Learning more about Physics

python023

Senior member
Dec 17, 2004
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After spending a lot of time recently in the Highly Technical forum browsing various Physics topics, and getting more indepth in my Physics class, I have become very interested in Physics, particularly issues dealing with space-time and large-scale physics. Can anyone direct me to books, links, or pdfs that can teach at a beginner to intermediate level on Physics so I can more fully understand these topics?
thank you
 

Heisenberg

Lifer
Dec 21, 2001
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Well, to *really* understand it requires at least some kind of degree in physics/astromony. However, there are a bunch of pop-science books out there by people like Stephen Hawking and Lawrence Krauss that would be good to check out if you don't want to spend the next decade in school. ;) The Feynman lectures on physics would also be good to get IMHO. Although they're not focused specifically on cosmological stuff, they're very good and entertaining as well.
 

Darien

Platinum Member
Feb 27, 2002
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The Feynman Lectures (Covers all the basic areas)
Textbook recommendation goes to Knight's Physics for Scientists and Engineers. I used Tipler when I took mechanics. Knight's book is much better IMO. When I jumped to the honors series, they were using Ohanian's books for mechanics and e&m (the e&m book is quite good) and Eisberg and Resnick for quantum. But going through those books is much more than "beginner"

The only "intermediate" book I can solidly recommend is Griffith's E&M. I haven't found a good mechanics and thermodynamics book for this level. Sakurai might be good for quantum, but that's more of an advanced thing.

(You need to have a grasp of differential equations (both ODE and PDEs) and linear algebra as well. Even at the beginner level, if you want to understand it, these are a must!)
 

Cawchy87

Diamond Member
Mar 8, 2004
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A brief history of time by: Stephen Hawking

The Fabric of the Cosmos By: Brian Greene

And I like to go to my university library and read: Scientific American, Discover, and Astronomy Magazine.
 

tokamak

Golden Member
Nov 26, 1999
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A Brief History of Time is good. Also, The First Three Minutes by Weinberg and Coming of Age in the Milky Way by Timothy Ferris (lots of history and astronomy, but a great read).

Also, as Darien said, Griffiths' textbooks are excellent - he's written at least 3: Electrodynamics, Quantum Mechanics, and I think a particle physics.
 

UglyCasanova

Lifer
Mar 25, 2001
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I'm thinking about changing my major to physics. I have been eyeing it for 3 years now, but I was stupid and listened to other people and went for CS and Graphic Design instead, completing neither and I HATE both.
 

BigJ

Lifer
Nov 18, 2001
21,335
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Originally posted by: UglyCasanova
I'm thinking about changing my major to physics. I have been eyeing it for 3 years now, but I was stupid and listened to other people and went for CS and Graphic Design instead, completing neither and I HATE both.

I admire you for going into a field that you like, but what would you do with a Physics BS?

From what I know, there's not much you can get into besides teaching and research.
 

UglyCasanova

Lifer
Mar 25, 2001
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Originally posted by: BigJ
Originally posted by: UglyCasanova
I'm thinking about changing my major to physics. I have been eyeing it for 3 years now, but I was stupid and listened to other people and went for CS and Graphic Design instead, completing neither and I HATE both.

I admire you for going into a field that you like, but what would you do with a Physics BS?

From what I know, there's not much you can get into besides teaching and research.

Same thing I would do with a degree in Graphic Design, something completely unrelated to my major. There is no way in hell I am going to be a designer for the rest of my life, I hate doing it with a passion. My life is really fvcked up atm, and I think this will be a good way for me to straighten it back out. :)
 

Eeezee

Diamond Member
Jul 23, 2005
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Buy some textbooks written by Haliday and Resnick, they write some killer intro books that make the concepts very clear IMHO.

Another book I HIGHLY RECOMMEND is called "Experiments in Modern Physics" (Napolitano). It details most of the very important physical experiments used to prove some very basic concepts. For example, the Milkian Oil Drop is in there in addition to dozens of others. That's a book that's just plain awesome.

Originally posted by: BigJ
Originally posted by: UglyCasanova
I'm thinking about changing my major to physics. I have been eyeing it for 3 years now, but I was stupid and listened to other people and went for CS and Graphic Design instead, completing neither and I HATE both.

I admire you for going into a field that you like, but what would you do with a Physics BS?

From what I know, there's not much you can get into besides teaching and research.

Actually, a BS in Physics can take you just about anywhere you want to go. It's a rare degree that requires a lot more work than some majors and a high degree of intelligence. It's no worse than getting a BS in Engineering, but the number of paths open to you is much more diverse. Honestly, I suggest you stick with your current major and just graduate unless you're seriously willing to throw the rest of your coursework away (since almost none of it will apply to your new major).

Many physicists go on to grad school and get their PhDs before going into the work force, but there are many successful BS Physics majors around the world with just about any job you can imagine. Many employers realize what a Physics degree entails; there aren't too many people out there that are even capable of getting one.

In all seriousness, I've spoken to a few people about this, once you've taken some upper-division Physics courses, all other college courses seem incredibly easy.
 

Darien

Platinum Member
Feb 27, 2002
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Originally posted by: Eeezee
In all seriousness, I've spoken to a few people about this, once you've taken some upper-division Physics courses, all other college courses seem incredibly easy.

QFT. Heck, my engineering graduate courses are easier than most of the upper div physics courses I've taken. Majoring in physics as an undergrad is ridiculously good preparation for grad school in engineering.

...but thinking about all the hours I wasted trying to solve some of these damn problems as an undergrad makes me sad/pissed...gah!

I think the only courses I've taken that were remotely comparable to the difficulty was my last year of Japanese -- too much kanji to memorize/digest in too short of time. But that's a completely different type of course. I guess if you're really good at memorizing stuff, language is a breeze.
 

Eeezee

Diamond Member
Jul 23, 2005
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Originally posted by: Darien
Originally posted by: Eeezee
In all seriousness, I've spoken to a few people about this, once you've taken some upper-division Physics courses, all other college courses seem incredibly easy.

QFT. Heck, my engineering graduate courses are easier than most of the upper div physics courses I've taken. Majoring in physics as an undergrad is ridiculously good preparation for grad school in engineering.

...but thinking about all the hours I wasted trying to solve some of these damn problems as an undergrad makes me sad/pissed...gah!

I think the only courses I've taken that were remotely comparable to the difficulty was my last year of Japanese -- too much kanji to memorize/digest in too short of time. But that's a completely different type of course. I guess if you're really good at memorizing stuff, language is a breeze.

Exactly what I'm going through, it's incredibly depressing. I could be a business major and not have to work at all :(

I have some friends with Japanese minors, and those courses are TOUGH! At my university they are all 5 credit courses. I don't know of any other courses that are greater than 4 credits o_O
 

edro

Lifer
Apr 5, 2002
24,328
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Good books that I have read:

A Brief History of Time, Stephen Hawking
The Universe in a Nutshell, Stephen Hawking
Black Holes and Baby Universes, Stephen Hawking
On the Shoulders of Giants, Stephen Hawking (reference material mainly)
The Elegant Universe, Brian Greene
The Fabric of the Cosmos, Brian Greene
Einstein and Beyond, Michio Kaku
Parrallel Worlds, Michio Kaku
Six Easy Pieces, Richard Feynman
Newton's Gift, David Berlinski
Seven Ideas that Shook the Universe, Nathan Spielberg
Five Equations That Changed the World: The Power and Poetry of Mathematics, Michael Guillen
+ others I can't remember the titles of.

The best ones out of that group are:
A Brief History of Time, Stephen Hawking
The Universe in a Nutshell, Stephen Hawking

The illustrated versions are like $30+, but I have both versions. The illustrated versions are freaking awesome. They help get the ideas across much easier.
 

HN

Diamond Member
Jan 19, 2001
8,186
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at UCSD, one of my physics classes was taught by Dr. Sally Ride, the first American woman in space. That was cool.