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Reading Advice for a Non-physicist

  1. Sep 8, 2009 #1

    I'm a CPA here in Texas. I work in finance now and have for the past 5 years. Recently, I've developed the desire to understand at least parts of the relativity theories.

    I'm not considering changing careers or going back to college, as I'm 33 and happy in my current line of work, but at times I feel pretty stupid for not sticking with math and science longer in college. I ended up with an undergraduate in Accounting and Masters in Taxation (something far more stimulating than physics - yeah right).

    I had calculus I and II in college, physics I and II in high school and physics I in college. That said, my math and geometry are about as fresh as a rusted plough. I recently read the book Why Does E=mc^2 by Brian Cox and Jeff Forshaw. I was able to follow their explanation, but they didn't include a lot of math in the book, and at one point even my algebra was so rusty that I couldn't perform a simplification of some fractional radical equations (a step they said was necessary to get form here to there, but didn't bother to publish in the book).

    Anyways, I'm longwinded, but can anyone suggest some basic math and physics books for someone who does not want to make it a career?
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 8, 2009 #2
    The most basic book, I think, for GR (General Relativity) is "Gravity" by James Hartle.

    http://www.pearsonhighered.com/educator/academic/product/0,,0805386629,00%2Ben-USS_01DBC.html [Broken]

    I have been using this book for about 1/2 a year now. It is great.

    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  4. Sep 8, 2009 #3
  5. Sep 16, 2009 #4


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    Also a brief history of time, or universe in a nutshell are good for relitivity, quantum mechanics, black holes, etc
  6. Sep 17, 2009 #5
    Thanks! I'm actually on about page 90 of A Brief History of Time. Started it last night and couldn't put it down. Between that and Why Does E=MC^2, they give a layman a pretty good picture of these concepts. I bought both of those books at the same time.

    Now, being borderline OCD, I'd like to (try to) understand the math behind it. I was pretty good at math in high school and up through Cal II in college - but ended up in the business school in college after a first semester of too much beer and girl chasing and a pre-med advisor that basically told me to get out (based on having just a C in his chemistry II class). Not to mention a crappy academic advisor that advised me to skip Cal I and Chem I.

    Understanding the math may be a bit too much to ask, I have no idea what I'm getting myself into. I noticed MIT had some lectures on you tube - I figured I would start with their physics and linear algebra courses. One thing I've noticed on the linear algebra subject is that none of the references I've found actually explains WHY one would want to multiply matrices.... argghh.

    Any thoughts - I keep hearing about all of Einsteins equations in the two books I've read, but they don't get into them, for obvious reasons (they're over a layperson's head).

    So, what math classes would I need? I've had up through Cal II in college - but that was 9 years ago. I know of linear algebra, diff eq...
  7. Sep 17, 2009 #6


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    Well If I wasnt 17 I would help you :P

    I'm just starting community college part time while im also doing part time at my high school so Im no expert on any of this, I just really like to study physics on my own time.

    Also don't be afraid to read the "dummies" guides, because many of them explain complex equations through calc and what not.
  8. Sep 17, 2009 #7
    Oh, I see, trying to make me feel old!!!!! just kidding

    In any case, I'm not one to turn down advice even from someone much younger, so thanks a lot for your suggestions!
  9. Sep 17, 2009 #8


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    No problem, If you ever need any other book suggestions just ask, I got tons :P
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