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What should I read next? Advice needed!

  1. Mar 22, 2010 #1
    I'm not doing physics at college but I want to dabble in the concepts and the mathematics of it. I already know the basic physics of motion, force and etc. (physics without calculus so far) and now I want to do something more advanced. My mathematics is fine ( basic calculus, complex algebra, linear algebra etc.) even though I have a lot of multi-variable calculus yet to learn. The point is, with mathematics I have all the resources I need and I find it easy to take it to any level I want. With Physics however, I don't know any good books or websites to get me beyond this elementary stage in physics. This is because I am self-taught.

    I would be so grateful if people could recommend me some books or websites bearing in mind the following:

    - My Physics knowledge is elementary, despite my maths knowledge
    - I do not want to become a physicist, I just want to have an understanding of the important equations in relativity and quantum physics. I am not interested in doing long drawn out mechanics problems but I am willing to slog a fair bit to get to my goal (just not too much!). It's having a mathematical understanding of the concepts I'm after.
    - The cheaper the better! I'm poor and I can't afford to spend a hell of a lot. This aside, I am willing to fork out a bit if you really think the book is worth the money it's demanding.

    Thank you very much!
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 22, 2010 #2
    Firstly, welcome to the forums, horacesilver!

    I'm not really sure this is a realistic goal and, to be honest, it sounds as though your math knowledge is fairly basic as well, though forgive me if I misunderstand. But! I am all for trying, and enjoy anyone with enthusiasm.

    First of all, you should appreciate that understanding things like relativity (you make no distinction for special or general? special relativity has some mathematics that you might be able to look at) and quantum mechanics require a substantial set of background understanding in physics and so in mathematics also. 'Understanding' mathematical equations isn't as simple as looking at it and knowing what the terms mean or even the ability to use them. True understanding comes from experience and an appreciation for the context of the equation within the overall system. This takes a lot of time and effort for the subjects that you mention.

    There are introductory texts to these subjects that you could look at and begin to digest. If you want to pursue some introductory knowledge then parts of special relativity will be good at. For this, and a prelude to quantum mechanics, I would recommend any good intro undergraduate text - particularly (the excellent!) Resnick/Halliday "Fundamentals of Physics" or "University Physics" by Young and Freedman.
  4. Mar 22, 2010 #3
    Thanks for the reply!

    Yes, my maths knowledge is basic in the context of quantum mechanics and general relativity but I wanted to make it clear that it's not so basic I can't go beyond basic equations of motion! - if you see what I mean. It's also a discipline I can easily improve along the way.

    Thanks a lot for those book suggestions I'll definitely check those out! A good undergraduate text would be great.
  5. Mar 22, 2010 #4
    No problem. Those books are good for getting an idea of the concepts - there is obviously plenty of room for development. If you can first of all look at a text such as that, then let us know how you get on that would be good. And, for the sake of clarity, I recommend restricting yourself to discussions in special relativity - for now, the mathematics of general relativity is much too advanced. I would stick to popular science reading for discussions in GR :smile:
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