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Richard Feyman's lectures on physics as a resource for self study?

  1. Feb 25, 2014 #1
    I was planning on using Richard Feynman's lectures on physics to study for high school ap tests on mechanics and electromagnetism. I don't know how in depth Feynman's lectures go, since there are no problems but I've heard it works when you're trying to grasp the material. However, I don't know what level of information it provides other than basic calculus-based physics (which is fine), so I'd really like an answer from someone who already knows these topics well, and has also looked into the series. Any recommendations on using Feynman's lectures?
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2014
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 26, 2014 #2
    I don't think they would work for this purpose, as the 2nd volume covers E&M at what would be the upper-division undergraduate level in the U.S.
  4. Feb 26, 2014 #3


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    Staff: Mentor

    Also, in order to learn physics effectively, you need to work out exercises, lots of them. The Feynman lectures don't include exercises.

    It's better to get a standard textbook at the appropriate level, and use Feynman as a supplement.

    I would say that the E&M in Feynman vol. II is in between a typical calculus-based intro physics book, and an upper-division E&M book such as Griffiths. Feynman uses both integral and differential vector calculus (div, grad, curl), whereas a typical intro book such as Halliday/Resnick uses only integral vector calculus when discussing Gauss's Law and the rest of Maxwell's equations. On the other hand, Feynman doesn't get into things like Laplace's equation for the electric potential, and multipole expansions, like Griffiths does.
    Last edited: Feb 26, 2014
  5. Mar 9, 2014 #4
    I agree with the consensus. You are better off with an introductory physics textbook, Halliday and Resnick is the one I am familiar with, although I hear Young and Freeman, or Giancoli are good. Another one I like that is less common is by Hans Ohanian. AP tests stress problem solving, and Feynman lectures do not include problems. I remember an accompanying problems book to Feynman but these were often tricky problems. AP problems are likely to be more straightforward.

    Usually the guys/gals that like Feynman are talking of reviews to prepare for the GRE's (last year of undergraduate physics) or graduate school qualifiers. In addition, even here, problem solving is utmost importance, and they are talking about general reading, not using Feynman exclusively for the prep.

    Summarizing it is not a matter of depth (although Feynman is quite detailed). The content in an alternative conventional introductory textbook is more likely to prepare you for the AP. You may want to revisit Feynman for your summer reading/browsing.
  6. Mar 10, 2014 #5
    I get the impression that the Feynman lectures are much better suited to an audience that's already learned a lot of undergrad physics. I tried to learn E&M from Feynman when I was a first year engineering student, but I found that he just makes everything seem too easy. Usually when I read text books, I spend a lot of time rereading things and wrestling with things I don't understand: that's how I learn. With the Feynman lectures, I read it straight through because everything just seemed to make sense. The problem was, when I tried to apply it, I realized that my understanding was mostly superficial. So I'm sure it does a great job of putting things into perspective for people who have already wrestled with the material, but I didn't find it to be a great introduction. I'm not saying you shouldn't read it, but since you're at a high school level, I doubt it's going to be as helpful as it's made out to be.
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