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Suggestions for textbooks (CM and E&M)

  1. Jun 19, 2013 #1
    I am a sophomore applied mathematics major and would like to teach myself some physics. I can I would like suggestions on a good book on intermediate mechanics. I have looked up the pre-reqs at my college and I have already have taken those classes.

    I would like a book that has worked out problems, so I can see how to do the problems. I would also like a book with good problems, so I can practice how to do them. Books with a solutions manual is a must, as I need to make sure I am doing the problems right.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 20, 2013 #2


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    Does intermediate mean that you know and are comfortable using vector calculus? If so, this looks like a nice E&M book that reaches deeply enough that something like Jackson would follow it:

    Shadowitz - The Electromagnetic Field

    I don't know if it has a solutions manual but answers to odd-numbered questions are provided and it has worked examples, so this should be enough to verify if you are answering the questions correctly.

    Remember that the math is a language so you don't want to get bogged down in technicalities of language. To learn the physics, the math must flow like words, full of meaning, and it looks like it does in this book.
  4. Jun 20, 2013 #3


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    And which classes might those be? :smile:
  5. Jun 20, 2013 #4


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    I don't have a recommendation for CM because those books seem to be very expensive. Your best bet is to find used college books locally, ask around at college and you're sure to find people selling their old books.
  6. Jun 20, 2013 #5

    Those classes would be Calc III and Ordinary Differential Equations. I did very well in both of those classes. I am also taking Linear algebra in the fall. I wanted to start with Mechanics and then work on Electricity and Magnetism.

    The Shadowitz E&M book looks good. Thank you, verty. I would still like a classical mechanics book that goes beyond first year physics (which I have taken and aced as well).
  7. Jun 20, 2013 #6


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    used copies of old editions can often be found for cheap online - amazon isn't a bad place to look. For example, I learned from the third edition of Marion and Thornton (and paid a bundle for it when I took the class):


    <$10 US shipped! Likewise Morin's book can be found for <$30 shipped. Taylor's book doesn't seem to be available so cheap, though. I will not recommend a book as I primarily just know the one linked above (was reasonably clear and had good topics, but is probably nothing special), but just want the OP to know that cheap is possible. Also the OP needs to know that when moving beyond intro level classes, solutions are few and far between. One alternative is to find class web pages that post solutions to problems in a book of interest ... I have done this and it has helped.

  8. Jun 20, 2013 #7


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    You give few details on your background.

    Keep in mind that for many classical physics is interesting primarily for historical reasons and to teach serve as background for modern physics.

    First I would recommend
    Theoretical Physics by Georg Joos
    It covers a broad overview of physics and cost ~5$ so it is a good supplement.

    For mechanics I would suggest
    Classical Mechanics by Herbert Goldstein, Charles P. Poole Jr. and John L. Safko
    Some would say an easier book should be read first, but I find it very accessible and adequate in coverage of basic and essential topics. Many of the easier books omit key material or offer poor explanations and you will want to read Goldstein after anyway.
    A more mathematical if quirky book is
    Mathematical Methods of Classical Mechanics by V. I. Arnold

    For electromagnetism it is a bit different as several more advanced books claim to start from the beginning they are lying so a basic book is helpful
    Introduction to Electrodynamics by David J. Griffiths
    despite some flaws is a good first look (skip all the remedial calculus parts if you do not need them)
    Several books you might like to look at that have been helpful to me are
    Classical Electrodynamics by John David Jackson
    You will probably like to look at this so you won't feel left out when physicists talk about it. It is prized for its mathematical calisthenics and confusing incomplete explanations.
    Principles of Electrodynamics by Melvin Schwartz
    Very good especially on relativity
    Electrodynamics and Classical Theory of Fields and Particles by A. O. Barut
    This book is very nice and makes up for the lacking coverage or absence of a Lagrangian-Hamiltonian formulation for EM in many of the other books.
    Classical Electricity and Magnetism by Wolfgang K. H. Panofsky, Melba Phillips
    Covers well several topics left out of other books.
    Electrodynamics By Fulvio Melia
    A book that gets to the heart of the matter
    The Electromagnetic Field by Albert Shadowitz
    as mentioned above is pretty good

    A note on price I paid more for Goldstein that all the EM books listed combined, party because I bought older used editions of Griffiths and Jackson. I have not read all of them all the way through, but they complement each other well.

    Of course I must mention that (the relavent volumes of) Course of Theoretical Physics by L D Landau and E.M. Lifgarbagez is a well deserved classic, though not for most people an introduction or only book.
  9. Jun 20, 2013 #8


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    I would like to second Schwartz' text because of the price and the exposition of relativity (granted the discussion of tensors is not exactly modern but for its level it gets the job done and is more mathematical than the text I mention next). I would also like to throw in "Electricity and Magnetism"-Edward M. Purcell & David Morin (3rd ed.)
  10. Jun 20, 2013 #9


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    ^I have not seen that one. If you have seen Purcell how much did Morin change? I know he put in Si units. Many of the books where a new author takes over for a dead one come out jumbled.
  11. Jun 20, 2013 #10


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    He didn't change the discussions within the text itself but he added a ton of appendices on special relativity and vector calculus, added like a bajillion more problems (a good number of them being sadistically difficult) with more or less half of them having extremely detailed solutions in the back, and the units stuff you mentioned.
  12. Jun 20, 2013 #11
    Funny part is I have Landau's books on Classical Mechanics, E&M Fields and Non-relativistic Quantum Mechanics. I tried reading the CM book first and it was a tough read and knew there had to be a better book for going from intro to higher level physics than that when I read it was a graduate level physics book.
  13. Jun 20, 2013 #12


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    IMO Landau and Lifgarbagez Classical Mechanics as well as Classical Theory of Fields are books you should read after doing other books on classical mechanics and EM. Then you will really appreciate their beauty.
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