Which textbook not to read?

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  • #51
Dr Transport
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Putting Purcell and Griffiths in this list is misleading to say the least, in my opinion. These are without a doubt two of the most excellent books on electromagnetism to have been written. The third edition of Purcell is particularly excellent, the addition of SI units is such a trivial issue.

The list is about books which are so horribly written that no one should read them. Purcell and Griffiths are by no means examples of such books. I don't think micromass meant for the examples to be hyperboles. If we included every book that had a small caveat then this list would include every textbook ever written.
Your opinion, I have taught out of Griffiths, not my favorite book on E&M, much prefer Wangsness at that level, I think the presentation is much better and the methodologies taught to solve problems are not misleading. I felt that Griffiths hand waved the solution to important problems without really sitting down and solving them in the correct manner.
 
  • #52
atyy
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Only very few of them. Off the top of my head a problem like a sphere rolling without slipping on an accelerating inclined plane would be easier in the Lagrangian formalism considerably, and also problems like a small cylinder rolling back and forth inside a larger cylinder which is itself free to rotate from back reaction, but for example the problem of a gas particle bouncing back and forth between receding walls, the infinite Atwood machine, or a rain droplet falling through the sky wouldnt even be possible to do with the Lagrangian formalism.
I'm retreating to Halliday and Resnick.
 
  • #53
atyy
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Here's one thing that mystifies me: http://www.projectalevel.co.uk/as_a2_maths/integration appears to define integration as the reverse of differentiation. One may (wrongly, presumably) get a similar impression from the A-level syllabus itself http://www.cie.org.uk/images/92083-2014-syllabus.pdf [Broken]. I'm not a mathematician, but to me this seems so horrible as to be wrong (at least spiritually). If integration is defined as the reverse of differentiation, then there is no fundamental theorem of calculus, isn't it?

Shouldn't integration be defined as a sum (like an area, in probability)? And differentiation as a rate of change (slope)? Then the fundamental theorem of calculus can exist.
 
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  • #54
disregardthat
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Here's one thing that mystifies me: http://www.projectalevel.co.uk/as_a2_maths/integration appears to define integration as the reverse of differentiation. One may (wrongly, presumably) get a similar impression from the A-level syllabus itself http://www.cie.org.uk/images/92083-2014-syllabus.pdf. I'm not a mathematician, but to me this seems so horrible as to be wrong (at least spiritually). If integration is defined as the reverse of differentiation, then there is no fundamental theorem of calculus, isn't it?

Shouldn't integration be defined as a sum (like an area, in probability)? And differentiation as a rate of change (slope)? Then the fundamental theorem of calculus can exist.
At that level I feel like defining integrals in terms of anti-derivatives is okay. It focuses on the intuitively accessible computational aspect, not the more abstract concept of a limiting sum. It's straightforward, this is how you do it (simple rules of anti-differentiation) and this is what it's used for (finding area). Then, possibly for the most interested, you may prove that it's equivalent to the riemann sum (probably erroneously, like many "proofs" are in textbooks at that level). But I don't really see the difference between defining it as a riemann sum, or to show that it's equivalent to a riemann sum, when you're not at all working with the theoretical machinery behind it.

As a side note, I recall that upon learning integration I found great pleasure in reading the proof of that the derivative A'(x) of the cumulative area function A(x) denoting the area under f(x) from x = a to x was f(x), thus justifying integration as anti-derivation. This is was not a correct proof however, as we didn't actually define area under a function.
 
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  • #55
AlephZero
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I felt that Griffiths hand waved the solution to important problems without really sitting down and solving them in the correct manner.
That reminds me of a lecturer's catch-phrase in a course on differential equations (for mathematicians not physicists): "the best way to solve this is to look at it until you see what the solution is".

Aside from getting marks for tests and homework, it doesn't matter much how you get to the answer so long as you can prove it's the right answer. In the long run, developing correct intuitions will beat learning to plug and chug.
 
  • #56
ZombieFeynman
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I felt that Griffiths hand waved the solution to important problems without really sitting down and solving them in the correct manner.
Can you give an example? Griffiths is not my favorite book on the subject either, but I'm not sure I can recall what you're talking about.
 
  • #57
Matterwave
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I stopped with Hatcher after it tried to give an intuitive definition of a CW-complex without a formal version in site.
In sight*
 
  • #58
Dr Transport
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Can you give an example? Griffiths is not my favorite book on the subject either, but I'm not sure I can recall what you're talking about.
I can't quote a specific page and example, but I remember him setting up more than on e problem in spherical coordinates from the get go, other than Gauss's law, it is my opinion that you should always set up any electrostatics or magnetostatics problem in rectangular coordinates and then change coordinates, more than likely you will get the right answer, if you try to set up a problem in say spherical coordinates and spherical vectors, [itex] \vec{r}, \vec{\theta}, \vec{\phi} [/itex], most of the time you will get it wrong.
 
  • #59
WannabeNewton
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...it is my opinion that you should always set up any electrostatics or magnetostatics problem in rectangular coordinates and then change coordinates, more than likely you will get the right answer, if you try to set up a problem in say spherical coordinates and spherical vectors, [itex] \vec{r}, \vec{\theta}, \vec{\phi} [/itex], most of the time you will get it wrong.
I can honestly say neither I nor any of my friends who took electrodynamics with me have ever once had this issue. We never once got an answer wrong in a homework problem (tests are a different thing entirely of course!) and we always set up spherical or cylindrical coordinates from the get go depending on the symmetries at hand. I really don't see a point in starting with Cartesian coordinates and then transforming to a different coordinate system.
 
  • #60
WannabeNewton
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I'm retreating to Halliday and Resnick.
Nooooooo
 

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