1. PF Contest - Win "Conquering the Physics GRE" book! Click Here to Enter
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Classical Spivak's Physics for Mathematicians: Mechanics

  1. Aug 10, 2016 #1
    I will be enrolling in an undergraduate Classical Mechanics course and I was wondering if the book by Spivak "Physics for Mathematicians: Mechanics" would help me understand the concepts more in depth than usual.
    Until the time that I will be taking the course, I will already have finished undergraduate course in General Relativity and Theoretical physics(separately). So, I think that I will have some knowledge of some of the concepts that are presented in this book; my background in mathematics will be a little bit more advanced than the rest of the students that will be taking the course.
    Thanks in advance.

    P.S. If anybody has used it or read it a little bit, what are your opinions?
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 11, 2016 #2


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper
    Gold Member

  4. Aug 11, 2016 #3
  5. Aug 11, 2016 #4
    I own the book and have read parts of it. I do not like it at all. It is very confusing, and a lot of it is unhelpful. For example, his first chapter discusses Newton's principia, which is notoriously difficult to understand. I don't understand why he takes so much time in discussing this book. Of course, if you're interested in the historical context, then this book might be helpful to you. Otherwise, I suggest you study classical mechanics from books written by physicists. Even for mathematicians, there are a lot of good alternatives such as Arnold or Marsden.
  6. Aug 11, 2016 #5
    Do you think that these books-which are intended for mathematics students-would be helpful for me during a first course in Classical Mechanics?
  7. Aug 11, 2016 #6
    What do you mean with a first course in classical mechanics? How can you already have taken GR and theoretical physics without any knowledge of classical mechanics? What is the contents of the course?
  8. Aug 11, 2016 #7
    Well, it's a complicated story, but I am self-studying everything that those courses have as prerequisites so I can successfully complete them.
    The contents of the courses are the standard material that every university that teaches their undergraduates general relativity and theoretical physics contain.
  9. Aug 11, 2016 #8
    Maybe it would be more helpful if you gave a list of things in classical mechanics you know (for example, you might already know kinematics and Newton's law), and the content of the course you'll take.
  10. Aug 11, 2016 #9
    Well, I will be self-studying some part before I take the aforementioned courses(I have not taken any of them yet). I will self-study Lagrangian Mechanics(from Morin's book). Other than that, I just know about Newtonian Mechanics, but nothing fancier than first-year undergrad material.
    The Classical Mechanics course's contents are(from a rough translation of the syllabus):
    -Inertial reference frames and generalized coordinates
    -Newtonian Mechanics
    -Linear and non-linear oscillations
    -Lagrangian formalism
    -Calculus of variations
    -Central potentials
    -Gravity fields
    -Conservation laws
    -Oscillations of small magnitude
    -Mechanics of rigid bodies
    -Hamiltonian formalism
    -Noether's theorem and symmetries
  11. Aug 11, 2016 #10
    Last edited by a moderator: May 8, 2017
  12. Aug 11, 2016 #11
    Yeah, Taylor is great, I just borrowed it from the university library. But, as I will already have some knowledge of higher mathematics, won't the book by Spivak(or Marsden's or Arnold's book on Classical Mechanics) help me go deeper into the subject?
    Last edited by a moderator: May 8, 2017
  13. Aug 11, 2016 #12
    @micromass Also, how can I PM you about something relating self-studying of mathematics?
  14. Aug 11, 2016 #13
    Sure, but books like Taylor have a very different goal and scope than Arnold or Marsden.
  15. Aug 11, 2016 #14
    If I use Taylor and supplement it with one of those books so as to gain a deeper understanding of the differential geometry that's behind classical mechanics?
  16. Aug 11, 2016 #15
    That would be an excellent thing to do!
    Feel free to PM me any time!
  17. Aug 11, 2016 #16
    The funny thing is that I can't find how to PM a user!
  18. Aug 11, 2016 #17
    Click on username and then "start a conversation"
  19. Aug 11, 2016 #18
    @micromass One last thing: Which of these books would you suggest for me to supplement Taylor's?
    1) Marsden's
    2) Arnold's
    3) Spivak
    4) Other
  20. Aug 11, 2016 #19
    I would go for Marsden. Spivak is very confusing and I don't like his treatment. Arnold might be too advanced however and while Arnold does treat differential geometry, if you haven't seen it before, then Arnold's treatment is not enough.
  21. Aug 11, 2016 #20
    Aren't Morin and Taylor roughly equivalent? (With the possible exception that Morin has a large number of problems with solutions.)
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook

Have something to add?
Draft saved Draft deleted