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Classical Textbook list for self-study?

I'm a layperson who loves physics. Unfortunately studying it in a university is not an option for me right now. So I've decided to study it myself. My knowledge so far is upto high school physics. I do know some special relativity but mostly in a conceptual manner, not a rigorous mathematical one. After a lot of searching online (especially on Quora), I was able to determine that it's not possible to go from high school physics to QM and GR directly. The mathematical gap is just too high. As such, getting familiar with classical mechanics is the first step to take. So I looked for classical mechanics textbooks and found that the one by Goldstein et al is quite popular in the physics community. Thus I decided to buy it. But when I tried studying it, I didn't understand anything. I was stumped in the first chapter. The math was really difficult and there were no worked out examples to give a feel of the topic. So my question to you is, are there some good introductory textbooks for classical mechanics? Ones that are easy to understand and contain plenty of examples? I've heard that Taylor is a good one but I want to make sure that it would be suitable for someone like me before buying it. These books are quite expensive. Any suggestions? And while we're on the topic, what about the next step? Once I've mastered classical mechanics, should I try GR first or QM? Or perhaps both at the same time? And what about the textbooks for them? Is there a sort of path made of books that would help me perhaps?
 

phinds

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I don't have any book recommendations but I would point out to you that even having mastered classical mechanics, you won't be able to jump right into GR. The math is daunting. I suggest a forum search, as there have been numerous threads here about what math is needed to pursue GR seriously.

The links at the bottom of this thread would be a good place to start.
 

fresh_42

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Here is a list of articles on PF about self-studying. You can download free pdf from Rice at OpenStax. They are not really books for students at universities, but I think they fill the gap between high school and college quite well. At least they allow you your own pace and provide a god starting point. From there you can see what you you can handle and what not, and possibly ask for further recommendations.

And of course it might be a good idea to make use of our homework forums, where you can get help on single problems, exercises as well as questions about basic understanding.
 
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BvU

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I don't have any book recommendations but I would point out to you that even having mastered classical mechanics, you won't be able to jump right into GR. The math is daunting. I suggest a forum search, as there have been numerous threads here about what math is needed to pursue GR seriously.

The links at the bottom of this thread would be a good place to start.
Oh no. That doesn't bode well. I hate it when physics is so arcane and abstruse. It shouldn't be like this. It should be more easily accessible.
 
Here is a list of articles on PF about self-studying. You can download free pdf from Rice at OpenStax. They are not really books for students at universities, but I think they fill the gap between high school and college quite well. At least they allow you your own pace and provide a god starting point. From there you can see what you you can handle and what not, and possibly ask for further recommendations.

And of course it might be a good idea to make use of our homework forums, where you can get help on single problems, exercises as well as questions about basic understanding.
Thank you so much for the link. It's a lot of material to process but I'll give them all a try.
 
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So I looked for classical mechanics textbooks and found that the one by Goldstein et al is quite popular in the physics community.
This is probably too large a jump from high school physics, so I would recommend a textbook that is used by very many colleges and universities: Halliday and Resnick. (The latest versions also include Jearl Walker.)
I hate it when physics is so arcane and abstruse.
Physics at the level you're trying to learn might seem arcane if your mathematics background isn't at a level that is conducive to understand the equations. Also, the book you chose doesn't seem to me to be geared toward introductory college physics.
 
This is probably too large a jump from high school physics, so I would recommend a textbook that is used by very many colleges and universities: Halliday and Resnick. (The latest versions also include Jearl Walker.)
Physics at the level you're trying to learn might seem arcane if your mathematics background isn't at a level that is conducive to understand the equations. Also, the book you chose doesn't seem to me to be geared toward introductory college physics.
Hi. Thank you for the reply. I have heard of the Resnick-Halliday book but I assumed it was only for high school physics, nothing beyond that.
 

PeroK

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Oh no. That doesn't bode well. I hate it when physics is so arcane and abstruse. It shouldn't be like this. It should be more easily accessible.
If you feel that QM and GR are unreasonably difficult, then you'll have to take that up with Mother Nature herself.

Nature and nature's laws lay hid in night:
God said, Let Newton be! and all was light.
—Alexander Pope, "Epigram on Sir Isaac Newton"

It did not last: the Devil howling "Ho!
Let Einstein be!" restored the status quo.
—J. C. Squire (1884-1958), "Answer to Pope's
Epitaph for Sir Isaac Newton"
 
If you feel that QM and GR are unreasonably difficult, then you'll have to take that up with Mother Nature herself.

Nature and nature's laws lay hid in night:
God said, Let Newton be! and all was light.
—Alexander Pope, "Epigram on Sir Isaac Newton"

It did not last: the Devil howling "Ho!
Let Einstein be!" restored the status quo.
—J. C. Squire (1884-1958), "Answer to Pope's
Epitaph for Sir Isaac Newton"
Ahaha while that is true, I don't see why it can't be as easy as we can possibly make it.
 
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I don't see why it can't be as easy as we can possibly make it.
Don't think that people aren't trying to do just that. You can go study it yourself, rework the knowledge and make it as easy as you can for the next generations. And observe people complain about your abstruse explanations.
 
Don't think that people aren't trying to do just that. You can go study it yourself, rework the knowledge and make it as easy as you can for the next generations. And observe people complain about your abstruse explanations.
Thanks. And I plan on eventually doing that too. But to do that, I have to understand it myself first. That might be somewhat of a challenge.
 
What makes you think that we have NOT made it as easy as possible? Nature is under no obligation to follow your idea of "easy"
While that too is true, the description of nature is up to us. For instance, we could say triatomic conglomerate of the lightest isotopes of the first and third most abundant elements in the universe whose existence is facilitated by a tendency to reduce the overall energy of the components. Or we could just say water. Both of them refer to the same thing but are very different descriptions.
 
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Both of them refer to the same thing but are very different descriptions.
These are descriptions in english. Physics describe Nature in language of mathematics, and there really is little room for any simplifications. And it's your problem that you don't have enough background in maths, not Natures or physics.
 

phinds

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These are descriptions in english. Physics describe Nature in language of mathematics, and there really is little room for any simplifications. And it's your problem that you don't have enough background in maths, not Natures or physics.
what he said (very small).jpg
 

vanhees71

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The reason why we describe physics in the language of mathematics is that this is the only language found to be adequate for this purpose. Everyday language, no matter which one, is not precise enough!
 

WWGD

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Ahaha while that is true, I don't see why it can't be as easy as we can possibly make it.
Well, good luck with that. We are in what's called the information age, but in order to access the signal we must filter loads of noise. The problem is not having access to data but instead figuring out which of the hundreds ( or more) of data sources is most promising. Enter a search for Physics in your search engine and enjoy choosing among the 1,000,000+ hits you get.
 
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atyy

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Hi. Thank you for the reply. I have heard of the Resnick-Halliday book but I assumed it was only for high school physics, nothing beyond that.
Halliday and Resnick is at the level of first year university physics. There are other books at the same level such as Young and Freeman's University Physics. You should definitely make sure you understand all the material in there.

After that you can try Kleppner and Kolenkow, then Taylor's or Morin's classical mechanics texts. After that you could try Goldstein, but I've never read the book and would recommend Fetter and Walecka https://www.amazon.com/dp/0486432610/?tag=pfamazon01-20. and Landau and Lifshitz https://www.amazon.com/dp/0750628960/?tag=pfamazon01-20.
 
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One thing I'll suggest regarding Halliday and Resnick is that you get the extended edition (or the 2 volume edition which is the same but much easier to handle.) This includes extra chapters that give you an early taste of advanced topics like special relativity and quantum physics and can make the wait for the real thing just a little easier to tolerate. :) The other advantage of a widely used book like Halliday and Resnick is that there are a ton of resources online such as course outlines, solutions to problems, etc. Since you're self studying, getting frequent feedback on the correctness of your solutions is very useful.

When I was in your position, I also found it very helpful to have a calculus refresher as well. Despite the unassuming name, "Paul's Online Math Notes" are very well regarded and thorough.


Alternatively, a commonly used text in 1st year university is Stewart's Calculus. The fact that it is so widely used suggests on average people find it useful. If you are willing to work a bit harder, then for deeper insights Spivak's Calculus is pretty great.
 

WHOOHM

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I will echo that a good undergrad physics book like H&R is a good resource. I would also add that searching for course websites (not just MIT, etc.) can sometimes turn up really interesting and useful course notes, projects and assignments. You could almost follow along virtually with some courses. A little searching can turn into months of self study fun!
 
These are descriptions in english. Physics describe Nature in language of mathematics, and there really is little room for any simplifications. And it's your problem that you don't have enough background in maths, not Natures or physics.
Well, sure but there are different kinds of math as well. Human brains in particular are very well-suited for visual math i.e. geometry. And not to sound rude but just because you can't find a solution to the problem doesn't mean none exist.
 
Well, good luck with that. We are in what's called the information age, but in order to access the signal we must filter loads of noise. The problem is not having access to data but instead figuring out which of the hundreds ( or more) of data sources is most promising. Enter a search for Physics in your search engine and enjoy choosing among the 1,000,000+ hits you get.
Challenge accepted
 
Halliday and Resnick is at the level of first year university physics. There are other books at the same level such as Young and Freeman's University Physics. You should definitely make sure you understand all the material in there.

After that you can try Kleppner and Kolenkow, then Taylor's or Morin's classical mechanics texts. After that you could try Goldstein, but I've never read the book and would recommend Fetter and Walecka https://www.amazon.com/dp/0486432610/?tag=pfamazon01-20. and Landau and Lifshitz https://www.amazon.com/dp/0750628960/?tag=pfamazon01-20.
Thank you the info. I'll try them. In that order.
 
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Human brains in particular are very well-suited for visual math i.e. geometry
So? Spacetime is four-dimensional at least, and this is something that human brains can't comprehend visualy in general. Very important part of learning advanced mathematics is to rebuild your intuitions and built non-visual means of thinking about stuff. It's painful, but you have to do that to progress.

And not to sound rude but just because you can't find a solution to the problem doesn't mean none exist.
Not to sound rude, but just because you lack proper knowledge in advanced mathematics doesn't mean there is any problem with physics at all. For me tensor calculus on manifolds and differential geometry is as simple as it goes. Long live fibre bundles! That's the best thing I've seen in my life :oldbiggrin: Anyway, the thing is that instead of arguing with people who know a little bit more than you, you should take their advice and start learning advanced maths right away. There are so many beautiful things to see! Let go of your prejudices.
 
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