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What is the best college physics textbook for beginning students?

  1. Sep 25, 2014 #1
    I will be going to college next year and the course is called 'Fundamentals of Physics', it is assumed that the students have never done physics. It is a calculus-based course that covers mechanics, thermal physics and waves.

    After researching, I have narrowed my options down to two textbooks:
    1. 'Fundamentals of Physics' by David Halliday, Robert Resnick, Jearl Walker
    2. 'University Physics with Modern Physics' by Hugh D. Young, Roger A. Freedman

    A few questions I have are:
    - Is 'University Physics with Modern Physics' better than 'Fundamentals of Physics'?
    - What does 'University Physics with Modern Physics' do that 'Fundamentals of Physics' doesn't?
    - What textbook do the top colleges in the US use for their 'Fundamentals of Physics' courses?


    Cheers!
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 25, 2014 #2

    atyy

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    Science Advisor

    I've read both and they are about the same. You can choose either depending on your personal taste, or whether one is cheaper etc. Some important aspects of classical physics that are not covered in these texts are Maxwell's equations in differential form, and the Hamilton and Lagrangian formalisms. But those can wait, and the two books you've listed are good to start with. You can supplement them with the Feynman lectures http://www.feynmanlectures.caltech.edu/.
     
  4. Sep 29, 2014 #3
    Thanks atyy! I was told that some colleges are able to go through an entire physics textbook in one semester (15 weeks)...is this true? I looked through them the other day and just don't get how that's possible!
     
  5. Sep 30, 2014 #4

    jtbell

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    Staff: Mentor

    The books you named (and other similar ones) are intended for a two-semester course, or even three semesters for a course that includes some relatrivity and quantum physics. I've never heard of a college/university in the US that takes only one semester. Even with two semesters, professors usually omit some of the material. Textbooks usually contain more material than can be covered in the allotted timespan for a course, to give professors flexibility in choosing optional topics. Publishers don't want to lose sales by omitting some professor's favorite topic.
     
  6. Sep 30, 2014 #5
    The college I plan to go to next year does 19 chapters (644 pages) in 1 semester (15 weeks)...I wonder how that's even possible!
     
  7. Sep 30, 2014 #6

    jtbell

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    Staff: Mentor

    They do both mechanics and E&M in one semester? If so, they're probably skipping many sections of chapters, and concentrating on the really essential topics. A typical two-semester sequence has mechanics and thermodynamics during the first semester, followed by electricity, magnetism, optics, and maybe some "modern physics" during the second semester.
     
  8. Sep 30, 2014 #7
    They do mechanics, waves and thermodynamics.
     
  9. Sep 30, 2014 #8

    jtbell

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    Staff: Mentor

    OK, that sounds about right. 19 chapters sounds like a lot, but different books split things up into chapters differently. The only book I have at hand right now is the algebra/trig based Serway & Vuille which covers mechanics, thermo and waves in 14 chapters.
     
  10. Oct 2, 2014 #9
    Thanks for answering my questions!
     
  11. Oct 10, 2014 #10
    Some nicer supplements are Purcell for E&M and K&K for Mechanics. I like those better than the giant nowdays standard big books that you mentioned in your OP. Or even the old Alonso series for a general big book series type. Feynman Lectures is cool too.
     
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