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Physics Books for the Novice?

Cliff posted more than 11 years ago | from the text-books-recommended dept.

Science 485

cornjchob asks: "I've been a Slashdot reader for quite sometime now, and I've seen alot of Physics articles posted. I've got a good understanding of alot of it, but that doesn't mean there's no room to improve. So what's some good reading material for Physics that will give you a good, solid foundation if you've missed something, and then give you some additional stuff? What about online articles or PDF's for us cheap folk? Quantum Mechanics is another subject area that--judging by alot of posts underneath the articles, at least--many of us could use some brushing up on. Any suggestions for books/articles/PDF's on that? Suggestions on anything pertinent to any of those would be great."

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Jesus Saves (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4222894)

But he requires you use WinXP!

Unix is for the devil (look at the BSD mascot!)

Why don't you (1)

RebelTycoon (584591) | more than 11 years ago | (#4222897)

Look at a Grade 10 or 11 textbook?

"Let's start at the very beginning... A very good place to start!"

QED (5, Informative)

rnb (471088) | more than 11 years ago | (#4222906)

QED (Quantumelectro Dynamics) by Richard Feynman is a great (if specialized) physics book for someone who doesn't know that much about physics. I found it to be interesting and quite educational. It also got me interested in finding out more about some of the topics discussed in the book and physics in general. I highly recommend it.

Any of the Feynman Lectures on Physics (2, Informative)

auferstehung (150494) | more than 11 years ago | (#4223057)

are very good, although pricey. A good excuse for a trip to the local public library. Read Amazon's [amazon.com] summary and review archives.

"a lot" is two words, damnit! (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4222908)

(I apologize, but somebody had to troll.. err.. say it.)

Re:"a lot" is two words, damnit! (0, Offtopic)

jsonmez (544764) | more than 11 years ago | (#4223028)

Lets end this! Alot is one word. Why? Because it has become one word through it's use by many people as one word. This happens with many words and is how language evolves. A good number of words come about from their improper use, once again it is how language evolves.

Does this guy sound like a novice (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4222909)

Try the library, you tightwad.

How much you make/year? About 100k or so.

Try a used book store.

Try google.

Hawkings new book is great... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4222915)

Get "Universe in a Nutshell" that's a pretty good one. Also check out A Brief History of Time. I like books by George Gamow (Mr. Thompkins) as well as some of the Sagan stuff. Those are good starters.



Re:Hawkings new book is great... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4223061)

I must flame you, the moderators demand it!

Stephen Hawking's Universe (1)

Valiss (463641) | more than 11 years ago | (#4222916)

I'm sure you've heard of him. There's a reason for it: he writes good stuff and he makes it easy to understand. There are many websites and his books are in every store. Check it out!

Why not take a class? (2, Interesting)

wikki (13091) | more than 11 years ago | (#4222918)

I'm sure you could take a Physics class at a local community for cheap. You might even be able to audit it even cheaper. In the class you would get hands on labs and other things you might not be able to get just from reading a book

Kaaza (1)

radiashun (220050) | more than 11 years ago | (#4222919)

Do a search for "ebook" +physics or something on kaaza. I've found a ton of ebooks on the gnutella network.

Hawking (5, Informative)

sh00z (206503) | more than 11 years ago | (#4222926)

Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time is easily understood by anybody with a high school diploma, and should take less than three hours to read. It'll get you through the classical stiff, quantum physics, and just enough relativity to be dangerous

Re:Hawking (0, Redundant)

sh00z (206503) | more than 11 years ago | (#4223003)

Whoops. "stuff," not "stiff." That'll teach me to hit Preview, even if it means sacrificing the Karma that might have gone with being the first to say "Hawking."

Re:Hawking (2, Funny)

Raul654 (453029) | more than 11 years ago | (#4223097)

(I know this will prolly get modded down as troll, or because I put this warning beforehand, +5 funny, but what the hell, I have karma to burn)

Someone on slashdot talking about physics and accidentally making the freudian slip of stiff for stuff. Do I sense a corrolation?

Easy (5, Informative)

MxTxL (307166) | more than 11 years ago | (#4222927)

Stephen Hawking: Brief history of time and Universe in a nutshell.

Very well written, in plain english that anyone can understand. And the ideas in them will blow your mind...

Re:Easy (1)

Ami_Chan (188543) | more than 11 years ago | (#4223012)

While I agree that these books should be at or near the top of the list, and I love them (as a physics major should...), I have heard complaints from some non-physics-minded friends. They found them somewhat difficult to read and/or imagine the concepts. It all depends on your comfort with science. I don't think that most /.ers would have problems.

Re:Brief History (1)

joncarwash (600744) | more than 11 years ago | (#4223024)

I agree completely, I read A Brief History of Time and I found it very interesting and very readable. And this was in early high school. I do suggest a little background knowledge in physics first, though.

Now time to go see if the book is still kicking around somewhere...

A Brief History of Time (2, Informative)

Nezer (92629) | more than 11 years ago | (#4222930)

Steven Hawking's A Brief History of time is a great introduction without getting too technical. Though a bit dated it was revised not-too-long ago and now includes discussion of the ever-popular string thoeries.

He does talk a great deal about relativity and does touch upon quantum mechanics.

Physics is such a deep subject that, from there, you can go just about anywhere you want!

Re:A Brief History of Time (1)

Winterblink (575267) | more than 11 years ago | (#4223093)

Physics is such a deep subject that, from there, you can go just about anywhere you want! This is a pun, right? :)

Feynman (1)

dirvish (574948) | more than 11 years ago | (#4222933)

Re:Feynman (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4223022)

I don't know how great these Feynmen books are for learning Physics. But they will definelty make you laugh and maybe get you interested in Physics and give you a desire to learn more.

Definatly Adventures of a Curious Character and also Why do you Care What Other People Think?
are very interesting. For learning Physics you might try Six Easy Pieces, also by Feynman.

Feynman's a classic... (3, Informative)

yorick (4133) | more than 11 years ago | (#4222947)

The first book of Feynman's "lectures" on physics isn't bad at all. The big question you need to ask is whether or not you just want a conceptual understanding of physics, or one that enables you to do the required mathematics involved. Unfortunately they tend to be a different audience...most layman's books have no math, and most college books concentrate on the math...which isn't bad, it's just that sometimes things are introduced differently because of the required mathematics.

Feynmann Lectures (2, Informative)

FuzzyDaddy (584528) | more than 11 years ago | (#4222948)

The "Feynmann Lectures on Physics", in three volumes.

They're expensive, but outstanding and well worth it. He developed them for a freshman level course, so they're accesible and don't rely on particularly fancy mathematical notation.

Re:Feynmann Lectures (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4222996)

These are available in .mp3 format as well...check your p2p network of choice...

Re:Feynmann Lectures (1)

ferar (64373) | more than 11 years ago | (#4223117)

Yes, but what about the practice ? I think you have to read another book in parallel with practice.

John Gribbin (4, Informative)

Ami_Chan (188543) | more than 11 years ago | (#4222951)

For quantum mechanics, I highly recommend the books by John Gribbin - In Search of Schrodinger's Cat and the more up-to-date sequel, Schrodinger's Kittens and the Search for Reality. They both give a good historical background on quantum mechanics, and provide a decent background meant for the lay-person. He also has several other books on various topics in science, but I myself have not read them.

Hawking ... (1)

JeffSh (71237) | more than 11 years ago | (#4222953)

As mentioned already, there is "A Brief History of Time" But there is also another book he recently did, which is updated and has lots of really Cool PICTURES! :) it's called "The Universe in a Nutshell" its fairly enjoyable for a novice such as myself.

School textbooks (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4222954)

Usually the school textbooks are really good. Ask your local college's physics teacher which one is _really_ good.
For us austrian/german folks I can recommend the books by Sexl. But probably you knew this already :)
have fun learning

Feynman Lectures (2, Informative)

Carbon Unit 549 (325547) | more than 11 years ago | (#4222955)

They are 40 years old but still a great and unique introduction to the foundations of physics.

Many of the lectures in mp3 and pdf format are currently being posted to news:alt.binaries.sounds.mp3.spoken-word

If you can buy them in your neighbourhood.

The most amazing website on physics... (4, Informative)

yorgasor (109984) | more than 11 years ago | (#4222956)

If you want to know anything about physics fundamentals, check out http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hbase/hframe. html
I've used it to get a good foundation on a few topics and am amazed at how much information it has, as well as how nicely layed out it is.

Re:The most amazing website on physics... (2)

KelsoLundeen (454249) | more than 11 years ago | (#4223021)

Link doesn't work.

Can you repost?

Re:The most amazing website on physics... (2)

ajakk (29927) | more than 11 years ago | (#4223110)

This link is valid, you just have to remove the extra space that /. put into it. Or, if you are lazy, you can just click here [gsu.edu].

Re:The most amazing website on physics... (1)

the_pooh_experience (596177) | more than 11 years ago | (#4223107)

http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hbase /Indx.ht ml

I am not familiar with this site, but I am getting a page in front of me.

Grammar First (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4222960)

It's 'a lot' not 'alot'.

Scientific American (2)

JohnsonWax (195390) | more than 11 years ago | (#4222961)

While it won't give you precicely the knowledge you want when you want it, they do an excellent job of providing solid direction on some fairly complex scientific topics - even for people without a scientific degree.

It's not too expensive, but they'll do a very nice job of filling in the gaps and provide leads on where to look next for more information.

alternative, but nice correlations (0)

joshuarat (593508) | more than 11 years ago | (#4222962)

Brief history of time, Dancing Wu LI Masters and Nature loves to Hide. All good overviews, with a heavy slant from "classical" to "new" (I.E. Quantum) physcics.

Physics Books for the Novice? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4222963)

The Kama Sutra [kamasutrafree.com].

What's your math background? (1)

pato perez (570823) | more than 11 years ago | (#4222969)

Where to start with physics depends entirely on your math background. Got calculus? Got diff eq? You may want to look at some of the better text books.

If your math is weak--just algebra, for e.g.--you may want to pick up one of the popular physics for laymen or physics without math books. These'll give you a good taste for what it's about, but for the real thing, you need the right tools. Physics is a real-world application of mathematics.

Feynman lectures on physics (2)

inburito (89603) | more than 11 years ago | (#4222971)

If you want something with a little out of the ordinary I'd suggest looking at the classic Feynman Lectures on Physics. These books are old but basic concepts in physics definetly haven't been made obsolete.

Something that would go well with these books are the recordings of the actual lectures that the books are based on. It is one thing to read about it but to have one of the best physics teachers explain everything really makes a difference. If you're lucky you might even find the set of pdfs and mp3s posted somewhere on internet.

Re:Feynman lectures on physics (1)

runtimeerror7 (244061) | more than 11 years ago | (#4223111)

i would also suggest to grab surely you are joking mr.feynman [barnesandnoble.com] along with those epitomic 3 volumes. feynman is a wizard. he has his own way of explaining things. you should feel comfortable while reading his lectures only then you would enjoy them.

i dont remember quite well but, if you are looking for some serious intensive basic physics exercises there used to be 2 volumes which i studied in the school. the authors were "Resnick and Halliday". we just remembered them by the author name, sorry i dont know wat the book was called.

my $0.02


I'd recommend (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4222974)

Paul A. Tiplers "Physics for Scientists and Engineers"

Standard Deviants (1)

cloudscout (104011) | more than 11 years ago | (#4222982)

People with Satellite or Digital Cable or even HDTV in some markets can watch PBS's PBS YOU [pbs.org] channel.

PBS YOU airs a show called Standard Deviants [standarddeviants.com] that airs weekdays with a different theme each day. They refer to Tuesdays as "Test Tube Tuesday" and air science episodes (Monday is Math, Wednesday is Writing). It's a well done series and can bring the novice up to speed on basic knowledge from which you can then move on to harder hitting subject matter.

A Brief History of Time (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4222985)

A Brief History of Time, written by Steven Hawkings. Some of the stuff may be too advanced for you (it was for me) but you will still enjoy it, very interesting stuff!

Correction (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4223106)

Steven Hawking*

Astro? (1)

trippcook (529339) | more than 11 years ago | (#4222990)

If your looking for basic, layman's descriptions of Cosmology and astro-type stuff (up to the last few years), Timothy Ferris's THE WHOLE SHEBANG is an excellent book. I was a Physics major in college, with an astrophysics concentration, and I thought the book was superb. I read it before I got into the astro end of physics, but found its explanations of cosmology were very accurate, while being presented in an entertaining, very accessible manner. There's even a comprehensive glossary!

Good Reading (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4222993)

The Berkeley Physics Course and the Feynman Lectures on Physics have been my two favorite books on the subject. The Feynman Lectures are not very easy, however.

Good Luck!!

Quantum Physics (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4222994)

While not a textbook on the subject, one of the best "explainations" of quantum physics I have read is Schroedinger's Cat by Robert Anton Wilson. It is a specualtive fiction novel which explains the concepts in a whimsical manner with a twist of strange.

Richard Feynman (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4222995)

Try the books: six easy pieces, and six not-so-easy pieces. Both by Richard Feynman. The second one is a bit challenging, but they should give you a good start.

Books (1)

Nasarius (593729) | more than 11 years ago | (#4222998)

It's impossible to really appreciate physics without some basic calculus, and if you're not willing to delve into the math side of physics at all, you'll never understand it.
A good textbook if you want a serious introduction to physics is "Physics" by Giancoli.

Novice books (1)

DesScorp (410532) | more than 11 years ago | (#4223002)

For a really good intro to physics, you'd be hard pressed to beat Asimov's book. Barnes and Noble has the three-in-one volume for under 10 bucks, and it's hardcover.

Isaac Asimov (5, Informative)

PHAEDRU5 (213667) | more than 11 years ago | (#4223004)

Asimov did a nice little introduction to Physics. I found it quite readable.

The Elegant Universe (5, Informative)

pmcneill (146350) | more than 11 years ago | (#4223005)

  • The Elegant Universe
by Brian Greene is probably the best popular physics book I've read recently. From memory (it's been about a year), it's divided into three major parts. The first is an excellent introduction to both relativity and quantum mechanics, as well as explaining why they are ultimately incompatible and must be combined in a new theory (quantum gravity/string theory). The second part is a description of the current state of string theory, and the third is a description of where the theory might go (called M-theory). My only complaint about this book, which is brand new given other books I've read, is it doesn't mention the primary fallacy of string theory, which is that it relies on a static background. M-theory, if workable, could fix this, but I don't recall that ever being made clear in this book.

Good introductions to complex topics (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4223008)

I would recommend the book "A Brief History of Time" by Stephen Hawking. Hawking is an incredibly smart man, but the book is very accessible to the layperson. It gives a good basic introduction into the concepts of modern physics (i.e., relativity, QM, string theory, supersymmetry, etc.) without going into a lot of the math. The intellectual crowd might be a bit put off by Hawking's constant references to "God" throughout the text, but I think he was just trying to please his target audience. Others have bashed the somewhat speculative and theoretical nature of the book, but lots of chapters (i.e., the one on the thermodynamic and temporal arrows) give you things to think about.

I would also recommend "Relativity: The Special and General Theory" by the man himself, Albert Einstein. This text goes a bit more into the math and explains SR and GR in a relatively straightforward fashion. This would be a good second step after reading "Brief History", which really only spends a chapter or two on the subject.

quantum cryptography (2)

the_pooh_experience (596177) | more than 11 years ago | (#4223009)

Quantum Cryptography may not be "the place to start" but it is free, and you are cheap:
http://www.theory.caltech.edu/people/presk ill/ph22 9/#describe

Saxon Books.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4223010)

Saxon has some pretty good books, that makes it easy to learn math or physics. I took 2 years of physics in high school and we used this book [saxonpublishers.com]. It was very easy to understand the basic concepts of physics, and also could lead to the understanding of deeper physics (quantium physics, etc).

The Feynman Lectures on Physics (5, Informative)

CmdrSam (136754) | more than 11 years ago | (#4223011)

If you're looking for the real, actual stuff (a book of physics as opposed to a book about physics) I would very strongly recommend the Feynman Lectures on Physics [amazon.com]. They cover mechanics, E&M, and quantum mechanics: they were the first 2 years of courses at Caltech when Feynman taught them.

They get tough in places, but are appropriate for a physics major undergrad, someone with an already good general knowledge of mathematics and a little bit of physics, or just a bright and ambitious high school student. They're a little pricey (all textbooks are) but you might be able to find them at the public library.

Just about every student at Caltech has at least one of these three books...

--Sam L-L

Dianetics! (4, Funny)

TheDick (453572) | more than 11 years ago | (#4223017)

Great book, totally factual and easy to understand, though it can get a bit pricey......

Elegant Universe (1)

brilliant-mistake (578880) | more than 11 years ago | (#4223018)

If you've got a basic understanding of general relativity and quantum mechanics and you'd like to catch up on what's going on in physics nowadays, Brian Greene's "The Elegant Universe" is a pretty good book. It's a pretty good explanation of string theory for people who are relative beginners.

Re:Elegant Universe (1)

sachemcst (161617) | more than 11 years ago | (#4223118)

I totally agree. It's written well enough that people that are new to physics can wrap their head around it , yet contains enough technical data, explanation and theory that the scholared can get something good out of it as well.

What do you want to know? (1)

daghlian (113201) | more than 11 years ago | (#4223026)

If you want to know about all that cool chaos theory, quantum mechanics, black hole stuff then pick up any of a number of excellent books aimed at laymen; Chaos by James Gleick is pretty good, and In Search of Schroedinger's Cat by James Gribbin is a really good hand-waving (no math) book about quantum. If you actually want to be able to do physics (or write games with realistic physics, etc.) then you'd do well to find a decent introductory textbook (Halliday and Resnick, Fowler, etc.) Note that to do physics at all two things are required: 1) you must think well, and 2) you must do algebra at a bare minimum, and calculus if you want to learn anything really interesting.

try (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4223030)

finding "The Elegant Universe" by Brian Greene.

Halliday and Resnick (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4223034)

The world over, this is the standard Intro to Physics text. Master this and you've got an excellent grasp of basic physical laws.

physics articles (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4223035)

Here are a few very well-written articles about a couple dozen topics in physics:

http://www.monmouth.com/~jsd/physics/00index.html [monmouth.com]

Although far from comprehensive, they're summaries of topics that have come up in a physics teachers' email list.

I didn't like any of my physics texts... (2)

bziman (223162) | more than 11 years ago | (#4223036)

But Strunk & White's timeless classic "Elements of Style" will teach you that "a lot" is two words. Master the easy stuff, and then move on to physics.

Once there, you can go to the local book store or even the library and pick up a high school text on physics. They're mostly awful, but if you're bright, you can probably extract the basic theory from them.


Feynman Lectures (2)

mocm (141920) | more than 11 years ago | (#4223046)

For beginners I think the Feynman Lectures are quite
helpful. Feynman had a unique way of explaining physics in an easy to understand way without oversimplifying or omitting things. Here is a link [amazon.com]
at amazon without endorsing this online bookstore.

Quantum Mechanics (1)

ShoeHead (40158) | more than 11 years ago | (#4223050)

For QM, it's really more helpful to get a book (Griffiths is good), but you can get some of the basics online if you've got a really good LinAl background (let's hope most CSists do).

At Caltech, Dr. Mabuchi is resident QM whiz. You can get his lecture notes at


While they're really coherent, as far as physics derivations go, you might want to have someone who's had a first year's QM around to answer questions. And again, you should have a good grasp of LinAl, since that's pretty much what QM is.

As for general reading, I find that PRL (prl.aps.org) has pretty readable stuff, and it's also really interesting. Do yourself a favor--if you're at a college that has the online subscriptions, skim a couple articles a week. For a while, I tried to make that my "news site" instead of slashdot. I'll keep trying, and will let you know (or not) about the results.

Good luck

Mike's Particle Physics (4, Informative)

FortKnox (169099) | more than 11 years ago | (#4223052)

Mike's Particle Physics column on Kuro5hin [kuro5hin.org] explains particle physics quite well for the layman. Unfortunately, K5 is slower than balls atm, so I can't give you a direct link (search for 'particle physics' and you should get all, like 5, articles).

Take a course (1)

mwarps (2650) | more than 11 years ago | (#4223056)

Like many of us here, I've had volumes of physics crammed into my head for three years at college. Go find a good school, get in, and take some physics courses. Or go buy a physics text book from a Tech school (MIT/RIT/RPI/CWRU/CMU/GaTech/etc). There's probably a marginally reputable one near you. If worse comes to worst, go on ebay and look for a textbook.

Don't expect to understand anything much past Classical (Newtonian) Mechanics. Quantum Mechanics is not easily grasped unless taught. It's extremely counter-intuitive. Thus taking a course is your best bet.

Personal Favorites (new physics) (3, Informative)

masterkool (550633) | more than 11 years ago | (#4223059)

The Dancing Wu Li Masters: Gary Zukav" [quanta-gaia.org] A book about the dynamics of new physics without mathematics.
The Elegant Universe: Brian Greene" [wwnorton.com] Again, another new physics book with neat pics and no mathmaticas. Specific to Superstrings mostly.
A Brief History of Time: Stephen Hawking" [psyclops.com] A good book about allmost everything between classical physics and the physics of the last few years. I.E. Relativity, quantum mechanics etc.

Re:Personal Favorites (new physics) (1)

masterkool (550633) | more than 11 years ago | (#4223105)

It seems like alot of people here have posted commenting on A Brief History of TIme and The Elegant Universe. So they are probaly the best books. But check out the Wu Li Masters. Its a very interesting and rather eccentric way of describing the same information. At the least its a fun book to read.


Cosmicfool (564902) | more than 11 years ago | (#4223060)

As many have mentioned, read breif history first, then read the dancing wu li masters. They will both ownz j00 in the eye.

alt.e-book (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4223062)

Try these:


Someone is always posting something on the sciences in there. Recently, someone posted about three hundred Fenyman physics lectures. That was something you probably wanted.

Alice in Quantumland (1)

Trak (670) | more than 11 years ago | (#4223067)

Alice in Quantumland: An Allegory of Quantum Physics
by Robert Gilmore
Copernicus Books; ISBN: 0387914951; (August 1995)

It's just like the title suggests: Alice in Wonderland meets Quantum Physics. I loved it.

Some light books (2)

jukal (523582) | more than 11 years ago | (#4223071)

...from my amazon.com order history. These are not actually "school books", but might be more interesting reading than something more "factual" and give a reason to peek in some more details

- The Turning Point [amazon.co.uk] (Fritjof Capra),
- Einstein's Dreams [amazon.co.uk] (Alan P. Lightman),
- Flatland [amazon.co.uk] (Edwin A. Abbott ),
- The Mechanical Turk [amazon.co.uk] (Tom Standage).

If you want some quantum or particle physics... (1)

Bobulusman (467474) | more than 11 years ago | (#4223074)

(Sorry. Hit enter the first time I posted this)

Try "The God Particle" by Leon Lederman. Great book for quantum theory or even just basic particles. It was my constant reference when I was doing a report on particle accelerators.

Start with Math... (0)

Hack Shoeboy (441994) | more than 11 years ago | (#4223075)

I would first recommend
  • A course in Mathematics for Students of Physics by Bamberg & Sternberg
  • Mathematical Methods of Classical Mechanics by V. I. Arnol'd (anything by Arnol'd would be a terriffic place to start)
And then move on to the physics, like
  • The Large Scale Structure of Spacetime by Hawking and Ellis
  • but first you might want to skim Gravitation by Misner, Thorne, and Wheeler.
  • Dirac's Quantum Mechanics is nice and short without being overly simplistic.
Hope this helps!

The Elegant Universe (1)

Slarty (11126) | more than 11 years ago | (#4223079)

The best book of this type I've read in the last few years is Brian Greene's "The Elegant Universe". It's written in plain, understandable English (AFAIK there aren't any formulas in the entire book) and goes through everything from relativity to quantum physics to superstring theory.

It's definitely an overview book for the layman, written for reading enjoyment rather than as a textbook, but I learned more from this book than anything else I've read in the past couple 'o years. I found it completely fascinating... highly recommended. Sorry, not available (AFAIK) as an e-book, but well worth the $12 or so you can get it for online.

History of the Atomic Bomb (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4223083)

Sorry, can't remember the author, but as a rather extensive backdrop to the development of atomic power and weaponry it dicusses the surge of development in physics starting in the 1860s or so through trinity. Here is the link [amazon.com]on Amazon

Everything you need to know... (1)

DaytonCIM (100144) | more than 11 years ago | (#4223089)

Everything you need to know about the laws of physics you can learn by watching Wylie E. Coyote and Roadrunner cartoons.

Beep! Beep!

a great book by a great man (1)

jhagler (102984) | more than 11 years ago | (#4223092)

The single best source for a basic explanation of much of modern physics is Richard Feynman's Six Easy Pieces, and at 137 pages you won't feel like it's too great an undertaking to ever be acomplished.

It contains a basic history of physics, how it relates to the other sciences, and then goes into energy, gravitation, and basic quantum mechanics. Feynman is someone I had heard of in my college physics courses, but until I read this book I had never realized what an incredible man he was. He was a brilliant physicist but at the same time can explain things in a language anyone can understand, a definite rarity these days.

Anyway, Six Easy Pieces is definitely a great starting place, if you start really getting into physics you might want to look into his entire series Lectures on Physics, but I'm not gonna lie to you he gets pretty deep in some of them.

Before going physics... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4223096)

Great suggestions so far from the all the /. folk out there, but one thing to consider is the eventual level of physics you look to achieve. Now very few people actually beleive they'll read a couple of books and become the next Plank/Hawking/Schrodinger/whomever, but if you want to learn on anything above a high-school level, you'll need to pick up some calculus.

It has been said that physics is motion (although I can't remember by whom). Movement of a particle through space, movement of a ball through the air, movement a wire through an electric field, whatever. In cal terms, this pretty much works out to a hell of a lot of derivatives, and I personally don't think simple qualatative physics is enough for real understanding past the high-school level.

Now I know some Slashdotters'll disagree and say "You don't need to know vector math to know gravity pulls a ball down." But then again you don't need to know what bytecode is to type on a word processor, and if you want to understand how computers work you need to take it to the next level. Same for physics.

Just my two cents (three cents CDN). If you're bored and want to learn what happens when you move a wire through an electric field, pick up a grade 11/12 text. If you want to learn why, pick up the 11/12 text, a good calculus book and a few university level texts.

For the novice and beyond (2)

CommieLib (468883) | more than 11 years ago | (#4223103)

I strongly recommend Feynman's lectures on physics [amazon.com]. I think that in the event of nuclear war devastating all of the world, these books would be at the top of the list for the recovery manuals...hmmm, sounds like an interesting Ask Slashdot.

Books by Steven Hawking (1)

Death Rattle (67301) | more than 11 years ago | (#4223109)

I really enjoyed two books by Stephen Hawking. They were both written with the novice in mind.

The Illustrated Brief History of Time [amazon.com]
The original version is cheaper, but the illustrations go along way to making concepts easy to grasp for someone with very little physics background.

The Universe in a Nutshell [amazon.com]
This book is a follow up to A Brief History of Time with updated information. This book is illustrated as well.

Anyone interested in more info about Stephen Hawking can check out his website [hawking.org.uk].

Understanding Physics (1)

Gn0M3KInG (592302) | more than 11 years ago | (#4223115)

That's the title of a really good book by Isaac Asimov. Starts out nice and light as a read adn gradually accelerates to really advanced topics, as its 3 books in 1. You could either do that or just read Newton's Principa Mathematica...!!!

Physics and quantum mechanics (2)

joe_bruin (266648) | more than 11 years ago | (#4223121)

two wonderful books i've found:

Richard Feynman's Six Not So Easy Pieces is a great explanation of some fundamental concepts of physics, especially the whole time/speed of light relationship (do you really really understand why the speed of light is the speed limit? if not, read this book). it has alot of forumulas, but they do not need to be understood for the book to make sense.

Brian Greene has a very thorough explanation of the leading edge of quantum mechanics and string theory (or m-theory) in The Elegant Universe. this book is free of formulas, but very good at explaining how theories evolved, up to current research status.

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