Self-Studying Physics

  • #1
I have a B.S. in Mechanical Enginerring and I am almost done with a PhD in Nanotechnology. Through these years I realized I really like physics and I would like to learn mmore advanced physics than the one I know so far. I would like to know how to study physics. My plan is to follow the academic program for a physics major and read all the books they read. I just started by reading the lower division courses books. Does anybody has any suggestions?
 

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  • #2
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First start with Landau - Mechanics. See how you feel - the reviews say it all:
https://www.amazon.com/dp/0750628960/?tag=pfamazon01-20&tag=pfamazon01-20

If it still appeals, and it converted me from math to physics, then get back for further suggestions depending on the direction you are interested in. For example you may want to know why Classical Mechanics as formulated in advanced books like Landau. The answer is QM - but you need to discover that yourself - we can guide you but only you can do it.

Thanks
Bill
 
  • #3
Bill,

I started reading a Calculus book to review the lower division material. Should I continue with the lower division stuff, or should I move on to Mechanics by Landau?
 
  • #4
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To understand Landau you need Calculus 3 in the US system. I do not know if that is what you mean by'Lower Division'. I would not normally recommend this but since you have, or soon will have, a PhD in a science area it should not really be a problem.

If you are serious about Physics you need to know the background math. The best book I know for that is Boas:
https://www.amazon.com/dp/0471198269/?tag=pfamazon01-20&tag=pfamazon01-20

You need Chapter 9 on the calculus of variations for Landau. So get that and study both books together. If you decide physics is for you Boas is a very valuable reference and a good book to study before delving further into more advanced physics.

The beauty of Boas is you do not need much calculus to understand it. If you feel the need for a refresher the following, actually written by physicists (one a Nobel winner) is good:
https://www.amazon.com/dp/0471827223/?tag=pfamazon01-20&tag=pfamazon01-20

You can do it in a weekend.

Later you probably will want to delve into the proofs and aspects of pure math associated with this stuff. Its not essential, and best left until you are well on your way in your journey of more advanced physics, but I have found the following, in this order good:
https://www.amazon.com/dp/0691125333/?tag=pfamazon01-20&tag=pfamazon01-20
http://matrixeditions.com/5thUnifiedApproach.html
But do not worry about that for now - Boas is all you need to start. It's just a suggestion for later because I love analysis :DD:DD:DD:DD:DD:DD:DD:DD:DD

Thanks
Bill
 
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  • #5
Hi Bill,

Thanks for your response and sorry for too many questions. Should I read Boas book in the order it is given by the author or should I follow a different order, like start in Chapter 9?
 
  • #6
ZapperZ
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Bill,

I started reading a Calculus book to review the lower division material. Should I continue with the lower division stuff, or should I move on to Mechanics by Landau?
Shouldn’t you already calculus and a lot of other mathematics if you are about to graduate in mechanical engineering?

Zz.
 
  • #7
Shouldn’t you already calculus and a lot of other mathematics if you are about to graduate in mechanical engineering?

Zz.
Yes, you are right, but I wanted to know if it was necessary to review the material, since I haven't seen it for a while.
 
  • #8
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Yes, you are right, but I wanted to know if it was necessary to review the material, since I haven't seen it for a while.
OBVIOUSLY you must review the material. Nobody is likely to keep all the skills and concepts in high quality condition. One must review as often as necessary to keep in shape.
 
  • #9
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Thanks for your response and sorry for too many questions. Should I read Boas book in the order it is given by the author or should I follow a different order, like start in Chapter 9?
In your case given your background, start with Boaz Chapter 9. If its too much at this stage start reading Boas from the beginning, but since you already have a degree in ME you should probably be alright. Then read Landau. Beware of Landau though - it's not actually hard - its one of those books that you keep rereading and get more with each read - its deep - just like the reviews said.

Thanks
Bill
 
  • #10
Hi Bill. I just feel kind of weak in math, so I started reading Boas from the beginning and I am almost done with the first chapter. Do you think it is okey if I start reading Landau once I am done with Boas?

Thanks
Fernando
 
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  • #11
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100% for sure. Landau Mechanics is just do beautiful (but terse) it will change your view of physics. But take it oslowly, its not a race.

Thanks
Bill
 
  • #12
Hi Bill. I forgot to tell you that someone suggested me to start reading Analytical Mechanics (written by Fowles). I read it, but I didn't understand the last two chapters (Lagrangian Mechanics and Dynamics of Oscillating Systems), I guess the problem was calculus of variations. Then I tried to read Introduction to Electrodynamics (written by Griffiths), but I didn't understand it. Based on this and the fact that I only spend at most one hour everyday for reagins these books, do you think I can understand advanced material? Or not? If I can, should I still consider reading Boas and then Landau?
 
  • #13
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My plan is to follow the academic program for a physics major and read all the books they read.
but I didn't understand the last two chapters
ased on this and the fact that I only spend at most one hour everyday
I don't think you are being realistic. A BS in physics is 4 years at 40 weeks per year and 50 hours per week. That's 8000 hours. Maybe you need less because of what you've already learned, and maybe you need more because you are doing this on your own, but let's go with 8000 hours. Let's say "at most one hour everyday" means 5 hours a week.

So it's 31 years to finish.
 
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  • #14
100% for sure. Landau Mechanics is just do beautiful (but terse) it will change your view of physics. But take it oslowly, its not a race.

Thanks
Bill
Hi Bill. I forgot to tell you that someone suggested me to start reading Analytical Mechanics (written by Fowles). I read it, but I didn't understand the last two chapters (Lagrangian Mechanics and Dynamics of Oscillating Systems), I guess the problem was calculus of variations. Then I tried to read Introduction to Electrodynamics (written by Griffiths), but I didn't understand it. Based on this and the fact that I only spend at most one hour everyday for reading these books, do you think I can understand advanced material? Or not? If I can, should I still consider reading Boas and then Landau?

Thanks
Fernando
 
  • #15
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Hi Bill. I forgot to tell you that someone suggested me to start reading Analytical Mechanics (written by Fowles). I read it, but I didn't understand the last two chapters (Lagrangian Mechanics and Dynamics of Oscillating Systems), I guess the problem was calculus of variations. Then I tried to read Introduction to Electrodynamics (written by Griffiths), but I didn't understand it. Based on this and the fact that I only spend at most one hour everyday for reading these books, do you think I can understand advanced material? Or not? If I can, should I still consider reading Boas and then Landau?

Thanks
Fernando
You don't read a Physics text book, you study from it. It sounds like you are trying to read this stuff like you would a detective novel.

Griffiths Electrodynamics must take about 500 hours, at least. But that assumes periods of intensive study and a certain amount of the mathematical prerequisites.

At one hour a day, you cannot progress to advanced material. Students at university will be studying 50 hours a week and they still find things like Electrodynamics hard and that there is not enough time in the week.

It would take at least as long to get through Boas or Landau.
 
  • #16
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Then I tried to read Introduction to Electrodynamics (written by Griffiths), but I didn't understand it.
That suggests to me that you should get one of the standard first-year calculus based intro physics books (e.g. Halliday/Resnick/Walker) and study the chapters on electromagnetism, then return to Griffiths.

As an engineer, you probably took a first-year physics course that included electromagnetism, but as a mechanical engineer you've probably used little or no electromagnetism in later courses or in your work. You've probably forgotten most of it and need to start from scratch.
 
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