Self-Studying Physics for High School Seniors: Textbook Suggestions

In summary, The senior in high school who is planning on majoring in physics likes the way physics is taught but finds the textbooks to be too watered down and lacking in mathematical rigor. He has found recommended textbooks by the members of this forum and put together a list for self studying. He would like to know if he is on the right track and would appreciate suggestions. As far as math goes, he is fairly comfortable with calculus but will be going back to re-learn it in case there are any gaps. He plans to learn linear algebra and vector calculus as he understands these are a must have for quantum mechanics and electrodynamics.
  • #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

Electrodynamics:

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.
 
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  • #2
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.
 
  • #3
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?
 
  • #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?
 
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  • #5
Physics2341313 said:
I found an online copy of Calculus 9th edition by Bruce Edwards and just worked through the book section by section.

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.
 
  • #6
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!
 
  • #7
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!

Zz.
 
  • #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.
 

1. How do I choose the right textbook for self-studying physics?

Choosing the right textbook for self-studying physics can be a daunting task. It is important to consider your level of understanding and the level of difficulty of the textbook. Look for textbooks that are specifically designed for high school seniors and have clear explanations and examples. You can also consult with your physics teacher or do some online research for recommendations.

2. Is self-studying physics a good idea for high school seniors?

Self-studying physics can be a great idea for high school seniors who are interested in pursuing a career in science or engineering. It can also be a good option for students who want to challenge themselves and have a strong foundation in math and science. However, it is important to note that self-studying requires discipline and motivation, so make sure you have the necessary dedication to succeed.

3. How much time should I dedicate to self-studying physics?

The amount of time you should dedicate to self-studying physics depends on your goals and the difficulty of the textbook. As a high school senior, it is recommended to spend at least 2-3 hours per week on self-studying. However, if you are planning to take the AP Physics exam, you may need to dedicate more time to fully prepare for it.

4. Are there any online resources that can supplement my self-study of physics?

Yes, there are many online resources that can supplement your self-study of physics. Some useful websites include Khan Academy, Crash Course Physics, and MIT OpenCourseWare. These resources offer video lectures, practice problems, and other helpful materials to enhance your understanding of physics.

5. How can I stay motivated while self-studying physics?

Staying motivated while self-studying physics can be a challenge. It is important to set realistic goals and break your studying into smaller, manageable chunks. You can also find a study partner or join a study group to keep each other accountable. Additionally, try to find real-life applications of the concepts you are learning to make them more interesting and relevant.

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