but I do not want to rush into it and do poorly because I am not properly prepared. At the same time, I want to get the ball rolling!

    Thanks for advice, though, I think I may go ahead and purchase the text-book we will be using. Also, I found an old Physics Textbook (Physics, fourth edition, by Arthur Beiser, published about 1984) at a used bookstore for $2.00! I think I'll work though some of the problems in there to start getting the hang of it.

    I'm pretty confidant that I am right in assuming that the material I want to prepare for (Newtonian Mechanics, thermodynamics and classical wave motion) hasn't changed in the last 25 years :P
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