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The Theoretical Minimum, Released today, January 29th 2013

  1. Jan 29, 2013 #1
    Leonard Susskind's the Theoretical Minimum was released today to go along with his Stanford Courseware lectures. Has anyone gotten there hands on a copy yet?

    I am very excited for this publication because I am very pro-self-education (if you could call it that). I am debating whether to order a copy to work out of this summer, I always found his lectures amazing even as a High-school student plus his lectures are what I consider as my primary influence in deciding to study undergraduate physics. Let me know your thoughts on the book or at least your speculations if you haven't gotten a copy yet.

    My main questions about it are how in-depth is it? Are the solutions something a jr. level undergrad could use to study from? Does it come with solutions, I've looked for this I can't find whether it does or not.

    Here are some links:


    Add in: And Found this article on Susskind, hah.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 29, 2013 #2


    Staff: Mentor

    Ill get this added to the textbook forum that was recently created. Im sure others will like to see it too.
  4. Jan 29, 2013 #3
    Thanks a bunch.
  5. Jan 30, 2013 #4


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    Is this intended to be the first book in a series covering all branches of physics, as Landau's?
  6. Jan 30, 2013 #5
    The Book's actually been out for a little bit (I saw it 2 weeks ago at B&N). It essentially covers the basics of classical mechanics up to the principle of least action and a little bit of electromagnetism. It is intended to be able to be read by someone without a good knowledge of calculus. I only skimmed it in the bookstore, but it looked pretty good and could probably be read by a high school student. Nearly all the math necessary is explained in short interludes between chapters. An undergraduate could probably benefit from it for its conceptual ideas, but you might need other resources to properly study at the undergraduate level.
  7. Jan 30, 2013 #6
    ^^ Thanks maybe I will use it with my little cousins then.

    I do not know but the articles I read do sort of imply such a plan. I really hope that is the plan though. It would also be like the Feynman lectures except, with actual lectures.
  8. Feb 1, 2013 #7
    Well, since I didn't get a whole lot of information on it and the fact that the book was only $15 or so I ordered a copy.

    It isn't arranged like a typical textbook, instead of having chapters it only has sections corresponding to each one of the lectures that can be downloaded or viewed on YouTube. The exercises are not at the end of each chapter either, rather they are sprinkled into the text which corresponds to the topic they are covering. The answers to all the exercises are provided within the book.

    The beginning is a thorough intro to physics starting with topics as basic as, what it means to be a law of classical physics. Delving deeper into the book seems to be some sort of equational combination between error propagation and classical physics which, I have never used before. And the last lecture in the book covers electric and magnetic forces.

    It is pretty neat.
  9. Feb 1, 2013 #8


    Staff: Mentor

    So far its pretty cool. It seems like the kind of book you give someone just prior to taking a formal CM class using Marion or Goldstein like a SparkNotes for CM.

    Also Susskind's exposition is very clear to the point of using simple sentences to describe things.

    It was also curious to start things off with the notion of system states like you are being prepped for QM.
  10. Feb 2, 2013 #9
    I apologize I do not know what you mean by Marion or Goldstein CM classes, do you mean a differential equations based Classical Mechanics class?
  11. Feb 2, 2013 #10


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    Sometimes I wonder whether it is not easier to just build up the needed calculus rather than taking long detours just to avoid bringing in Calculus.
  12. Feb 2, 2013 #11


    Staff: Mentor

    Yes thats it. Marion and Goldstein both wrote books on Classical Mechanics that are considered classics in the field with Goldstein being a gold standard. The class would introduce undergrads to Lagrangian and Hamiltonian mechanics as preparation for more advanced QM course.
  13. Feb 2, 2013 #12
    It doesn't assume you know calculus at the start, but it doesn't avoid calculus either. It has short interludes between chapters that introduce mathematical concepts such as calculus. It introduces the mathematics as it needs to. Similar to how most physics students learn their math in the physics courses, not math courses.
  14. Feb 2, 2013 #13
    Suskind gives Landau credit for the title of the book, theoretical minimum.

    And from the following quote he does say that his plan is to do more books, sort of:
    "One of the main inquiries [I get] is whether I will ever convert the [online] lectures into books? the Theoretical Minimum is the answer."
    So he does sort of say he's going to make more books because he uses plural when referring to books. But since he mentions it in such a subtle way it kind of makes me wonder how many he actually wants to do.
  15. Feb 2, 2013 #14
    Actually we cover the necessary calculus in the book. Yes, there will be more books.

    George Hrabovsky
  16. Feb 2, 2013 #15
    ^^!! I am soo excited not only for this book, plus the ones that are planned for the future but, that you just commented on my thread, it just made my day! I now sincerely apologize for not giving you credit as an author of the book in the title of this thread.

    If this was not happening over the internet I would totally ask you to sign my copy of the book.
    Last edited: Feb 2, 2013
  17. Feb 2, 2013 #16
    If you are ever in Madison, Wisconsin, drop me a line. The web site for the book is located at www.madscitech.org/tm, I will be putting up solutions to problems and extra material such as a cheat sheet for basic algebra and some material on ODEs. Then there will be projects for the readers to play with. I also plan to put up Mathematica files that use either Mathematica or the free player from Wolfram.

  18. Feb 2, 2013 #17


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    What's a "hacker-scientist"? :smile:

    All the coverage describes you like that!
  19. Feb 3, 2013 #18
    I have absolutely no idea. I suppose it is related to the fact that I have no degrees, but I do physics anyways. In fact, that is the whole point of the book and those to follow; you can do theoretical physics so long as you have studied and mastered the ideas and techniques.
  20. Feb 3, 2013 #19


    Staff: Mentor

    I've gotten to page 66 or thereabouts in lecture 3 on Dynamics. I like the exposition. As a former student of physics, I used to wonder about how to properly measure force. The spring example is good and realizing that Hooke law doesn't apply to all springs (not explicitly mentioned), the issue is sidestepped by defining a single unit and using instead multiple identical springs was a clever way to sidestep the issue.

    I found a couple of things so far:

    p9: 3 lines up from the bottom, the sentence says: There is evan ... which I think you mean "even"

    p20: it would help to explicitly label the arc saying its length = radius or to use some small countable tick like five on the radius and five on the arc. It confused me for a moment.

    p24: R vector in the diagram lines up with the bounding box edge and the X axis which breaks the 3D effect you were trying for.

    p28: exercise #4 has an unnecessary hyphen in the word mag- nitude probably due to some typesetting issue with using a box frame around the text.
  21. Feb 4, 2013 #20
    Thank you.
  22. Feb 8, 2013 #21


    Staff: Mentor

    Okay I got a little further along in the book when I finally caught the joke.

    The opening of each lecture is a dialog between George and Lenny which I took to mean the two main character in Of Mice and Men by Steinbeck:


    but then I realized that they were references to the two authors.

    So my next thought is:

    I sure hope George doesn't
    compationately bump off Lenny before they've completed the full series of planned Theoretical Minimum books.
  23. Feb 8, 2013 #22
    No worries, it is loosely based on Steinbeck, but the real Lenny needs no help in the physics from me...
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