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Where would you start?

  1. Dec 21, 2004 #1
    I was wondering if you good folk could point me in the right direction. I am a lay person interested in physics, and after reading a good number of books aimed at the general public, it is oblivious that to have a deeper understanding I need to do the maths. And since I have the draw back of all ignorant people, i.e. I don’t know what I don’t know; a pointer to a starting point would be handy.
    Any text books, on-line resources you would recommend etc would be helpful, and I can have fun over the next few years and then maybe I will be able to understand some of the questions I see on here


  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 21, 2004 #2


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    Since you didn't describe at what level your math background is, I'll make a guess. I suggest you start with the typical undergraduate intro physics text, such as Halliday and Resnick. It's a huge (and heavy) book, and makes a good door-stopper after you're done with it.

    There are several online intro physics textbooks/sites. I haven't had time to go through these carefully, so while I'm suggesting it, I can't verify if these are completely accurate.

    http://motionmountain.dse.nl/contents.html [Broken]

    Last edited by a moderator: May 1, 2017
  4. Dec 24, 2004 #3
    There are two tools which are very helpful at a casual level -- the first is a good undertstanding of ordinary algebra -- if you cannot read an equation or see how someone has manipulated one to progress a step then you are stuck . And yet with a good High school algebra you can understand the elements of Special Relativity,
    The second is at least a grounding in calculus , not so much perhaps to actually do calculations because it gets rapidly complex -- but mainly to see why someone is tackling a problem in such a way and what they are aiming at.
    With this you may not be able to reproduce Maxwells equations -- but you can see what he was doing and why the result was EM waves .
    Third an appreciation of what is meant by 'complex numbers' and trigonometric functions like sines cosines etc -- without which it is hard to know what is meant by a wave.
    Clearly the list goes on according to what you would like to study , and perhaps one approach is to look at one or two areas you are interested in and see what they require to at least get an appreciation -- if you do this then you can ask more specific questions as to learning sources on specific topics .
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