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Studying Wishing to spend 1 year self-studying physics

  1. Jan 23, 2012 #1
    Hi all,
    I am a Computer Science graduate [or will be in 2012] and am planning to do my post graduate studies in Computer Science itself, because programming has always been my passion. At the same time, I joined physics forums during my high school years where I participated in topics related mostly to my coursework. But of all the subjects in my coursework, physics has just sort of grabbed me and I have been avidly reading physx.org, numerous articles on wikipedia, sa, ns etc. to learn more about physics and the interest lives on, even after 4 years.

    All my reading which I did online has not been very organised, so it is a big question as to how much I have really learnt. So, to keep the interest alive and to really learn something properly and also to place myself in a position where I could practically consider further studies in physics, I wish to dedicate one year actually 'studying' physics.

    So, here is my question to all: Given my situation, what is the best advice you can give me? I am on a shoestring budget now itself, so buying a lot of textbooks or signing up for a lot of courses is going to be very difficult [read:not impossible, though]. What, in your opinion, would be the best use of 1 year I can make to educate myself in physics?

    PS: I don't know if this forum was the right place to put it, so in case it is not, mods kindly move the post to where it belongs.

  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 23, 2012 #2
    Buy old editions of textbooks for self study. I was fortunate enough to be able to get by this semester without having to purchase brand new books, and I ended up paying about thirty dollars for five textbooks. I suspect you could do even better, because I had to get semi-recent textbooks whereas you could snag copies from three decades ago and not be any worse for wear.

    Can't help ya more, mate. Just figured I'd offer some textbook-buying advice, because any serious foray into physics is going to require them.
  4. Jan 23, 2012 #3
    @Angry_Citizen: The place where I stay, Bangalore has a nice place called Avenue road where a lot of used books are sold at extremely cheap rates. My question actually does not relate much to that. You see, you were able to "get by a semester", but there was coursework, so you knew what textbooks you wanted or had to get.

    My requirement is more of a roadmap. What subjects do I begin with? If I am self-studying what exact topics do I cover first and how do I exactly progress with my interest?

    And thanks for your comments :)
  5. Jan 23, 2012 #4
    What is your mathematics background?

    A common introductory sequence is: classical mechanics - fluids/thermodynamics - electricity and magnetism - modern physics (relativity and introductory quantum mechanics). This is usually done in 2 or 3 semesters. Most introductory physics books follow a similar order.

    For example, check out the table of contents of this one (I've never used this book, just offering it as an example of the order).
  6. Jan 23, 2012 #5
    As for my mathematics background, I have studied mathematics that is required for engineering, with almost all my electives in Probability and statistics. Probability and Random Processes is one of my strengths and I'm pretty good with Calculus [till like an introduction, my skills when it comes to LDE and all leave a lot to be desired]. As for the topic of physics you've mentioned above, I have covered them all, and yes, an `introduction` to modern physics and quantum physics as such. My basic question is, after this, what? My interest are inclined towards particle physics and matter at an atomic scale.

    And thanks for taking the time to help me out :)
  7. Jan 23, 2012 #6
    Well, in a standard physics curriculum, after the intro courses these topics are all more or less covered again in specific classes at a higher level. If you really have covered all of these topics, you should be able to start learning about pretty much any other physics topic you want.
  8. Jan 24, 2012 #7
    Why not look at some university web sites and see what textbooks they recommend? MIT is an obvious example. Another is Manchester:

    http://www.physics.manchester.ac.uk/undergraduate/courses/course-handbook/10_syllabuses/physics_level4/phys_40222.html [Broken]

    Note, this is a fourth year course. But it has to be that way as particle physics uses so much other physics. The main course text is:

    Martin, B.R. & Shaw, G. Particle Physics (Wiley)

    This is part of the famed Manchester physics series. Famed for being (i) inexpensive (ii) not too long, just the essentials, (iii) understandable (mostly).

    You can cascade backwards to find earlier texts in the same series if (when!) you get stuck with this advanced text... look at the pre-prerequisite from the above link. For instance, you'll definitely need something like:

    Phillips, A.C. Introduction to Quantum Mechanics (Wiley)

    ... and probably recommended texts on EM, math methods, vibrations and waves.... A tough year but doable!
    Last edited by a moderator: May 5, 2017
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