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Several Physics Books to Choose From (Wolfson, Knight, Feynman)

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  • Thread starter Archimedes777
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  • #1

Main Question or Discussion Point

I have been lurking on PhysicsForums for more than a decade. I have been telling myself that I was going to learn physics for fifteen years, but I ended up studying computer science when I returned to school after having been an English teacher for several years. I am currently doing my master's degree in CS (distributed systems), but I want to spend some time self-studying physics.

In terms of my academic background, I have taken courses in calculus, statistics, linear algebra and discrete mathematics. I briefly ventured into real analysis, but need some heavy review. I have access to a university library (and can audit courses), but over the years I have also collected a few introductory texts, which is what leads to my question...

I own copies of Essential University Physics by Wolfson, Physics for Scientists and Engineers by Knight (along with the exercise book) and Feynman's Lectures on Physics. I have found many recommendations for Young and Freedman or Halliday and Resnick on these forums, and I am wondering if I would be better to get an older version of one of these texts from my university library, or if the books I have are good enough for self-study? Presumably the best place to start is with a general text like one of these rather than with a specific mechanics or electrodynamics text?

If any of the texts are good enough, then great. If not, please recommend a book, and I will take a look to see if my university's library has a copy.

Thanks in advance!
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
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Feynman's Lectures are a wonderful read, but vol. 1 is definitely not a good introductory textbook. I believe vol.2 and 3 (electromagnetism and QM respectively) are more approachable, but vol.1 (which is a potpourri of topics from mechanics, optics and thermodynamics) won't teach you how to do physics if you've not been exposed to that material before. It works good as a supplement when you want a different view on some topic.

I don't know Wolfson nor Knight, but looking at their table of contents I'd say they are the usual first year university textbook, and they should be in this sense somehow equivalent to every other standard book.
Exposition styles and approaches indeed differ(usually only slightly, since it's standard introductory material) between textbooks, and picking a best one among those is inevitably a matter of personal taste. I don't think you will be losing much by using any of the 2 you already have. You can still pick up H/R or Y/F from the library and see if you are more attracted by their exposition; it never hurts to use more books simultaneously, if time allows.
 
  • #3
Thanks, @mastrofoffi ! I figured it probably didn’t much matter. I appreciate you taking the time to check the contents.
 
  • #4
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I was raised with Resnick Halliday but I have a copy of Knight too.

Knight is fine. On these forums, you will find advise on everyone's personal preference as to which text is best.

Knight is fine. Do not let the best be the enemy of the good. Best of luck going through Knight, as you already own it
 
  • #5
Thanks, @mpresic3 . It is nice to hear that someone familiar with the text thinks it’s acceptable. I started going through it yesterday.
 

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