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Short books for introduction to the following ;

  1. Jun 15, 2013 #1
    I'm currently a 2nd year undergrad student. I have done introductory courses on Mechanics and Electromagnetism, with the corresponding maths required for them.

    I am trying to figure out where my interests lie in order to apply for Grad school next year (my degree is of 3 years). I need a list of introductory books (just talking about the field in general, for example, NOT a textbook) which are short, concise and cheap(!), and will help me see what lies in that specific field.

    The fields on which I require books are :

    Particle Physics
    Theoretical Astrophysics
    Theoretical Physics (this is a little vague, I know, but I'll just ask nonetheless!)

    Also, what are the other fields relating to the above ones I might not know the names of? Feel free to throw in any suggestions, even if not related to the above areas. After all, I do not know much, and I need to find out where my interests lie in this 1 year. Thanks!
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 15, 2013 #2
    You're applying to graduate school in physics with only two introductory courses in physics?
  4. Jun 16, 2013 #3
    Um no..? I have 2 full more years of college to go.
  5. Jun 16, 2013 #4
    Ah, based on your post, I thought you were applying to graduate school this Fall as you are currently in your second year and you said it is a three year program.
  6. Jun 17, 2013 #5
  7. Jun 17, 2013 #6
    Perhaps Susskind's The Theoretical Minimum: What You Need to Know to Start Doing Physics?
  8. Jun 17, 2013 #7
    A First Course in Loop Quantum Gravity by Gambini and Pullin might be a good book for you. It says it's on LQG, but half the book deals with background material (SR, GR, QM, QFT). Also, it was specifically written for undergrads. It's a short relatively easy read, and not too expensive.

    A good particle-ish book would be QED: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter by Feynman.

    Also, browse your university's library. You might find something interesting by just looking around.

    Personally I don't think that general, introductory, non-textbook, type books are going to be any helpful towards you in choosing a research field. I've chosen my research field by reading (working through) advanced textbooks. Having a general view of a subject and knowing what it's like to work in that subject are not necessarily the same perspective. For me, there are several things that sound interesting, but I find are boring to work on; and things that sound boring, but are fun and cool to do.

    Of course you have to the curiosity going by something (maybe try this), but keep in mind that you should choose a research specialty based on what you think is fun to do, not just what sounds cool in some introductory book.

    ``other fields…[you] might not know the names of''
    Condensed Matter & Biological Physics
    Quantum Optics & Cold Atom Physics
    Experimental Particle Physics
    Observational Cosmology
    Experimental Physics

    There's nothing wrong with wanting to do theory, but you should still be open to doing experiment.
  9. Jun 18, 2013 #8
    @Jorriss : Thanks for the recommendation. I will check it out.

    @rhombus : I'll check out A First Course in LQG, thanks. And yes, I agree that the research field should be one that is fun to the doer, but the thing is, I hardly know what's out there in the world of Physics. My logic is that once I get some information about the different areas, I'll find out what I enjoy the most. Whether this is a correct reasoning or not I do not know. I agree about the best method being to use advanced textbooks - but I do not know where the text is actually going to be used - unless its a textbook made specifically for that field, like say Introduction to Particle Physics.

    Also, as an undergrad, I've enjoyed Classical Mechanics the most so far. What fields use CM heavily? Or is this question a wrong one?
  10. Jun 18, 2013 #9


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    If you are talking about more or less modernized work then classical gauge theory/classical field theory cast in the language of differential topology and geometry will do the trick (of course other mathematics is involved but the base language is as mentioned).

    On the other hand your question isn't really clear because give or take every field of modern physics draws from classical mechanics in one way or another.
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