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Self-taught Physics

  1. Feb 14, 2014 #1
    I’m going to ask a dangerous question, and propose for one book by suggestion, that I should read to take nothing more than just a first step down a path of self-taught Physics.

    We all know that to get started in something, we just need to get started (which is of course the hardest part). I am 23 years old, and as a first-degree “talent” I am to utilise my time to progress in animation, filmmaking and art. These are the subjects I naturally grew into, these are the limited concentrations that withheld any interest that was ever asked for in higher education.

    I loved Mathematics in school. There was nothing more aesthetically pleasing to me than to grind through a multi-page equation that would turn out the certainty of one, single solution. But I was simultaneously frustrated. Because while my teacher would tell me that such an equation would produce the answer required to get your much needed certificate, I was never told most importantly why, or how this system of logic worked.

    Why do I want to study Physics? Because like any artist or scientist, I have an overinflated sense of curiosity, that does not end with my identified proficiency in art or philosophy. With the fear of creating your own constraints (not necessarily limitations), it may give direction to express my centralised interests in astronomy and the existential fascination I bear for dark matter, dark energy and (irrelevantly) human consciousness.

    While it’s silly to give a starting point it’s entirety towards one book… At this moment in time it’s all the room I have available for my shelf of collective interests.
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 14, 2014 #2


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    What is your intent?

    There are *plenty* of laymen-level physics books out there (A Brief History Of Time, The Elegant Universe, etc.). These books will give you a beautiful, albeit quite diluted, picture of physics.

    But if you want to learn physics the way a physicist would, the path is quite different. It involves learning material that is dense and difficult. Good that you like math - that's the biggest obstacle for most people. The general consensus here at PF, though, is that it's all but impossible to learn physics to a high level by self-study. You should consider taking an introductory class at a community college, just to get your feet wet.
  4. Feb 14, 2014 #3
    What physics courses have you taken?

    To answer your question, one needs to know what physics courses (HS, college) you have taken. When have you taken these courses, how well did you do, and how much of the info you have retained? I can recommend good physics learning material for various levels, but first I need to know your background.
  5. Feb 14, 2014 #4
    Well if you want to learn just what's going on in physics then just read the above given recommendations (also the universe in a nutshell by Hawking is a goodone )

    If you want really to teach yourself physics (forget about getting a job without a degree)

    you need to get some basic mathematical ideas in order to grasp the concept of how things work in physics this can be very dull in the beginning since essentially you need to learn certain principals in math and then to solve exercises so that you master those principals...

    But after (a year or two depending on how hard you work) you will start to get into the "good stuff" and really learn about physics.

    My recommendation is Calculus by Michael Spivak 4th edition and Vector Calculus by Jerrold E. Marsden, Anthony (first master the Spivak book then go for vector calculus)

    The above need some basic knowledge of mathematics (from highschool) and a good understanding of arithmetic.

    After mastering those books you can start with some elementary physics (mechanics mostly) I could recommend you this: University Physics by Young freedman

    It will be good to read something about basic probability theory as well.

    After that you will be able to find your way around and decide what's next for you.
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