Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Reading Newton's Principia while taking my Physics Mechanics class

  1. Sep 1, 2011 #1
    Is reading the Principia a good idea as a supplement for my physics Mechanics class I will be taking this year. The class is a 1st year class btw, I feel by reading it along with my textbook and lectures I will be able to develop a very deep understanding of Mechanics. Do you guys think it's a good idea.
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 1, 2011 #2
    If you are interested in the history of science, I think it would be an excellent idea.

    If you are just interested in science, though, I'm not so sure.

    The problem is that math and science have both advanced quite far since Newton's day. Notation and units alone will likely make reading it of very little direct practical use.
  4. Sep 1, 2011 #3
    I'm more into the science then the history, if it's not practical then I probably won't do it.
  5. Sep 1, 2011 #4
    It will not help much.First it was wrote a long time ago in Latin and ideas are expressed in a weird way by modern standards . Second Principia does not use calculus or vectors. Newton uses a very intriguing geometrical approach which is at time almost incomprehensible.
    A good supplement are Feynman's lectures volume 1.
    Actually Feynman translated some Newton in this lecture.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 5, 2017
  6. Sep 1, 2011 #5

    Waste of time. Probably more harmful as Newton used gay notation that isn't used.
  7. Sep 1, 2011 #6
    A level of geometrical sophistication that almost no one bothers to achieve today does certainly not equate to "gay notation".:rolleyes:
  8. Sep 1, 2011 #7
    Thanks for the Feynman lecture link I'll probably do that instead, it very interesting how the same arguments which are usually presented using calculus can be explained by using plane Geometry.
    Last edited: Sep 1, 2011
  9. Sep 2, 2011 #8
    I think it's a good thing because it will give you an appreciation of how much we've come in 400 years. You'll find the Principia totally abstruse and bewildering and it will take a while to figure out what Newton is trying to say. It's sort of like trying to build a house with hand tools instead of using a power saw. Educational.

    Once you get done with that reading Maxwell's original papers when doing E&M.
  10. Sep 2, 2011 #9
    ^ Although that is true, I wouldn't necessarily suggest reading it while actually learning the material. The historical/original approach, although important in its own way, is probably not as intuitive or helpful as the conventional/standard approach.

    In my opinion, reading the historical approach is best after having already learned the material (in the standard approach). That way, you get not only a review, but new insights into how the standard approach came to be and how the material itself even came to be. Learning both simultaneously, you could get pretty confused not knowing how to apply one approach versus the other.

    That definitely made my day.
  11. Sep 2, 2011 #10
    Love this response. Simply love this. :!!)
  12. Sep 2, 2011 #11
    Why not give it a go? Try and find the friendliest translation/abridgement with explanations aimed at undergraduates. This looks possible:

    http://www.greenlion.com/prin-rev.html [Broken]
    Last edited by a moderator: May 5, 2017
  13. Sep 2, 2011 #12


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    xd, i have lost my patience with you more than once. my apologies for that. In this case your question inspired me to look up a free copy of newton online and read at least the first page or so. I encourage you to do the same. I really enjoyed it. do not saddle yourself with having to read any fixed amount. but in my experience any amount at all we read of such a brilliant man is helpful to us. peace.

    [i also confess to enjoying maxwell.]
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook