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Starting with Astrophysics

  1. Dec 10, 2006 #1
    Hello, I've taken a look around these forums, but I haven't seen such questions.

    I'm interested in Astrophysics (I'm even applying to University of Cambridge for this course), but I'm a very beginner in it. The question is: what should I start with? Yes, of course maths - that's not a problem, but I need some essential knowledge for the base to my further education. Can you recommend me any books, sites, magazines?

    Thanks!
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 10, 2006 #2
    Heya

    I'm in a not-too different situation to yourself.
    I'm about to start my final year of my Astrophysics degree at Adelaide, Australia.
    My first 2 years of uni were in a double degree in Maths and Applied Physics, and that gave me a good solid grounding for astro.

    I guess it depends if you want to leam more into the theoretical side or the experimental side. Theoretical - plenty of Hawking and things of that ilk will give you a taste. If you're into experimental, there are plenty of good mags and journals about.

    As for actual knowledge, you're going to want to know all the basic first year physics junk like dynamics (kinetics/kinematics), thermodynamics etc. Hit maths hard - plenty of calculus, algebra, vector maths, geometry - these will all be very useful. For the physics side, get to know your electrodynamics and particle physics.

    This stuff is all good to take a look at. You might want to hit the academic advice subforum here, too.
     
  4. Dec 10, 2006 #3
    estel, thanks for a fast response.

    Actually I'm an undergraduate applicant, and I have all my studies ahead, but I just can't wait to discover everything :)

    And for my "leans" - I see myself rather a theoretical Astrophysicist than an experimental one. Thanks for Hawking, I'll try him.

    By the way, I've bought a book recently. It's title is "Road to Reality", and it's written by Roger Penrose. Have anybody read it?

    Thanks again
     
  5. Dec 10, 2006 #4

    Kurdt

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    There is a thread about the road to reality elsewhere on the site if you care to take a look: https://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=125406&highlight=road+to+reality

    With regards to books I assume you want some sort of introductory texts to astronomy and astrophysics. I started with the following which are recommended texts for astrophysics courses mainly in the UK.

    Universe : Freedman and Kaufmann
    Astronomy: Zeilik

    Then progressing to more topics such as astrophysics and cosmology.

    An Introduction to Modern Cosmology: Liddle
    Astrophysical Fluid Dynamics : Battner

    Also An Introduction to Modern Astrophysics is a good general beginners text and thats by Carroll and Ostlie.
     
  6. Dec 11, 2006 #5
    Thanks for your help. I think it would be enough ... for now ;)
     
  7. Dec 11, 2006 #6

    Garth

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    If you want just one comprehensive book my recommendation would be "An Introduction to Modern Astrophysics" by Carroll and Ostlie.

    Garth
     
    Last edited: Dec 11, 2006
  8. Dec 11, 2006 #7
    Hi,

    You could try reading 'A Brief history of time'. Its good reading material and also 'Black Holes and Baby Universes'. These are by Stephen Hawking. I am a big fan of his so sorry if I am recommending his books only. :)

    Roger Penrose has written two very good books, The Emperors New Mind and the Shadows of the mind. I must admit that I could not complete them. Its has lots of AI related stuff but if you persist then I am sure that you will be amazed at what he wants to convey.

    Happy reading.
     
  9. Dec 11, 2006 #8
    Is Chandrasekhar's ancient Stellar Structures still viable as an introduction?

    I think there are very few areas of physics that astrophysics does not touch on, so at the risk of sounding like a broken record, I'll recommend the Feynman Lectures again.
     
  10. Dec 11, 2006 #9
    Hi Daverz,

    Won't they be very much advanced in context? If Bart is just looking to further his knowledge before diving into the real stuff then I would suggest something that is more easy to understand without the complexities of the underlying maths n physics. These can easily put off a person. I have not read those books , but judging by their authors, I will not be surprised!!
     
  11. Dec 11, 2006 #10
    You just need calculus for Feynman. Probably easier than some of the astrophysics texts for advanced undergrads recommended above. I was reading and enjoying Feynman in high school, and I was no great student.

    For the Chandrasekhar, I'm just curious if people think it holds up.
     
  12. Dec 12, 2006 #11
    Guys, thanks for your help.
    As for my "advanceness" - I am reading Roger Penrose (The Road to Reality), and I'm not having any problems in understanding it. I'm now finishing the 5th chapter.

    I think, I'll take some time to make my calculus more perfect, and then start reading. Thanks again for your help, you're awesome ;)
     
  13. Dec 12, 2006 #12
    If you're looking for something on cosmology that isn't quite a textbook, but goes beyond the superficial treatment of many popular science books, then I woul recommend Cosmology : The Science of the Universe by Edward Harrison. I've written a short review of this book here
     
  14. Dec 12, 2006 #13

    chroot

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    You're not going to further your knowledge of anything with a book by Hawking -- sorry to burst your bubble. The stuff in those pop-sci books is useless for anyone who wishes to pursue a real education in astronomy or physics. In fact, Hawking is best used as fodder for making oneself sound intelligent to other uneducated people at cocktail parties. Reading Hawking to learn physics is like reading Jules Verne to learn about aerodynamics. A student who wishes to actually learn something about astrophysics would find much more of use in a reputable textbook.

    - Warren
     
  15. Dec 12, 2006 #14

    cristo

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    Could I just clarify that, whilst Hawking has written popular science books, which, as pointed out, would not be of use for anyone studying astronomy or physics, he has still written reputable physics books (e.g The Large Scale Structure of Spacetime, Hawking and Ellis). Whilst this book would not be able to be understood by students starting Astrophysics, a reader of this thread *could* be lead to the opinion that all books written by Hawking are useless to students studying physics, which, of course, is not true!
     
  16. Dec 12, 2006 #15

    chroot

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    I didn't mean to discount Hawking as a physicist, or to say that nothing he's ever written is worth reading -- my apologies for using such generalized language. It is my belief, however, that everything he's written for the popular market is pretty thoroughly useless.

    - Warren
     
  17. Dec 12, 2006 #16
    Hi,

    The reason I suggested Hawking is because his books do not have many big and hard to understand equations. Someone who is just started to learn something would like to read things that are easy to understand.

    I will not agree that Hawking's books are completely useless, they have made many people interested in learning physics. Something that was useless would not have been in the bestsellers list.

    Anyhow, lets leave the subject of Hawking's books. I think we have had enough discussion on it.
     
  18. Dec 12, 2006 #17

    chroot

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    nityah,

    Have you ever taken an actual university-level course in any kind of astronomy or astrophysics?

    - Warren
     
  19. Dec 12, 2006 #18
    Doing one right now. Finished one before.
     
  20. Dec 12, 2006 #19

    chroot

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    What topics were covered? What textbooks have you used in your classes? What similarities have you found between the material presented in, e.g. A Brief History of Time and the material presented in your class?

    - Warren
     
  21. Dec 12, 2006 #20
    Well, there might not be similarities, but its better to study a book that is more general rather than studying a textbook before even joining the course.

    I do not mean to carry on trying to prove my point Warren, so can we reach to some sort of consensus here?

    Thanks
     
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