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Self-studying physics

  1. Jul 20, 2014 #1

    I just finished high-school (sixth form in the UK) and I will start studying Mathematics and Economics course at university soon.
    I enjoyed physics a lot in high school (almost chose to study it at uni) and therefore don't want to stop learning about it.

    How can I self study physics alongside my uni course?
    Which physics book should I get?


  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 20, 2014 #2


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    University physics is a good choice since you can purchase an older edition on the cheap and as long as you're familiar with calculus you shouldn't find it too difficult.
    Last edited: Jul 20, 2014
  4. Jul 20, 2014 #3
  5. Jul 20, 2014 #4


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    Who are the authors? The titles of introductory physics textbooks are very generic, so people usually refer to them by their authors: Freedman/Young, Halliday/Resnick/Walker, Tipler/Mosca, etc.

    I've taught algebra/trig based intro physics using Serway/Faughn, but I can't for the life of me remember the actual title of the book! I don't have a copy any more, so I'd have to do a search on amazon.com to find out.
  6. Jul 20, 2014 #5
    I don't know, on what level mathematics and physics education at UK high school is, since I am native German. However, in my opinion every physicist should have read at least some chapters of the famous Feynman lectures, and certainly non-physicists will benefit from doing so, as well.

    Depending on how deep you want to go, Landau Lifshitz would be a good choice, although the volumes are really hard. But they give you something that no (to my mind) other textbook gives you: Giving you insight into Landau's brilliant mind, they show you how to create a physical theory. His arguments are always very subtle, for example when the form of the Lagrangian in classical mechanics or the Minkowski metric or the action in relativistic mechanics are derived. It is an intellectual challenge to reflect about these.

    As said, these volumes are very hard. A comparably easy piece is "The theoretical minimum" by Leonard Susskind. I have not read it, though, despite some pages that lead me to the conclusion that I should not read it. However, it might be exactly the right book for someone who is interested in (theoretical) physics as a hobby. There are also lectures by Leonard Susskind on YouTube. However, you could find him too slow (because he is), so I suggest to read the book(s).

    Here in Germany, the volumes on theoretical physics by Florian Scheck have an excellent reputation. They are hard, but not too hard (such as Landau Lifshitz) and really go into great detail (actually they go further than most other mechanics books such as Landau Lifshitz or Goldstein). At least the mechanics volume has been translated into English (Springer) and could possibly exactly the right book to read for a mathematics student.

    By the way: I noticed that the lectures by Arnold Sommerfeld exist in translation, too. These get a true recommendation by me: They could be regarded as obsolete, nowadays, but like the Feynman lectures, they provide you not just with knowledge, but understanding (but on a higher level as the latter ones).

    EDIT: Somehow I associated "University physics" with Alonso/Finn. I don't know it, but my prof adores it. And by the way: Don't waste your time with books Halliday or Tipler. They give you nothing but coloured pictures. I don't understand why so many people like them...
    Last edited: Jul 20, 2014
  7. Jul 20, 2014 #6


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    Young and Freedman are the authors.
  8. Jul 21, 2014 #7
    NeoXX, if you feel this way about physics then do consider switching to maths/physics instead of maths/economics once you arrive at Uni. It's quite possible to enter a business or finance career with a maths/physics degree, but much harder to go the other way around.
  9. Jul 21, 2014 #8


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    Once you finish (at least) the mechanics segment of Young and Freedman, you should go for this book: Kleppner and Kolenkow - An Introduction to Mechanics.

    edit: Make sure you have a good grasp on calculus I material before getting this book, as it is used when solving problems and explaining concepts.
  10. Jul 21, 2014 #9
    Warning: This is going to sound crazy. It's just that I know some Economics people:

    Do you plan on going to grad school for Econ?

    If you studied math and physics as an undergraduate, you have a better chance of getting into an Econ grad school than an Econ major. (Though of course the math will help you a lot too).

    -Dave K
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