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Textbook Suggestions

  1. Mar 17, 2009 #1

    I am doing poorly in Physics 8A @ UC Berkeley this semester and I would like to do better.

    For background info, I've included the course description:
    "Introduction to forces, kinetics, equilibria, fluids, waves, and heat. This course presents concepts and methodologies for understanding physical phenomena, and is particularly useful preparation for upper division study in biology and architecture."
    The course requires only basic calculus (the school offers another course, Physics 7A, which I hear is HEAVILY calculus-based), and I think my calculus skills are fine.

    We use the textbook: "Essential University Physics" (Volume 1) by RICHARD WOLFSON.

    For homework assignments, we use the web-based "Mastering Physics" site (which I find to be really annoying and another topic/rant unto itself).

    My problem: I don't like the book, and I think it's because it's too CONCISE.
    [1] I don't feel like I have a good theoretical grasp of the concepts.
    [2] The book only offers one or two lame examples per section, but the problems are always way harder. So I feel really out of place in discussion and study groups. I'll be flipping through the book and lecture notes trying to solve a problem, and when time's up and we go over solutions, many times they involve methods/ideas that I can't find in the book. Like, "How did you know to calculate the integral of force to find the acceleration?"

    Can anyone suggest a better book that I could use for self-study?

    What other resources can I employ?
    - solutions manual [where can I usually get them?]
    - any good web resources [courses at other schools with good notes/explanations/problems+solutions?] [websites / web-tutorials?]

    I'm sure there are other problems with the book that I can't really place my finger on. Maybe some of you are familiar with the book and can point out other problems, which would help me a lot. If I know what the problem is, then I have a better idea of what to look for in other textbooks to help fill in the gaps.

    More background info - here's a list of topics in our syllabus:
    circular motion
    momentum & impulse
    center of mass
    work + kinetic & potential energy
    rotation: kinematics & dynamics (torque, angular momentum, etc)
    heat & sound
    Heat: energy flow, heat capacity; thermal expansion; latent heat
    Intro to kinetic gas and ideal gas; heat as K.E.
    Kinetic Gas Theory
    Thermodynamics, Heat engines and refrigerators
    Entropy & 2nd law; individual processes, diffusion & perfusion; Engines, fridges & efficiency
    Fluids: hydrostatics (P vs depth), bouyancy; fluid dynamics

    Sorry for the wordy post. Thank you very much for your help!
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 17, 2009 #2


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    Since you have access to a university library, just go through lots of different books to see how they explain it. Other standard texts are Halliday and Resnick, or Young. But don't rely on hunting for better explanations alone, do lots and lots of problems. It's ok to guess and get it wrong many many times. Just make sure you figure out after that why your solution was wrong (or not even wrong).
  4. Mar 18, 2009 #3

    George Jones

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    You might try Physics for Scientists and Engineers: A Strategic Approach with Modern Physics by Knight,


    about which some students make the opposite complaint, i.e., that it's too wordy.

    As atty says, check your library.
    Last edited: Mar 18, 2009
  5. Mar 18, 2009 #4

    Andy Resnick

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