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u/dargscisyhp · 7 pointsr/AskScienceDiscussion

I'd like to give you my two cents as well on how to proceed here. If nothing else, this will be a second opinion. If I could redo my physics education, this is how I'd want it done.

If you are truly wanting to learn these fields in depth I cannot stress how important it is to actually work problems out of these books, not just read them. There is a certain understanding that comes from struggling with problems that you just can't get by reading the material. On that note, I would recommend getting the Schaum's outline to whatever subject you are studying if you can find one. They are great books with hundreds of solved problems and sample problems for you to try with the answers in the back. When you get to the point you can't find Schaums anymore, I would recommend getting as many solutions manuals as possible. The problems will get very tough, and it's nice to verify that you did the problem correctly or are on the right track, or even just look over solutions to problems you decide not to try.


I second Stewart's Calculus cover to cover (except the final chapter on differential equations) and Halliday, Resnick and Walker's Fundamentals of Physics. Not all sections from HRW are necessary, but be sure you have the fundamentals of mechanics, electromagnetism, optics, and thermal physics down at the level of HRW.

Once you're done with this move on to studying differential equations. Many physics theorems are stated in terms of differential equations so really getting the hang of these is key to moving on. Differential equations are often taught as two separate classes, one covering ordinary differential equations and one covering partial differential equations. In my opinion, a good introductory textbook to ODEs is one by Morris Tenenbaum and Harry Pollard. That said, there is another book by V. I. Arnold that I would recommend you get as well. The Arnold book may be a bit more mathematical than you are looking for, but it was written as an introductory text to ODEs and you will have a deeper understanding of ODEs after reading it than your typical introductory textbook. This deeper understanding will be useful if you delve into the nitty-gritty parts of classical mechanics. For partial differential equations I recommend the book by Haberman. It will give you a good understanding of different methods you can use to solve PDEs, and is very much geared towards problem-solving.

From there, I would get a decent book on Linear Algebra. I used the one by Leon. I can't guarantee that it's the best book out there, but I think it will get the job done.

This should cover most of the mathematical training you need to move onto the intermediate level physics textbooks. There will be some things that are missing, but those are usually covered explicitly in the intermediate texts that use them (i.e. the Delta function). Still, if you're looking for a good mathematical reference, my recommendation is Lua. It may be a good idea to go over some basic complex analysis from this book, though it is not necessary to move on.


At this stage you need to do intermediate level classical mechanics, electromagnetism, quantum mechanics, and thermal physics at the very least. For electromagnetism, Griffiths hands down. In my opinion, the best pedagogical book for intermediate classical mechanics is Fowles and Cassidy. Once you've read these two books you will have a much deeper understanding of the stuff you learned in HRW. When you're going through the mechanics book pay particular attention to generalized coordinates and Lagrangians. Those become pretty central later on. There is also a very old book by Robert Becker that I think is great. It's problems are tough, and it goes into concepts that aren't typically covered much in depth in other intermediate mechanics books such as statics. I don't think you'll find a torrent for this, but it is 5 bucks on Amazon. That said, I don't think Becker is necessary. For quantum, I cannot recommend Zettili highly enough. Get this book. Tons of worked out examples. In my opinion, Zettili is the best quantum book out there at this level. Finally for thermal physics I would use Mandl. This book is merely sufficient, but I don't know of a book that I liked better.

This is the bare minimum. However, if you find a particular subject interesting, delve into it at this point. If you want to learn Solid State physics there's Kittel. Want to do more Optics? How about Hecht. General relativity? Even that should be accessible with Schutz. Play around here before moving on. A lot of very fascinating things should be accessible to you, at least to a degree, at this point.


Before moving on to physics, it is once again time to take up the mathematics. Pick up Arfken and Weber. It covers a great many topics. However, at times it is not the best pedagogical book so you may need some supplemental material on whatever it is you are studying. I would at least read the sections on coordinate transformations, vector analysis, tensors, complex analysis, Green's functions, and the various special functions. Some of this may be a bit of a review, but there are some things Arfken and Weber go into that I didn't see during my undergraduate education even with the topics that I was reviewing. Hell, it may be a good idea to go through the differential equations material in there as well. Again, you may need some supplemental material while doing this. For special functions, a great little book to go along with this is Lebedev.

Beyond this, I think every physicist at the bare minimum needs to take graduate level quantum mechanics, classical mechanics, electromagnetism, and statistical mechanics. For quantum, I recommend Cohen-Tannoudji. This is a great book. It's easy to understand, has many supplemental sections to help further your understanding, is pretty comprehensive, and has more worked examples than a vast majority of graduate text-books. That said, the problems in this book are LONG. Not horrendously hard, mind you, but they do take a long time.

Unfortunately, Cohen-Tannoudji is the only great graduate-level text I can think of. The textbooks in other subjects just don't measure up in my opinion. When you take Classical mechanics I would get Goldstein as a reference but a better book in my opinion is Jose/Saletan as it takes a geometrical approach to the subject from the very beginning. At some point I also think it's worth going through Arnold's treatise on Classical. It's very mathematical and very difficult, but I think once you make it through you will have as deep an understanding as you could hope for in the subject.

u/The_Dead_See · 3 pointsr/AskScienceDiscussion

Einstein I would say wait a little bit, he assumes a pretty decent mathematical background in his readers, so it can get a bit tricky.

Hawking, meh. The man's a genius but he's not good at explaining physics to laypeople imo. His books seem to state things without any indication of how physicists arrived at those conclusions, so they're a bit of a head scratcher for newbies.

I would say DeGrasse Tyson, Brian Cox and Michio Kaku are fairly easy jumping off points, but you'll soon get tired of hearing the same analogies. When that happens, move onto the slightly deeper books of Brian Greene and John Gribbin. Leave authors like Leonard Susskind, Roger Penrose and Max Tegmark until later, they're pretty heavy.

All of the above are pop science/astrophysics books that deal in exciting, puzzling things at the frontier of knowledge. If you're just looking for a grounding in more mundane everyday physics then you can do a lot worse than to take the free math and physics courses over at Khan Academy and then follow them up with the more advanced free ones at The Theoretical Minimum site. If you knuckle down through those you'll be at undergrad level physics by the end of it, which is honestly about as far as you can go with self teaching imo.

I found it useful to learn the history of things too. Understanding how conclusions were drawn makes the crazy-sounding theories much easier to comprehend. Bill Bryson's book "A Short History of Nearly Everything" is a great overview, and you can follow it up with books specific to the different eras of discovery... Recentering the Universe was a good one for the earliest eras of Copernicus and Galileo. James Gleick's Isaac Newton covers the classical mechanics era. Faraday, Maxwell and the Electromagnetic Field takes you the next step. Then you can get onto Einstein and relativity, of which there are a million and one choices. Then onto quantum mechanics, of which there are even more choices... :-)

Hope that helps.

u/xrelaht · 2 pointsr/AskScienceDiscussion

There are a lot of good suggestions in here, but I'm wondering if any of them are really applicable to what you want to do. An electrodynamics book like Griffiths will come at magnetism from the perspective of field and/or tensor mathematics. A solid state book like Kittel or Ashcroft and Mermin would come at it starting from a phenomenological perspective and moving into things like local moments and band structure. I'm guessing here, but it seems like what you want is more of an idea of the interaction of magnetism and materials or observable phenomena. Either of those approaches would get you there, but it wouldn't be the most direct approach and it would be a lot more work than you need to put in if that's all you want. They would also both require a lot more math than it seems like you're really comfortable with, and both topics are complex enough that physics/chemistry/MSE students struggle with them without good instructors (and sometimes even with them).

Instead of starting with any of those, I'd suggest you look at some lower level, phenomenology and observation based works. Nicola Spaldin's Magnetic Materials: Fundamentals and Applications might be a good place to start. It's pretty low level: I think a motivated undergrad could deal with it after taking a year of freshman physics, but I think that's what you want, at least to start with. It gives a good overview of different kinds of magnetism and the different kinds of magnetic materials, as well as field generation and detection.

Incidentally, if you decide to be a masochist and go with a solid state book, I think Ashcroft & Mermin is a better text than Kittel. Kittel spent 50 years and eight editions trying to fit the new developments in the field into the book without making it significantly thicker, so Ashcroft has a narrower scope but covers what it does have in more depth. I find the writing style clearer and more accessible as well.

u/OGdrizzle · 2 pointsr/AskScienceDiscussion

"An elegant universe" by Brian Greene is a good read. It leans more towards string/superstring theory. "The science of interstellar" also touches on some concepts related to quantum mechanics.

I know that you asked for books but "PBS Spacetime" is a YouTube channel that does a great job explaining quantum mechanics. "Veritasium" is another great channel with a few videos explaining phenomena as well. I posted links below. Physics is dope. Happy hunting!

An elegant universe:

The science of interstellar:

PBS Spacetime:


u/cr42 · 2 pointsr/AskScienceDiscussion

I actually see a lot of parallels between your situation and where I found myself at your age. It was 14 or 15 that I really developed an interest in science, because before that I hadn't really been properly exposed before that. Fast forward 6 or 7 years, I'm now a third year university student studying physics and I love it; I'll be applying to PhD programs next fall.

Like you, astronomy (by which I broadly mean astronomy, astrophysics, cosmology, etc.) was what really caught my attention. In school, I liked all the sciences and had always been good at math (calculus was by far one of my favorite high school courses because the science can be pretty watered down).

If you're interested in learning more about astrophysics, I would recommend any one of a number of books. The first book on the topic that I read was Simon Singh's Big Bang; I read a couple Brian Greene books, namely The Elegant Universe and Fabric of the Cosmos; I read Roger Penrose's Cycles of Time, and finally Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything. Also, I bought a book by Hawking and one by Michio Kaku that, to this day, sit on a shelf at my parents' house unread. I would recommend Singh's book as a nice book that should be at your level, and in fact it was the one recommended to me by some professors who I bugged with questions about the universe when I was around your age. Also, Bryson's book is a good survey look at a lot of different scientific topics, not just astrophysics/cosmology specific; I enjoyed it quite a lot.

As far as reaching out to people, I would recommend trying to connect with some scientists via email. That's what I did, and they were more responsive than I expected (realize that some of the people will simply not respond, probably because your email will get buried in their inbox, not out of any ill-will towards you).

At this point, I'll just stop writing because you've more than likely stopped reading, but if you are still reading this, I'd be more than happy to talk with you about science, what parts interest(ed) me, etc.

u/Rhizobium · 2 pointsr/AskScienceDiscussion

I'm not qualified to make a recommendation on basic physics, but here are some of the best examples of science writing I've come across for the other subjects you've listed:

  1. Scientific History and Chemistry - The Invention of Air, by Steven Johnson. This book is about Joseph Priestley, and his contribution to the discovery of oxygen. Priestley was incredibly prolific, and made a ton of contributions to completely unrelated fields. It also touches on why science started to really take off at this point in history, and the necessary conditions for good science to occur.

  2. Natural Sciences - Why Evolution Is True. Jerry Coyne takes a college-level biology class on evolution, and condenses it into a single book. It is very easy to understand, even if you don't have a biology background.

  3. Scientific History and Astronomy - The Big Bang by Simon Singh. This is probably the best popular science book I've ever read. A lot of these books will tell you how scientists think the universe works, and stop there. This book is different, it explains the reasons why scientists think the universe is a particular way, and lays out the history of how these ideas changed during the development of astronomy.
u/erdaron · 3 pointsr/AskScienceDiscussion

Introduction to Quantum Mechanics by Griffiths is indeed an excellent textbook, and a standard in many undergrad courses. I would also recommend brushing up on vector calculus and linear algebra before diving into QM.

Honestly, Wikipedia articles often do a good job of explaining the fundamentals in a clear, accessible way. And its scientific accuracy is quite good.

There are also free courses online, such as through Coursera and MIT's OpenCourseWare.

u/[deleted] · 1 pointr/AskScienceDiscussion

> Could you recommend something covering the history of earth in general.

I recommend Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything. It's a great read, easy to follow, and gives a pretty decent overview of, well, everything. If you want details on the math and physics, look elsewhere as this is not a textbook. But it's a nice intro.

I think of it as the Sophie's World of science. (Another great book i'd highly recommend.)

Bill Bryson also has some other books covering various topics (mostly travel and history). I haven't read them all, but the ones i have are excellent.

u/lilmookie · 1 pointr/AskScienceDiscussion

I can offer a general layman's overview of you like (global studies ftw)

I'm not sure if this is what you're getting at but:

"Humans comprise about 100 million tonnes of the Earth's dry biomass, domesticated animals about 700 million tonnes, ..."

I think human lifestyle might be a bigger issue. If you include indirect human usage like domesticated animals (and the resulting sewage pools) etc.

You might really like this book:

Edit: hopefully as technology progresses we can be less disruptive towards our environment. I'm convinced that bio diversity will be a huge scientific/economic boom in terms of finding out what kind of genetic/mathematical/physical models work well as trial tested by time/evolution (granted they're not all winners but...) A lot of solid architecture and medicine has come straight out of nature. Seems like a shame we're just pissing it away for short term goals/benefits.

I also look forward to the day all science merged into one and there's something better out there to run society than what humans/computers/programs are limited to at the moment.

u/mathemagic · 1 pointr/AskScienceDiscussion

Why not learn something about neuroscience? You'd better understand the fundamental concepts on which the brain works and how they structure consciousness. I'm not talking psychology but learning the fundamental biology of neurons and building that into an understanding of behavior and cognition.

You'd just have to read Kandel's Principles of Neural Science which is pretty much the neuroscience bible. It takes you from concepts like "Cell and Molecular Biology of the Neuron" and "Synaptic Transmission" to "The Neural Basis of Cognition" and "Language, Thought, Affect, and Learning" - the wiki lists the chapters here

edit: in fact your comfort with physics will help understand the biophysics of neurons: viewing the cell membrane as a capacitor and using circuit models of membranes with some basic V=IR stuff.

u/Tettamanti · 2 pointsr/AskScienceDiscussion

Definitely not the biggest, but very impressive is Robert Evans, amateur astronomer, found a record number (42) of supernovae...with his 10” home his backyard.

In Bill Bryson’s book, A Brief History of Nearly Everything, he discribes how incredibly hard this feat actually is. “To understand what a feat this is, imagine a standard dining room table covered in a black tablecloth and someone throwing a handful of salt across it. The scattered grains can be thought of as a galaxy. Now imagine fifteen hundred more tables like the first one — enough to fill a Wal-Mart parking lot, say, or to make a single line two miles long — each with a random array of salt across it. Now add one grain of salt to any table and let Bob Evans walk among them. At a glance he will spot it. That grain of salt is the supernova.”

Evans has also been quoted as saying "There's something satisfying, I think, about the idea of light travelling for millions of years through space and just at the right moment as it reaches Earth someone looks at the right bit of sky and sees it. It just seems right that an event of that magnitude should be witnessed."

u/nostalgichero · 2 pointsr/AskScienceDiscussion

Check out "A Short History of Nearly Everything" by Bill Bryson. It's right up your alley. It's a history of science and scientific thought. It discussess almost all of the major scientific thought processes and when, how, and who was involved in their discoveries, the rival thoughts at the time, how it changed our world, and also covers scientists lost to time or scientists whose theories were taken by others. It's also really, really entertaining to read. It's like a really entertaining history book but about science and scientific thought. It's pretty dang accurate and specific, but not so precise as to wear you down or confuse you. Really approachable, REALLY informative, and perfect for someone who feels that their science AND history knowledge is lacking.

u/SegaTape · 4 pointsr/AskScienceDiscussion

David Griffiths' textbooks on E&M and quantum mechanics were easily the best textbooks I had as an undergrad. Clear, concise, refreshingly informal, and even a dash of humor.

u/jon_stout · 1 pointr/AskScienceDiscussion

Hard to say. There's a massive number of steps necessary to reach our current technological level -- I could easily see setting up the smelting and manufacturing and mining needed to create a modern smartphone taking lifetimes. And that's not even taking into account the basics of agriculture and agricultural technology -- that, more than anything, determines whether or not civilization is possible.

Edit: At the same time, though, having the knowledge of base principles available might speed things up in some ways. Knowing that an airplane or space travel is even possible, for instance, might ease up or help focus research in those areas.

If you're looking for a good book to read on this subject, I'd suggest The Knowledge: How to Rebuild Civilization in the Aftermath of a Cataclysm by Lewis Dartnell.

u/Lhopital_rules · 64 pointsr/AskScienceDiscussion

Here's my rough list of textbook recommendations. There are a ton of Dover paperbacks that I didn't put on here, since they're not as widely used, but they are really great and really cheap.

Amazon search for Dover Books on mathematics

There's also this great list of undergraduate books in math that has become sort of famous:

Pre-Calculus / Problem-Solving

u/MedicineMan81 · 3 pointsr/AskScienceDiscussion

This book will answer all those questions (and many others) in great detail. A really interesting thought experiment. I highly recommend it.

u/NFeKPo · 1 pointr/AskScienceDiscussion

I am sure you have heard a thousand things.
A Short History of Nearly Everything is a great read. It covers everything from our solar system/universe to geology. It's written in a easy to understand way and if there are sections that you don't find interesting (I didn't care for the geology section) you can easily skip them.

u/QWERTY_REVEALED · 1 pointr/AskScienceDiscussion

The Elegant Universe by Brian Greene did a pretty good job of covering high-level physics concepts up through string theory.

u/Fizzlewicket · 7 pointsr/AskScienceDiscussion

I like pretty much anything Brian Greene writes. He's a layman's physicist, and is very good at explaining exactly what you are asking for. Try The Fabric of the Cosmos. In fact, I think there was a PBS Nova series of the same name that he hosted.

u/Joe_Q · 2 pointsr/AskScienceDiscussion

The Epigenetics Revolution by Nessa Carey.

It's a pretty good read, could have used a bit more editing -- it'll give you a flavour of some of the key findings, unusual anecdotes, history of the field, etc. It's from 2013 so will not have the latest details.

u/moogyboobles · 1 pointr/AskScienceDiscussion

I'm currently reading and finding utterly fascinating The Epigenetics Revolution.

u/J_VanVliet · 6 pointsr/AskScienceDiscussion

Start with Carl Sagan's -- " A Demon haunted world :Science as a Candle in the Dark"
a VERY good book

and a good start to learning

u/Ish71189 · 2 pointsr/AskScienceDiscussion

Two things, (1) I'm going to recommend mostly books and not textbooks, since you're going to read plenty of those in the future. And (2) I'm going to only focus on the area of cognitive psychology & neuroscience. With that being said:


The Man Who Mistook His Wife for A Hat: And Other Clinical Tales By Oliver Sacks

Brain Bugs: How the Brain's Flaws Shape Our Lives By Dean Buonomano

Kludge: The Haphazard Evolution of the Mind By Gary Marcus

The Trouble with Testosterone: And Other Essays on the Biology of the Human Predicament By Robert M. Sapolsky

The Seven Sins of Memory: How the Mind Forgets and Remembers By Daniel L. Schacter

Intermediate: (I'm going to throw this in here, because reading the beginner texts will not allow you to really follow the advanced texts.)

Cognitive Neuroscience: The Biology of the Mind By Michael S. Gazzaniga, Richard B. Ivry & George R. Mangun


The Prefrontal Cortex By Joaquin Fuster

The Dream Drugstore: Chemically Altered States of Consciousness By J. Allan Hobson

The Oxford Handbook of Thinking and Reasoning By Keith J. Holyoak & Robert G. Morrison

u/best_of_badgers · 1 pointr/AskScienceDiscussion

In addition to the other suggestions, The Knowledge is probably ideal.

u/C12H23 · 2 pointsr/AskScienceDiscussion

I don't exactly have time to make a detailed post right now, but I recommend grabbing a copy of The World Without Us by Alan Weisman. It covers this exact subject.

u/LazinCajun · 4 pointsr/AskScienceDiscussion

This doesn't answer your question, but for some classes, there are very standard texts. It's anecdotal, but every single recent physics graduate student I've met used Jackson for electricity and magnetism ( There are other texts out there I'm sure, but Jackson is by far the most common.

u/bjoeng · 3 pointsr/AskScienceDiscussion

Bill Brysons "A Short History of Nearly Everything" is a good place to start.

u/The_Serious_Account · 7 pointsr/AskScienceDiscussion

While I think you're right, there's still some debate in the physics community about whether the particle becomes entangled with the black hole. It assumes information is preserved in black holes, which goes into the question of the black hole information paradox.

Susskind wrote an entire book on that exact subject called The Black Hole War: My Battle with Stephen Hawking to Make the World Safe for Quantum Mechanics. While Hawking did concede and agree with Susskind, not everyone did and it's still an active area of debate and research.

Edit: For some very closely related discussion read

u/icantfindadangsn · 7 pointsr/AskScienceDiscussion

I like this question.


u/The_Wisenheimer · 5 pointsr/AskScienceDiscussion

Demon Haunted World by Carl Sagan.

It really does a good job of explaining why science and critical thinking are important to society and why it is dangerous to reject them or to be ignorant of them.

Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman! by Richard Feynman.

It is a very witty and entertaining collection of Dr. Feynman's personal anecdotes and reminds us that scientists are people just like everyone else.

u/drzowie · 5 pointsr/AskScienceDiscussion

/u/SwedishBoatlover has the right idea. FTL travel is the same as time travel, because events separated by a spacelike interval (such as departure and arrival using an FTL craft) don't have a definite before/after order. That's why we have limericks like that one about the Lady named Bright.

Seriously, FTL travel would screw up physics very badly. Like, "Ghostbusters crossing the streams" badly. Classical mechanics (the physics of baseballs, planets, and such) would cease to work. Quantum mechanical feedback through the closed path (from the exit back to the entrance) might make the entire Universe implode.

To learn more about this topic, try Kip Thorne's awesome book about wormholes and the damage they would cause to the Universe at large. FTL travel of any kind would have similar effects.

u/StardustSapien · 2 pointsr/AskScienceDiscussion
u/destiny_functional · 3 pointsr/AskScienceDiscussion

No, but here is a devastating critique of it

See the abstract

>Abstract The central claim that understanding quantum mechanics requires a conscious observer, which is made by B. Rosenblum and F. Kuttner in their book “Quantum Enigma: Physics encounters consciousness”, is shown to be based on various
misunderstandings and distortions of the foundations of quantum mechanics.

and for a quicker read jump to chapter 2 to see what's wrong with it.

>2 Critique of Selected Quotations from QE

Stay away from it. It isn't going teach you anything, and will probably give you so many misconceptions that it's going to make it difficult to actually learn quantum theory at a later time. If you want to learn quantum theory, read a textbook ( probably the easiest English book on it you can find pdfs on google).

General rule: if a book on quantum theory mentions the word consciousness prominently (say in the title), then that's a red flag and be careful.