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

In summary, the conversation discusses the speaker's interest in studying physics after years of being an English teacher and studying computer science. They have access to various textbooks and are wondering if they should stick with the ones they have or borrow others from the university library. There is also a discussion about the recommended physics textbooks and the speaker's personal preference towards Knight's textbook.
  • #1
Archimedes777
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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!
 
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  • #2
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.
 
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  • #3
Thanks, @mastrofoffi ! I figured it probably didn’t much matter. I appreciate you taking the time to check the contents.
 
  • #4
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
 
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  • #5
Thanks, @mpresic3 . It is nice to hear that someone familiar with the text thinks it’s acceptable. I started going through it yesterday.
 

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

1. Which physics book is the best for beginners?

It ultimately depends on your personal learning style and preferences. However, many beginners find "Physics for Scientists and Engineers" by Wolfson to be a comprehensive and easy-to-understand introduction to physics.

2. Is Feynman's "Lectures on Physics" suitable for self-study?

While Feynman's lectures are highly regarded and praised by many, they may be more challenging for self-study as they are intended for students with a strong background in mathematics and physics.

3. Which book covers the most advanced topics?

Feynman's "Lectures on Physics" is known for covering advanced topics in a clear and concise manner. However, Knight's "Physics for Scientists and Engineers" also has a comprehensive section on modern physics and quantum mechanics.

4. Do these books come with practice problems and solutions?

Yes, all three books have exercises and problems at the end of each chapter. Wolfson's book also includes solutions to selected problems at the end of the book.

5. Can I use these books for a college-level physics course?

Yes, all three books are commonly used in college-level physics courses. However, it is important to check with your professor or syllabus to see which book is recommended for your specific course.

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