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Studying Self learning physics

  1. Jun 8, 2017 #1
    Hello, everyone, I am a 16-year-old high school student studying AP physics, that will be a senior this coming year, I have a very keen interest in physics and would like to pursue a career as a particle physicist. I finish school in 2 weeks (finals) and I want to study physics over the summer, but I am not sure of what resources I should use to help me study. I got almost all parts of classical mechanics done and i started learning calculus in my junior year.
    Here are a few examples of what i would like to learn during summer. (not all of them of course, but just a general idea of topics that intrest me)
    • Relativity
    • Quantum mechanics
    • Nuclear physics
    • Condensed matter
    I know i could find alot on the internet but i would like help knowing what I should learn first, whats the mathematics required for such topics etc.

    Thank you for your time,
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 8, 2017 #2
    Hello, Mayed.

    My personal recommendation would be to solidify your understanding of calculus-based mechanics. I would go over a book like OpenStax University Physics http://cnx.org/contents/d50f6e32-0fda-46ef-a362-9bd36ca7c97d for this.

    Linear Algebra would be a great thing to study alongside Special Relativity and QM. It is used heavily in both fields. I don't have a recommendation for a book, but if you can get an old copy of Onan and Enderton, I liked that book.

    You can start the remainder of your list with Special Relativity. I haven't found a good book to teach out of, but I'm going to try David Morin's "Special Relativity For the Enthusiastic Beginner" next semester. I think it's fairly inexpensive. There is actually an excellent book on both intro SR and QM called "Basic Concepts in Relativity and Early Quantum Theory" by Robert Resnick and David Halliday. I cannot recommend this book enough for starting concepts in both fields. After reading this, you'll be in a good position to tackle Morin's book above.

    Knowing electricity and magnetism would be a good thing to do while studying SR, although you can do all the relativistic mechanics without it. Again, a book like OpenStax University Physics should be just fine for this. Eventually, Griffith's Electrodynamics book is the current standard for University-level E&M.

    Quantum Mechanics somewhat uses some of the ideas from Special Relativity, but you will need a good grounding in not only differential equations, but partial differential equations and the method of Separation of Variables. This is a difficult undertaking at this level. I would read up on Resnick and Halliday's book while you pursue the more involved mathematics.

    Nuclear Physics and Condensed Matter will depend on your knowledge of QM. So, although you can get started with SR this summer, the rest of your list is better pushed back until you have some more foundation under you. But don't let that stop you from reading everything you can on line or in your local library.

  4. Jun 8, 2017 #3


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    Special Relativity is a good one to start, as it doesn't require advanced mathematics but is a big conceptual hurdle to overcome. It's definitely worth getting a head's start, as long as you don't confuse yourself.

    There's a free textbook here:


    As a textbook, I like:


    It might be good for you in that it is designed for self-study and probably as a supplement to a full university course. That said, he covers a lot of material. It lets you learn SR in manageable steps - rather than a more advanced mathematical-based treatment.

    In terms of getting ahead in calculus another free resource is:


    This is worth looking at before you buy a calculus book.

    Quantum Mechanics, I think, is advanced mathematically and it's better if you have a good understanding of classical physics first. And, unless you have mastered linear algebra, you may find QM a bit difficult to comprehend. Personally, I would leave that and definitely look at SR first.

    If you still have time, then Linear Algebra is worth learning - although I don't have a recommendation for a text book.
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