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Recommendations for C.M. & E.M. going into grad school (non-physicist)

  1. Jun 22, 2013 #1
    Hello all,

    First, to tell you a little about my background, I have just finished my undergraduate degree in geology and geophysics. I also attained two minors in astronomy and mathematics. Thus, my physics and math background includes a year of freshman physics (mechanics & E&M) plus a handful of astrophysics courses, and math courses up through vector/complex analysis, PDE's, Fourier, Laplace, etc. We also went over tensor analysis, signal processing, and continuum mechanics in my seismology and geodynamics courses.

    Although I am not going to study physics at the graduate level (I will be doing geophysics/planetary science) I would like to get a stronger background in the Lagrangian and Hamiltonian formalisms of classical mechanics as well as a more advanced treatment of electrodynamics. I wish I had taken intermediate mechanics and E&M, but I simply just couldn't fit them into my schedule. Therefore, I am seeking some textbooks that will teach classical mechanics and E&M at the advanced undergraduate/beginning graduate level. For C.M., I have seen strong recommendations for Marion & Thornton, Taylor, and Goldstein. For E&M, I have seen Wangsness, Schwartz, Griffiths, and Jackson. I'm already well aware that I probably don't want Jackson, and I'm not really a fan of Griffiths -- I don't mind the tone of his books but he tends to lack depth. I don't mind a mathematically rigorous text, so long as the author explains it well (if the book is a fun read that's a plus!).

    One last question: I adored using and learning from Boas' Mathematical methods book. That book is an absolute gem and I strongly recommended it to my classmates. Will Boas suffice for grad level math and physics, or do you recommend getting a higher level math methods book?

    What are your thoughts people? Thanks in advance!
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 23, 2013 #2
    For advanced undergraduate levels, you really can't go wrong with Morin (for C.M) and Griffiths (for E.M). I'm using both of them currently for self teaching, and if you attempt the given questions regularly, I don't think there's a better way to study the 2 subjects.

    You say Griffiths lacks depth - how so?
  4. Jun 23, 2013 #3


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    Thornton and Marion is garbage IMO. And I have the same question as dreamLord: in what way does Griffiths lack depth?
  5. Jun 23, 2013 #4


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    Didn't we just have this thread? For mechanics I say just start with Goldstein only read another book if it gives you trouble. Griffiths is fine for an overview it has several flaws the coverage of electrodynamics and relativity are lacking, many explanations are confusing or incomplete, related mathematics like vectors, tensors, and Dirac delta are poorly explained, there is no Lagrangian and Hamiltonian formulations. It does not concern me but it also lacks mathematical calisthenics. It is not nearly as bad as his quantum book though. As for Boas it is alright, but I do not see it as being better than the many similar books. The purpose of such books is to give a quick preview or review of basic applied topics. One would likely want to look at some other books as well. Remember it is one book. Boas' husband wrote some nice books as well.
  6. Jun 23, 2013 #5
    I may go with Goldstein for classical mechanics, as I just read on the Amazon description "..Mathematical techniques are presented in detail so that the book remains fully accessible to readers who have not had an intermediate course in classical mechanics." This statement appeals to me since I never took intermediate mechanics.

    I have been leaning towards Wangsness' Electromagnetic Fields. What are your opinions on the level of presentation in this book. I would like something a little more thorough and rigorous than Griffiths but not quite at the level of Jackson.
  7. Jun 23, 2013 #6


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  8. Jun 23, 2013 #7


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    Then go with Schwartz.
  9. Jun 23, 2013 #8
    IMO you won't get a lot out of Goldstein for lower or intermediate mechanics at all. A thorough understanding of Newtonian mechanics is already assumed, and even as an introduction to Lagrangian mechanics there are better options IMO: Calkin and Landau. The chapter on HJ theory is said to be better (I haven't read it myself) and some of the problems are worth doing, however.

    Morin is good for intermediates and getting started with some Lagrangian mech.
  10. Jun 23, 2013 #9


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    I LOVE this book, but the OP needs to know that it is lower level than Griffiths. It is designed for 3rd semester physics - which is what my course was that used it. It is very well done, and is one of the few books typeset with a typewriter (at least it looks that way) that I can tolerate to read.

  11. Jun 23, 2013 #10
    Thank you everyone for all the responses so far! I've looked more into Schwartz's book, and I think I will really like it. Do you think Taylor's book is geared solely for undergraduates, or would it prepare me for some beginning graduate level mechanics problems? At this point I'm still thinking to just go ahead with Goldstein, although I've read reviews that the 3rd edition is littered with typos and that may be annoying.
  12. Jun 28, 2013 #11


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    Franklin, "Classical Electromagnetism", is more advanced and detailed than Griffiths, and reads more easily than Jackson.
  13. Jun 29, 2013 #12
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