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Self study help

  1. Sep 23, 2013 #1
    I'm a senior in high school and dislike the way physics is taught. I find the textbooks to be too watered down and lacking in mathematical rigor. My plan is to major in physics when I go to college, so I've decided to self study physics in my spare time. I've browsed around the forums here looking at the recommended textbooks by the members and put together a list for self studying. I'd like to know if i'm on the right track and would appreciate suggestions. As far as math goes I'm fairly comfortable with calculus but will be going back to re-learn it in case there are any gaps. Then I plan to learn linear algebra and vector calculus as I understand these are a must have for quantum mechanics and electrodynamics etc.

    For Classical Mechanics:

    Calculus Volume 1 and 2 - Tom Apostol
    An Introduction To Mechanics - Daniel Kleppner, Robert Kolenkow


    Div, Grad, Curl and All That - H.M. Schey
    Electricity and Magnetism - Purcell
    (Griffiths Introduction To Electrodynamics after Purcell?)

    I also have copies of Classical Electrodynamics by JD Jackson, Introduction To Elementary Particles and Quantum Mechanics by Griffiths, Classical Mechanics by Goldstein, and Introduction To Special Relativity by Resnick but have no idea what the math requisites for these texts would be or of there are other textbooks that need to be studied before these.
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 23, 2013 #2


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    Looks to me like you're all set mate! You can use Griffiths and Purcell concurrently even; I personally found it helpful anyways. If I may say so, I think a book on vector calculus is going to be a waste of time for you. Both Purcell and Griffiths (especially Griffiths) cover everything you need to know and vector calculus is not an extensive subject so you won't really need anything outside of the first chapter of Griffiths, as far as those two textbooks go.

    Also, Apostol's calculus books are geared towards pure math texts. The calculus in Kleppner's text is all computational and as such, of a very different character. You can use Apostol if you want but the stuff you learn in Apostol won't help you with Kleppner.
  4. Sep 24, 2013 #3


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    The Apostol books are great: rigorous, complete, with excellent problems -- really they're an introduction to analysis with some linear algebra thrown in for fun. However they are calculus for mathematicians. Apostol used and tested them on Caltech freshmen and sophomores, so his audience was mainly future scientists, but he taught them math as a mathematician would learn it. They were (and are) required courses for all Caltech students -- that's how they do things there. If you want that sort of thing, it's a great choice. If your goal is physics, there are faster ways to learn the necessary calculus. How did you learn what calculus you already know?
  5. Sep 24, 2013 #4
    Thanks for the replies. I hadn't thought of using them both concurrently before but now that you mention it that's a great idea.

    @ IGU the calculus i know now I self taught myself during the summer. I found an online copy of Calculus 9th edition by Bruce Edwards and just worked through the book section by section/ If I remember correctly it covers both the calculus AB and BC classes in high school. Funny you mentioned that. I had actually been looking at Caltech as a possible college choice although I doubt I would be accepted there.

    @WannabeNetwon Thank you for pointing that out. Could you suggest any other textbooks for learning the necessary calculus? I have a copy of Mathematical Methods for Physicists by Arfken. Would that be a good route to go for learning the necessary math? I possibly plan on dual majoring in both math and physics as I love both subjects. So could using Apostol give me a glimpse of what a math major may be seeing if it is geared towards pure math?
    Last edited: Sep 24, 2013
  6. Sep 24, 2013 #5


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    Then you should be able to handle Apostol now if you're interested in mathematical rigor. You'll find it very different, especially working through the problems.
  7. Sep 25, 2013 #6


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    If you're planing on dual majoring in math then that changes things. You're going to be taking a rigorous calculus course your freshman year (I hope!) so for that purpose Apostol would do you justice. Good luck!
  8. Sep 25, 2013 #7


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    I'm surprised no one has recommended Boas's "Mathematical Methods in the Physical Sciences". She made it in such a way that it was meant to be used for self-study!

  9. Sep 25, 2013 #8
    Ok I'll use Apostol's books in that case. Thank you again for the replies and all the help. I appreciate it.

    @ZapperZ I have that book as well. I plan to go through some more rigorous calculus and math in general. Then move on to Baos or either Arfken's book on mathematical methods for physicists.
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