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Prerequisites for learning particle physics?

  • #1

Main Question or Discussion Point

I was wondering what one needs to know before learning particle Physics?
And any resources/books that you could suggest to help that process.
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
Pengwuino
Gold Member
4,989
15
What is your educational background?
 
  • #3
I am in year 11 in australia.
I have done very little physics: motion, some light, electricity, flight and newtons laws
(I understand that I have a lot to learn but I would like some advice on where to start and where to go).
I have a reasonable amount of algebra(I think/hope) and some basic calculus.
I started year 11 physics a couple of weeks ago and I have found that none of it holds my interest nearly as much as particle/nuclear physics.
Also I was wondering, is there a difference between quantum and particle physics?
Are they related to each other?
Thanks for the quick reply.
 
  • #4
836
13
Particle physics is normally taken in the last year or two or undegrad. You have a long way to go. By the way, I would like to know why you say:
I started year 11 physics a couple of weeks ago and I have found that none of it holds my interest nearly as much as particle/nuclear physics.
I very much doubt that you know anything about particle physics, unless you have read about it in popular science books, which give you a very bad idea about what physics is really like. Those books are written with the aim of selling many copies, not informing the reader.

I don't know why people always say classical physics (what you should be learning in physics now) is boring. Many generations of brilliant physicist were intensely interested in classical physics. Einstein's love of classical physics led him to his discovery of relativity.

You should first learn your school physics. Then before you get to particle physics you should learn the following physics at the very least: calculus-based mechanics and electromagnetism; intermediate mechanics (Lagrangian methods) and electromagnetism (at the level of Griffiths); quantum mechanics (at the level of Griffiths). And also the following math: single- and multi-variable calculus; linear algebra; differential equations; complex analysis.

As you can see it is a long way to go before you can start studying particle physics. My suggestion is to see if you really have an interest in physics or not, and not to worry about particle physics until much later. Here are some books you should read to gauge whether you actually love physics or not:
The Character of Physical Law by Feynman. (No math at all)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Feynman_Lectures_on_Physics" [Broken] by Feynman.
Physics by Halliday and Resnick. (a calculus-based textbook)
 
Last edited by a moderator:
  • #5
epenguin
Homework Helper
Gold Member
3,717
754
I expect the books recommended in the last post are sound enough. Well, the Feynman Lectures are a full Physics lecture course, as tough as any other textbook but with something what-it's-about extra over usual textbooks. 3 volumes, plus having to stop and think, I wonder how long that is going to take? Requires a certain commitment.

But basically I wanted to say, this principle of learn to walk before you can run is IMHO not sound pedagogy. At least a little bit trying to run before you can walk is OK. Then you are are likely to understand the interest of the old 'boring' parts that was mentioned. I fear too much 'a long way to go before you can start studying particle physics' and the student may never get there.

The difference between quantum and particle physics was subject of a recent thread, roughly the latter is a phenomenological area and level, the former is the theory necessary for that area but necessary also for a much wider area including bulk matter and chemistry.
 
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  • #6
1,654
2
At my university, our undergrad QM class is the prerequisite for Introduction to Particle Physics. I may take it this Fall. I hope it's not too hard. Haha.
Basic building blocks of matter, quarks and leptons, and their interactions; symmetry principles, such as discrete symmetries (C, P and T) and flavor symmetries based on the SU(N) groups; violation of some of the symmetries, such as parity symmetry in weak interactions. Phenomenology will be summarized in the framework of the Standard Model.
 
  • #7
901
2
It shouldn't be too bad, all undergrad particle physics courses usually have this structure.

Introduction / Overview
Chapter 3: Relativistic Kinematics
Chapter 4: Symmetries
Chapter 6: The Feynman Calculus
Chapter 7: Quantum Electrodynamics
Chapter 8: Electrodynamics of Quarks and Hadrons (Section 8.1)
Chapter 9: Weak Interactions

http://www.physics.utoronto.ca/~krieger/phys489.html#homework

EDIT: I take that back, it looks pretty intense :biggrin:!
 

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