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What Should I learn before reading this book on Classical Mechanics?

  1. Dec 10, 2014 #1
    I am about to read the book Classical Mechanics by Herbert Goldstein. The prerequisites that it says in the book are advanced calculus and vector analysis. Would that mean multivariable calculus? Also there are a lot of things about transformation matrices and tensors. Would I need to review linear algebra for this?
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 10, 2014 #2


    Staff: Mentor

    Usually a physics student has Calculus 1,2,3, linear algebra and differential equations under their belt before they tackle this book. There was a couple of kids in my class from NYC who had this book in highschool which means they must have had at least Calculus to handle it.

    There a light weight version you could consider before getting into Goldsteins book, namely the Susskind Classical Mechanics book which covers the same things in a more minimal fashion with less math.
  4. Dec 11, 2014 #3


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    Staff: Mentor

    Note that Goldstein is usually considered to be a graduate-school level textbook. Have you already studied classical mechanics at the intermediate/advanced undergraduate level, e.g. Symon or Marion or Fowles/Cassiday?
  5. Dec 12, 2014 #4
    I assume you've had basic mechanics before like K&K and Fowles&Cassiday and such? And Calc 1-2 and Linear Algebra in years past then?
  6. Dec 12, 2014 #5
    Is there a particular reason you need to start with Goldstein? Otherwise, I'd suggest a more introductory book like Fowles.
  7. Dec 12, 2014 #6


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    Homework Helper

    Goldstein is like the MTW for GR. Like an encyclopedia, or a <phone book>. I would suggest Kleppner + Kolenkow and then the 'cut to the chase' approach by Landau & Lifschitz. If you like maths, don't stop after L&L, go forward to V. Arnold. ;)
  8. Dec 16, 2014 #7
    For mathematics, you should feel extremely comfortable with general multi-variable calculus, linear ordinary differential equations, linear partial differential equations, and (ideally) have at least a passing familiarity with basic linear algebra and basic complex analysis. For physics, you should have a term or two of "senior-level" classical mechanics. For example, my institution's senior CM course covered "all" of Fowles/Cassiday in a term.

    Beyond that, a term or two of EM theory would also be extremely helpful (say at the level of Griffiths' electrodynamics). The more physics you know, the easier it is to learn new physics, especially at the level presented by the Goldstein book.

    I've heard it said before that if you want to understand mechanics, first you learn math, then you read Goldstein, then you read L&L. And like someone said above, you could also move onto Arnold afterward if you're a masochist.
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