Undergraduate books for self-study (quantum and thermal physics)

In summary, the conversation is about someone who has a background in math and is now working on self-driving cars. They have started to feel that they need to brush up on their physics knowledge and have been reading two books on mechanics. However, they are looking for recommendations on similar level books that cover thermal physics and quantum mechanics. Some popular recommendations mentioned are Schroeder for thermal physics and Griffiths for quantum mechanics, but there are also other options such as Kittel and Shankar or Sakurai. The person also mentions that not knowing the Lagrangian or Hamiltonian formalisms may limit their options for more advanced topics.
  • #1
desti
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It's been a while since I studied physics. I did a few basic courses in physics as a freshman, but I never studied any physics since, but instead majored in math and ended up doing a math PhD. Nowadays, I work on self-driving cars at a large tech company, where my work is mostly in computer vision using camera and lidar data.

Recently the fact that I know next to nothing about physics has started bothering me, so I decided to brush up on it. I bought An Introduction to Mechanics by Kleppner and Kolenkow as well as Introduction to Electrodynamics by Griffiths and I've spent the last four months plowing through the books having almost finished them. My question is basically that most of these books with just the name "Physics" also contain chapters on elementary thermal physics and quantum mechanics. These topics are not covered by the two books above, so are there any books at a similar level that cover those topics? In other words, what junior/senior level books would be recommended for thermal physics and quantum mechanics?

As I have a math PhD, I'm not afraid of math, but would still require books that are self-contained. Since my background in mechanics currently doesn't cover Lagrangian or Hamiltonian mechanics, I realize that this might limit the options somewhat. However, if better coverage is available with those parts of mechanics under your belt, I might as well read some classical mechanics book before jumping into thermal physics and quantum mechanics. Does anyone have any recommendations on what path to take?
 
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  • #2
Schroeder (thermal physics) and Griffiths (QM) are popular undergrad textbooks. I myself have never used Schroeder. Kittel (1st edition, not Kittel and Kroemer) is a great introduction to thermal physics, starting right from the non-mysterious notion of entropy by counting microstates. However, I have a feeling that a math person wouldn't like Griffiths' QM book that much as he obscures the mathematical structure of QM too much (as I detailed in my review of the book). I'd recommend other popular pick: Shankar or Sakurai (his Modern QM, not Advanced QM which is about relativistic QM) over Griffiths.

You wouldn't miss much of the typical undergrad-level physics if you don't know the Lagrangian or Hamiltonian formalisms. For graduate-level stuffs, of course, it's a different story.
 

Related to Undergraduate books for self-study (quantum and thermal physics)

1. What are the best undergraduate books for self-study in quantum and thermal physics?

Some popular options for self-study in quantum and thermal physics include "Introduction to Quantum Mechanics" by David J. Griffiths, "Thermal Physics" by Charles Kittel and Herbert Kroemer, and "Modern Quantum Mechanics" by J.J. Sakurai.

2. Are there any recommended books for beginners in quantum and thermal physics?

Yes, some good introductory books for beginners include "Quantum Physics for Dummies" by Steven Holzner, "Thermal Physics: Concepts and Practice" by Stephen J. Blundell and Katherine M. Blundell, and "Quantum Mechanics: The Theoretical Minimum" by Leonard Susskind and Art Friedman.

3. Can these books be used for self-study or are they primarily meant for classroom use?

These books are designed for self-study and can be used by anyone interested in learning about quantum and thermal physics. However, some may also be used as textbooks in undergraduate courses.

4. Are there any online resources that can supplement these books for self-study?

Yes, there are many online resources available, such as lecture notes, video lectures, and practice problems, that can supplement the material covered in these books. Some popular websites for physics self-study include Khan Academy, MIT OpenCourseWare, and Coursera.

5. Is it possible to learn quantum and thermal physics through self-study without a formal education in physics?

While having a background in physics can be helpful, it is possible to learn quantum and thermal physics through self-study without a formal education. However, it may require more dedication and effort to fully understand the concepts without the guidance of a teacher. It is important to have a strong foundation in mathematics and a willingness to learn and practice.

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