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Studying Studying physics before collage

  1. Sep 28, 2006 #1


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    I'm hopefully going to start collage next year and major in physics and math. this year i have a lot of free time and i thought that it'd be good to study some of the material by myself to take off some of the pressure later - and also cause i'm really interested in it and can't wait a whole year. but i'm not sure what would be the most usefull subject to learn. I've already learned the Calculus basics (I,II,III) and want to go on to something else. what do you guys recommend? the most accessable subjects (there're good textbooks at a local library) are linear algebra, mechanics, electronics/magnitism and modern physics. were should i start?
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 28, 2006 #2
    mechanics is what most engineers start out with along with physics majors, then you will hit up electricity and magnitism, then either thermo or quantum physics/waves/modern physics. So probably start with mechanics.
  4. Sep 28, 2006 #3

    I'd go for some modern physics, specifically relativity, because I think it's the most fun. Taylor and Wheeler's Spacetime Physics is fun and introduces a lot of important concepts, not just special relativity. You just need to know some basic physics to understand it (i.e. the idea of momentum). I'm not sure I like the new edition, though. There was an older red-colored paperback edition that had all the problems worked out in the back.

    Learning electronics has the advantage that there are lots of projects you can do at home.
  5. Sep 28, 2006 #4


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    I'd suggest finding out what textbooks your first couple of college classes are going to use, and buy them now. Start reading and have fun! You could also read some fun books like "Surely You're Joking Mr. Feynman!", which has some interesting stories in it that involve Physics. Finally, if you are going to be taking some circuits classes in college, I highly recommend buying a copy of "The Art of Electronics" by Horowitz and Hill. It's a pretty easy read, even for a high school student. Read it cover-to-cover before your first electronics classes, and you will have a very intuitive feel for all the material that you are presented with.
  6. Sep 28, 2006 #5


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    Ah, you beat me to it. I was going to wax pedantic about "collage is really more about visuals and colours and not so much about physics".

    Then I was going to suggest that he might want to devote a little of that study time to his English classes.

    :devil: :devil:
  7. Sep 29, 2006 #6


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    I'd take a break and go on holiday - clear your mind before college.

    Plus you may learn things in a different way to what the college teaches them - this could be confusing at first.

    If you do want to read some stuff, choose some popular science books - Penrose, Greene etc.
  8. Sep 29, 2006 #7
    Depends how much you know already. If you have any doubts whatsoever about vector mathematics, do that to death. Learn vectors in the three common coordinate systems and the vector operators, and know them off by heart. Advanced trigonometry and the relationship to phasors is also very important. Complex algebra, too.
  9. Sep 29, 2006 #8
    keep calculus fresh.

    i'd say, if you're interested, learning some diff eq's and linear algebra would be good. there are some good diff eq texts that you could learn from, but i don't think i can say the same about linear algebra. with the book that we used at my school, it would have been impossible to learn without the teacher.

    for physics, keep the basics fresh. if you have the time, try to work out all the problems that you can. also, maybe get a modern physics textbook to learn some of the fun stuff. we used tipler-llewyllyn (might have missed some "l's" in that name...) at UF, and it was pretty good, although my instructor didn't follow it at all--went way more in-depth.
  10. Sep 30, 2006 #9


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    Thanks for the replies everyone! one of the things that i was worrying about was what J77 said - could i do damage by learning things myself?
    and Brad Barker - what do you mean by keeping stuff "fresh"?
    and what do you guys think about this site:
    Last edited: Sep 30, 2006
  11. Sep 30, 2006 #10
    No, that's silly. How are you ever going learn to do original research if you don't learn stuff on your own.

    I think he means that it's easy to forget math, no matter how well learned, if you don't exercise it by using it.

    To that end, you might pick up some books of physics or math problems like "200 Puzzling Physics Problems" (though I haven't seen that one; it's supposed to be at the freshman/sophmore level, so I don't know if it's too hard.)

    EDIT: This amazon review mentions some other interesting physics problem books.
    Last edited: Sep 30, 2006
  12. Sep 30, 2006 #11
    I'd reccomend picking up Kleppner's 'Intro to Mechanics' given that you've had calculus 3. Then go on to the E+M book by Purcell. You should also learn some linear algebra. Axler's book is very good (and cheap). Since you're interested in math you may also want to delve deeper into calculus (analysis) with a book such as Spivak's Calculus.
  13. Oct 2, 2006 #12


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    As long as when you start your college classes you don't get confused, or even upset, in the fact that the lecturer is teaching it in a different way from what you've read.

    I've seen students get well aggro, even with regard to, "They didn't teach us it that way in school :mad: "

    (Also, if you do know your own methods - I'd still stick to those you've been taught for exams.)
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