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Intro Physics Should I get this book as a supplement to these Yale courses

  1. Jul 10, 2016 #1
    There are these Yale Open Courses on physics by Professor Shankar. I'd like to know if I'd be okay just watching the lectures and doing the practice problems or should do all of what I just described and also get the book Fundamentals of Physics: Mechanics, Relativity and Thermodynamics by Professor Shankar as a supplement. Thank you in advance! In addition I am at a sophormore level of understanding of mathematics but I am working towards completing Probability and statistics and Precalculus on Khan Academy. I am familiar with some physics concept but don't have the mathematical skills whatsoever to convey them in full detail [very basic understanding, high school level]. Anyway, thanks!
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 10, 2016 #2
    I would strongly advice you to get some exposure to calculus before reading Shankar's books and/or watching the lectures.
  4. Jul 10, 2016 #3
    Welcome to PF!
    R. Shankar himself says in lecture one that the course is calculus-based. You should have a very solid background in pre-calc and a working knowledge of calculus before going through the lectures. You most likely won't be able to do the exercises without knowing how to differentiate/integrate functions and how to work with trigonometry. I suggest you get a bit more math exposure before attempting to go through Shankar's Fundamental of Physics course.

  5. Jul 10, 2016 #4
    Thanks! After I have a working knowledge of calculus(already have a working understanding of trigonometry but haven't used it in calculus of course) do you think the lectures alone are okay or should I get the book as well (the one described above)?
  6. Jul 10, 2016 #5
    I personally feel that the textbook goes slightly more in-depth in certain topics. I also think that a textbook will help you during the exercises because you can easily re-read a specific section and use it as a reference. At the end of the day, I think it depends on what you want, which we cannot answer for yourself.

  7. Jul 10, 2016 #6
    Well thank you anyway for the help! I continue on try to get some "mathematical maturity" so to speak. Maybe eventually I'll purchase Susskind's The Theoretical Minimum book. Again, thanks for the help!
  8. Jul 10, 2016 #7
    *I'll continue on to try to get some "mathematical maturity" so to speak.* Grammatical mistake.
  9. Jul 10, 2016 #8
    This book will quickly teach you everything you need to know to tackle Shankar's lectures and books .

    Quick Calculus: A Self-Teaching Guide, 2nd Edition by Kleppner

    Hope this helps.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 8, 2017
  10. Jul 10, 2016 #9
    On a side-note, I also have Susskind's books and they both assume at least some familiarity with Calculus. I recall seeing calculus of variations for the first time in my life in his lecture on Lagrangian mechanics. There is a section on Poisson brackets too if I recall correctly. Calculus is so fundamental to (college) physics that you won't understand most of the basic derivations without it. As a simple (but very effective) example, even Newton's second law is a differential equation. Say you're only considering a single force in the x-direction. Newton's second law states that: $$ F = m a_x = m\ddot x $$ where ## \ddot x## stands for the second derivative with respect to time. Derivatives are part of calculus, so even deriving the laws of motion require that you know at least a working knowledge of calculus.
  11. Jul 10, 2016 #10
    I remember almost a year earlier that I wanted to start learning physics, only to realize as you stated that it is nearly impossible to fully understand even classical mechanics without an understanding of calculus. It really went to show how little I knew about actually doing real physics so to speak. You can read books such as A Brief History of Time but it won't give the full mathematical picture.
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