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Self-learning special relativity

  1. Sep 21, 2011 #1
    Hey guys, I am currently trying to learn special relativity independently. I just read thru the 1st chapter of Spacetime physics and is trying out some questions. Just a few questions though:

    1. How long did it took you guys to grasp special relativity?
    2. Is A level math(high school level) sufficient to have a clear understanding of SR?
    3. Any online resources good for people of my math proficiency level?

    P.S : I am currently busy as a conscript of my nation's army. Therefore, I don't have all the time in the world to learn this. So I am trying to utilize my free time optimally by studying something interesting and perhaps useful( I am going to study Chemical Engineering in less than 2 years time!)
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 21, 2011 #2
  4. Sep 21, 2011 #3
    A handy program thats free that can immensely help is scilab, Its similar to matlab in function takes a bit to learn how to use it but its great for running mathematical models and number sets, Also has handy graph capabilities.
    The handy part of that is rather than having to calculate yourself what happens in relativity formulas you can tell it what equation to run then provide it a range of numbers to calculate per variable and graph them.
    Far easier than trying to do so by hand.
  5. Sep 21, 2011 #4


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    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    The mathematics of special relativity isn't that difficult. A-level* is more than enough. The difficult part is to throw away some of your intuitive notions of how space and time appear to work.

    You do need more maths for general relativity (i.e. relativity with gravity) or for accelerating frames in special relativity, but don't try to run before you can walk!

    *That means 16-18 year-olds in the UK.
  6. Sep 21, 2011 #5


    Staff: Mentor

    7 years, but only occasional attempts at that time and not using a dedicated book.

    Yes. Algebra is sufficient, but linear algebra would be a very strong plus.

    Definitely start with Hyperphysics, IMO. Then I would recommend Leonard Susskind's lectures. After that Wikipedia is not a bad resource, but you need to have a little bit of a background so you can filter mistakes that occasionally crop up.
  7. Sep 21, 2011 #6
    Wow. Thanks for the quick replies. You guys are great!
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