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Supplement to Jackson (also, 2nd vs 3rd Ed.)

  1. Dec 30, 2013 #1
    I am about to start using Jackson E&M, and I have consistently heard that it is a notoriously difficult textbook to use. Does anyone know of some good resources, textbooks or otherwise, to supplement it (other than Griffiths, which I already have)?

    More specifically, I have been told that the derivations frequently skip steps, or tell the reader that a missing step should be obvious, with maddening phrases such as, "we see that...". This is very unfortunate - the way that I prefer to use textbooks is to follow the derivations that they offer in detail (it often even frustrates me when a derivation is only given as a solution to a problem, i.e., the reader has to supply it. When this is done too much, it just interrupts the flow of the text). In fact, I usually don't even feel comfortable using an equation unless I have seen and understand its derivation.

    So, when I say "supplement" above, what I am really looking for is something to the effect of a textbook or online pdf entitled, "The missing steps in Jackson's derivations".

    However, any additional resources would be very much appreciated.

    On a related topic, if people have opinions regarding the merits of the 2nd versus the 3rd edition of Jackson, I would be curious to hear them, since I haven't decided which to buy yet.

    Thanks very much for any help that you can give.

    -HJ Farnsworth
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 31, 2013 #2


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    It's one of the best textbooks ever written. The 3rd edition has the only disadvantage that Jackson uses SI units and then switches to Gaussian units when he treats the relativistic formulation. In my opinion in theoretical physics the best system of units are Gaussian or rationalized Gaussian (Heaviside-Lorentz) units, and electrdynamics is a inherently relativistic theory, the paradigmatic example of a relativistic field theory, but that's a quite unique opinion nowadays since nearly all newer textbooks on electromagnetism use the SI nowadays :-(.

    On the other hand the 3rd edition is somewhat better concerning the chapter on radiation reaction on classical point particles.
  4. Dec 31, 2013 #3

    Meir Achuz

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    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  5. Jan 1, 2014 #4
    Hi, thank you very much for the replies.

    As far as 2nd versus 3rd, then, it sounds like 3rd edition is a little better for content, and 2nd is better for format. I'll probably go for the 3rd edition then. If the units annoy me too much while I'm using it, or I feel like I'm developing some bad habits, I'll just get the 2nd edition as well.

    Classical E&M by Franklin looks great, thanks for the advice!
  6. Jan 2, 2014 #5


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    Well, concerning the units, you should stick to the ones used in your lecture. Otherwise it's too confusing in the beginning. Nowadays most classical-electromagnetism lectures use the SI and then switch to Gaussian units when they treat the relativistic ("true") formulation, because then the SI is too inconvenient. In high-energy elementary-particle/nuclear physics, where one deals with quantum field theory the theoreticians use a third variant, namely the rationalized Gaussian units, where the factors of [itex]4 \pi[/itex] appear at the place where they should (e.g., Coulomb's Law for the field of a point charge) and not in the Maxwell equations. These units are also called Heaviside-Lorentz units. So far I've not found a textbook on classical electromagnetism that uses this system of units, which in my opinion is the most convenient set of units for theoretical purposes. I'd not recommend to buy two editions of the same book. For Jackson I'd go with the newest (3rd) edition.
  7. Jan 2, 2014 #6
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  8. Jan 4, 2014 #7
    Excellent, I will check that one out too.

    Thanks for the advice!
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