Start Learning Physics: Book Recommendations & Topics

  • Thread starter Patrunjel
  • Start date
In summary, the conversation is about someone expressing their interest in learning physics and asking for recommendations on where to start and what topics to cover. The main suggestion is to start with a strong foundation in math, particularly calculus and linear algebra, before moving on to classical mechanics, special relativity, and quantum physics. The conversation also touches on the education system and job prospects in the field of physics. The conversation ends with some recommendations for textbooks and resources to use.
  • #1
Patrunjel
3
0
Hi everyone.
I wanted to start learning physics quite a long time ago, but I never knew how to start. The thing is that I am Romanian and we have a different school system, so it's quite an annoying thing to make the change.
But, anyway, the point is that I would like to learn physics. Maybe this sounds too general, but I'm doing this for fun, so there is no rush at all :D I plan on understanding relativity and quantum physics. This may sound foolish, but I do understand that this kind information can't be learned in one month or something, but in years of study.
The thing is that I don't know where to start, and I don't actually know anything from school. I mean, I know some things, but I never actually enjoyed physics in school (one of my basic principles is that schools are bad). So, I don't quite know where to start. I guess basic Newtonian mechanics would be a nice beginning.
So, can you, please, help me with some book recommendations, and some sort of topics (in order) that I should cover?And, considering that maths is the building block of physics, some math topics that I should cover would be great. I mean, I would want some prerequisites for special relativity (and maybe general, but it kind of scares me), or quantum physics.

And please, no angry replies, I know that you can't just learn this things over the night, I just set some goals that I hope to accomplish.
 
Physics news on Phys.org
  • #2
You should start out rebuilding your foundation in math. My first recommendation is to do all off the exercises (until you're comfortable with them) on khanacademy.org

From there you can move to an introductory physics textbook; I recommend University Physics by Sears and Zemansky.

From there you'll have a good foundation in basic physics and basica math. You'll want to extend your knowledge in calculus and linear algebra. Most people here will recommend Spivak's Calculus. I've used 2 linear algebra textbooks over the last year (different courses) and didn't really enjoy either of them so I don't want to recommend something there.

Once you've built up a solid foundation in Calculus and Linear Algebra you can move on to classical mechanics (which will include special relativity). If you want a real challenge and think you're up to it you can learn out of Landau and Lifgarbagez "Mechanics" book.

Once you're studied up to there (this will honestly take maybe 3 years to master) you will have a good idea of what kind of math you're missing in order to tackle the harder problems in general relativity and quantum physics. But only after you have mastered the basic math and physics can you move to the harder material. For General Relativity calculus on manifolds and Riemannian geometry is important. For Quantum physics abstract linear algebra is important.

Check out this link for a more thorough description of everything you need to study:

http://www.staff.science.uu.nl/~hooft101/theorist.html
 
  • #3
To the OP, why not pursue higher education or at least some form of education with all the physics you're going to study? Considering your interest and how genuine it sounds, you can really go far and learn a lot. You could really be a blessing in some field.

My two cents
 
  • #4
@Clever-Name Thanks for the reply :D I actually did start with math, and I plan on doing Calculus 1 and 2 first, and then I plan on going deeper with maths(math is a nice topic too).Also, I found this on the forum https://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=61886

@Edin_Dzeko I can say there was quite a little bit and I didn't pass the year, so yeah, I'm not the school guy :D Professors are nice, and some of them really do their job great, but the educational system in my country is way more rigid than in the US, so it doesn't deserve to bother. And about the job, I'm more of the computer guy (more into algorithms, that got me into maths that somehow got me into physics ^.^ ), I just do this because I like to explain stuff to myself and not just get pre-thinked ideas and memorize them :D
 
  • #5
If you want to understand physics, the best place to start is Newtonian Mechanics regardless of what you want to focus in.

If you want to understand Newtonian Mechanics, you will need at least basic calculus. I learned machanics out of Kleppner and Kolenkow (it is an advanced text though, there is even some parts that use mulitvariable calculus in the book. The book also covers the fundamentals of special relativity) and most people I know learned Calculus out of Stuart (it covers calculus I, II, and III).

Some Electromagnetism may be helpful with special relativity but it definitely isn't necessary unless you want to understand more advance topics (such as why moving charges give off a magnetic field. That may have been the most mind blowing things I've learned yet). If you choose to learn some, you will need to learn calculus up to vector calculus.

After calculus, differential equations and linear algebra is a must. You see a lot of differential equations in more advanced mechanics and plenty of linear algebra in more advanced special relativity.

For quantum mechanics, you will need to know PDE's pretty well and advanced linear algebra (instead of column vectors you will deal with functions that behave like vectors. Instead of matrices you will deal with general operators). Probability is also pretty helpful for quantum mechanics but only basics are really necessary: how to find expected values, standard deviations, basic probability theorems. Very few actual systems can be solved exactly in quantum mechanics, most books you come across will spend a lot of time using approximations to get answers that are "good enough". If you really want to understand quantum mechanics, make sure you are good with understanding why the approximations are made and why they work.

I think general relativity has by far has the most sophisticated math requirement. I don't know much about it, just that the subject you will need to go over is differential geometry. At my school real analysis is a prerequisite but that may be because it a rigorous study of manifolds and the like.
 
  • #6
yes it's my question too "how should i start ?"
 
  • #7
If you are looking for a math textbook for after you study basic calculus, there is a book by Mary Boas called "Mathematical Methods in the Physical Sciences" that covers the more advanced math topics necessary for undergraduate physics courses. General Relativity is more of a graduate topic though and the book lacks a chapter on differential geometry (it includes a chapter on tensor analysis but I do not know how far that would get you. I don't know squat about General Relativity).

I also forgot to mention earlier that knowledge of complex numbers is needed for quantum mechanics.
 
  • #8
Patrunjel said:
there is no rush at all :D I plan on understanding relativity and quantum physics. This may sound foolish, but I do understand that this kind information can't be learned in one month or something, but in years of study.
The thing is that I don't know where to start, and I don't actually know anything from school.

So basically you are starting from scratch, and you want to end up with the equivalent of a BS in Physics, and you are prepared to study for years to achieve that?

If all that is correct, then the solution is obvious: follow an undergraduate physics curriculum. Just look at the websites of the physics departments of any of hundreds of universities, and you will see the classes they require. Many will have the entire four years all laid out. And many, like MIT's OCW site, have complete lecture notes, solved homework and exams, and even video lectures. Buy used older editions of the textbooks for about a tenth of what a new one would cost, and follow along at your own pace.

For best long-term results, you should probably do a semester's worth of calculus before you start on the physics classes. If you're not ready for calculus, then start with precalculus. Or basic algebra and trig, if you have to.

It won't be easy, but it should be very rewarding. Best of luck to you.
 

Related to Start Learning Physics: Book Recommendations & Topics

What are some good book recommendations for learning physics?

Some good book recommendations for learning physics include "Fundamentals of Physics" by Halliday and Resnick, "Introduction to Classical Mechanics" by David Morin, "University Physics with Modern Physics" by Young and Freedman, "Concepts of Modern Physics" by Arthur Beiser, and "The Feynman Lectures on Physics" by Richard Feynman.

What topics should I focus on when learning physics?

Some important topics to focus on when learning physics include classical mechanics, electromagnetism, thermodynamics, and quantum mechanics. These are the fundamental concepts that form the basis of understanding the physical world.

Is it necessary to have a strong math background to learn physics?

While a strong math background can certainly be helpful, it is not necessarily a requirement for learning physics. Many introductory physics courses cover the necessary math concepts and equations. However, having a strong foundation in algebra, trigonometry, and calculus can make understanding physics concepts easier.

What are some common misconceptions about learning physics?

One common misconception about learning physics is that it is only for those who are naturally gifted or have a strong aptitude for math. In reality, anyone can learn and understand physics with dedication and practice. Another misconception is that all physicists work in a laboratory setting, when in fact there are many different career paths for those with a background in physics.

How can I apply what I learn in physics to real-world situations?

Physics is a fundamental science that helps us understand the laws and principles that govern the natural world. By learning physics, you can gain a better understanding of everyday phenomena, such as motion, energy, and electricity. This knowledge can also be applied to various fields, including engineering, medicine, and technology.

Similar threads

Replies
6
Views
1K
  • STEM Academic Advising
Replies
1
Views
1K
  • STEM Academic Advising
Replies
21
Views
1K
Replies
7
Views
1K
Replies
4
Views
557
Replies
4
Views
2K
  • STEM Academic Advising
Replies
5
Views
1K
  • STEM Academic Advising
Replies
8
Views
984
  • STEM Academic Advising
Replies
14
Views
916
  • STEM Academic Advising
Replies
10
Views
1K
Back
Top