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Teaching Myself Physics the Hard Way

  1. Jan 18, 2014 #1
    Hi Physics Forum!

    I want you guys to help me out. I want to learn physics the hard way.

    Let me explain. I'm currently finishing my sophomore year at Colorado School of Mines. I am majoring in Engineering Physics. I'm doing great in school. I've signed up for SPS and APS - Physics Today should be coming in the mail soon and I have access to the Physical Review (although I haven't got the smallest idea what any of the articles are saying). I have a flexible job that helps me pay for school. And I just got hired as an intern for a company that specializes in RF and microwave design. Practically speaking, I'm very happy with how things are going.

    But I feel like I'm hitting a roadblock. The relevant material I encounter online while studying for my modern physics class is either oversimplified or way beyond what I currently understand - with the former being far more prevalent. I type in lorentz transformation and I get yet another 1-dimensional train analogy. As wonderful as that thought experiment is, I feel like I need a more thorough approach if I really want to get better at this subject.

    You know what I mean? I don't want Einstein made easy or relativity made simple - rather, I want a resource that has no mercy with regard to math. I wouldn't have majored in physics if I didn't want to learn math. I want a book - preferably something online - that is very methodical, and has to be read extremely slowly. I feel like that's the only way to get truly good at physics.

    I've done a decent amount of math. So far, I've done Single and Multi Variable Calc, Linear Algebra and Differential Equations. As far as I know, these are the building blocks for learning things like quantum mechanics (with linear algebra being most important for QM, but I could be wrong here). What's next? When I walk through the halls of the physics building, or poke around online, I see stuff that looks like complete gibberish to me, and I wonder how far I am from learning it.

    So, PF, can you tell me? How can I learn physics the hard way?

    Oh and feel free to link me to another similar thread.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 18, 2014 #2


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    Staff: Mentor

    Which textbook does your modern physics course use?
  4. Jan 18, 2014 #3
    Modern Physics, 6th edition, by Paul Tipler and Ralph Llewellyn
  5. Jan 18, 2014 #4
    This is an unfortunate part of where you are in your physics education. The material covered in modern physics is often far to complex to explain at a medium level, so you get cheap analogies and algebraic expressions for everything.

    Be careful what you wish for, like I said above, these topics can be very advanced mathematically and physically. These are not things that you can jump into at a graduate level with no prep and expect to understand. No matter how many times you try to read through it.

    Well, it depends on what level (undergrad, upper undergrad, grad, research) you wish to know stuff at. What topics are particularly interested in getting a better understanding of? People can better direct you to resources if they know what you're looking for.
  6. Jan 18, 2014 #5
    Get a book on differential geometry or read the last chapter of either Taylor - Classical Mechanics or Griffiths - Electrodynamics.
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