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Recommended Physics Reading

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    I've recently started reading 'Why Does E=mc2? (and why should we care?)' by Brian Cox and Jeff Forshaw. I'm in year 12 and I thought I might as well get ahead on some of this Einstein stuff lol so i picked it up. From what I've read its very well written; no complex maths is involved in the explanations - so far I've only come across some Pythag.

    I'd definitely recommend it to anyone who wants a good, easy to follow breakdown of relativity with some fantastic analogies.

    However, it could be said to be for the non-scientists. Either way, its a good introduction to the topic
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    I'm not sure if it has already been said, but "Physics of the Impossible" by Michio Kaku is meant to be a fascinating read.
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    Why the hell is everybody recommending popular science books that don't go into enough detail and rely heavily on analogies to explain physical concepts?
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    (Original post by cydonia)
    Why the hell is everybody recommending popular science books that don't go into enough detail and rely heavily on analogies to explain physical concepts?
    Because the point is to recommend books to develop an interest in physics without the in-depth material which would be inappropriate at A-level and likely to put people off. Nobody is going to read a university level text for fun.
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    (Original post by F1 fanatic)
    Ok so time and again I've seen the question of what books one should read to develop an interest in physics and to bridge the gap between A-level and degree. I was thinking maybe we should create a list of interesting and informative books that are useful and advisable to read. Obviously only post those that you would recommend, not every book you have ever read :p:. If you could post title, author and a small description that would be grand

    For a more complete and up to date list of recommendations based on this thread and it's sister thread then see the associated article in the TSR Wiki

    Astrophysics & Cosmology

    A Brief History of Time - Stephen Hawking
    Not as good as its mythological status suggests but definitely worth a read to give a broad overview of cosmology. A little out of date now, and a little mind blowing in places but it certainly opens your eyes to the principles of cosmology.

    Universe in a Nutshell - Stephen Hawking
    The sequel to the above, written in 2001 it brings the reader up to date, focussing mainly on the theory of branes and M-theory, which leads on from string theory. A lot more pretty pictures in this one, but again quite involved conceptually, and somewhat biased towards set theories.

    The Elegant Universe - Brian Greene
    Another of these mythical "must read" books which has become extremely popular of late. For all its popularity make no mistake that it is not an easy read. Its pitched at quite a high level but does give just about everything on string theory you could possibly want to know. It's also very biased towards string theory. Read it if you like, but in my opinion there are far better books out there. Save yourself the trouble and watch the TV series.

    Blackholes and Timewarps: Einstein's Outrageous Legacy - Kip Thorne
    A really excellent book that I would really recommend. It's quite difficult to obtain, and rather epic in proportions but it covers all areas of astronomy, right through from relativity to black holes to the search for gravity waves. I particularly like the way it focusses on the scientific method, and how physics at that level operates in research groups.

    The First Three Minutes - Steven Weinberg
    To be honest I have yet to read it... its on my shelf so will let you know when i do, but its been highly recommended to me as one of the classics. I believe it focusses on the initial state of the universe as a story, from big bang onwards.

    Just Six Numbers - Martin Rees
    Written by the Astronomer Royal this book takes a slightly different tact, focussing on 6 dimensionless fundamental constants of nature and looking at how these affect the way the universe is today. It basically tells the story of the development of the universe through these 6 numbers. It tries to be different, but is basically the same story from a different angle. Worthy of a read though.

    In Search of the Big Bang - John Gribbin
    Very much a pop science book, and like most John Gribbin books probably not entirely accurate, but it is an enthralling read about the history of the universe and how the theories we believe today came about. It includes a bit on string theory, and in particular a discussion of the forces as existing in other dimensions... which in my experience is quite rare for a book.

    Quantum

    In Search of Schrodinger's Cat - John Gribbin
    Again, not completely accurate and a little out of date now, but a compelling read for all that. It was this book which awoke my enthusiasm for quantum, which has remained ever since. It's all just so bizarre. The book is basically a history of quantum and how it came about, with some good analogies and a final discussion on how it is used in every day life.

    Schrodinger's Kittens - John Gribbin
    The sequel to the above, discussing the developments of quantum since the late 80s when the above was written. It mainly covers entanglement, doing quite a reasonable job of explaining it I must say. I think there is a small section on quantum computing also. Not as good as the above book but readable and interesting nonetheless for those with an interest in quantum.

    QED - Richard Feynman
    Not for the faint hearted. I have to confess I've never read this but you can never go wrong with Feynman. From what i know though, it is pitched at quite a high level, so I would advise leaving it til at least A2, and having read some more basic quantum books first.

    Relativity
    Relativity is quite hard to read on as the subject is necessarily complex and mathematical. There are not in my experience that many books out there pitched at a level readable by A-level students. The best you can do is to read the astro books above which do talk and discuss relativity at reasonable length. Books on time travel are another possibility

    Special Relativity - A. P. French.
    this is really a degree level text book, fairly widely used from what I can gather, but it is just about readable and understandable as a reading book and the maths is kept to a relative minimum. I wouldn't recommend it to those not totally confident with maths and physics as it is quite an advanced read.

    Electromagnetism
    Finding books on electromagnetism of a pop science nature is nigh on impossible. Electromagnetism necessarily requires high level of mathematical skill and understanding, on topics not covered at A-level (such as vector calculus and multiple integrals to name but two). If anyone can find any I'll include it, but in short I would avoid EM like the plague as it is enough to put anyone off physics for life if you aren't careful. You'll meet it soon enough at Uni if you go on that far

    Historical

    Great Physicists - William H. Cropper
    I love this book. I take it to uni with me every term as its great to just dip into. It covers nearly every possible area of physics in surprising detail. It even gives explanations of some advanced mathematical topics such as vector calculus. It's set out as a biography of around 30 key physicists, arranged by area of physics, discussing in depth the lives of these greats and the detail behind what they discovered. I highly recommend this one.

    General

    Feynman Lectures In Physics (Vol I-III) - Richard Feynman
    These are the classic lecture series books produced by Feynman which every student likes to claim to have read. I would not advise purchasing them (they are expensive) or indeed reading them cover to cover, but they do offer a different perspective of things and Feynman is unparallelled in his ability to explain. Make no mistake, these are degree level books, although they would not be useful as a core text book in any degree course you do. If you want lighter reading I suggest the extracts below.

    Six Easy Pieces/ Six Not So Easy Pieces - Richard Feynman
    These are the best bits from the above lectures in physics. The first is clealy simpler to read than the not so easy ones, as should be obvious from the title. I would definitely advise reading 6 easy pieces, just for the discussions of quantum. Feynman sees things differently too everyone else and his analogies are excellent.

    A-level Standard Texts

    Can't think of any at present

    "Quantum a guide for the perplexed" by jim al khalili

    Definitely should be included its a fantastic book and used it in my personal statement and came up in interview and got an offer
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    (Original post by Olliee)
    I'm not sure if it has already been said, but "Physics of the Impossible" by Michio Kaku is meant to be a fascinating read.
    I like this too, it's not a heavy book by any means but it's brilliant if you have a fascination with anything like Star Trek; it covers topics like parallel universes and death stars, which everyone must have thought about at some point :]
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    I fully agree too.

    Michio Kaku's Physics of the Impossible is great
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    Feynman is great, i'd advise starting with Six Easy Pieces and The Character of Physical Law. If you can, watch some of his lectures on youtube too. A book which helped win me over to Physics was John Gribbin's Search For the Edge of Time, but I haven't read any of his others.

    But for me the biggest recomendation is by far Cosmos by Carl Sagan. The subject matter is easy enoughfor anybody to understand, but rich enough for anybody to enjoy. Others may disagree (i've yet to find them) but to me his style of writing is enthralling. If it meshes well with you this book won't just leave you a little better informed about Physics, It might just change the way you look at life, the universe and everything. Cannot do it justice here. Buy the book, then buy the dvds if you enjoyed it.
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    Hey, wondering if someone can clear something up for me? I borrowed a textbook from my Astronomy teacher called Universe; Fifth Edition by Robert A. Freedman and William J. Kaufmann III for my Extended Project - only now that school's starting, he's going to want it back (literally, it's his prize possession, not really sure why he let me borrow it) and apart from it being really helpful with my EPQ, it's a great read, so I was hoping to get one for myself.

    I e-mailed my teacher and he said to get the 8th edition, not the ninth, which strikes me as a bit odd - I've had a look at both on Amazon and as far as I can work, they're both pretty much the same, except one is a newer edition... don't suppose I can get that cleared up? Any reason why I should get the 8th and not the 9th? (My teacher has been vague, he just says, "Because you should" and doesn't explain it. Stupid man -.-) If they're exactly the same, I'll get the 9th, it's half the price of Amazon.

    8th Edition: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Universe-Rog...4791692&sr=1-9

    9th Edition: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Universe-Rog...4791692&sr=1-2

    Hoping someone can help... thanks!
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    (Original post by Olliee)
    I'm not sure if it has already been said, but "Physics of the Impossible" by Michio Kaku is meant to be a fascinating read.
    If that's anything like his talks on the Discovery channel then no thank you.
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    (Original post by The_Last_Melon)
    I got turned off reading Feynman when I find out he was building the atomic bomb while his wife was dying of TB and that he didn't cry when she died.

    Clearly you didn't understand the situation Feynman was in at that time, not sure where you read that he didn't cry? That's hardly relevant at all anyway...

    I suggest you watched these videos: http://youtu.be/_ah7f-1M2Sg http://youtu.be/ZEP7pzm5Qq8

    Infinity (1996) is based around that whole period of Feynman's life, which shows how upset he was about his wife's death. Also, Feynman grew very pessimistic about mankind's aims and uses of the atomic bomb after he helped create it, he developed a strong opinion that we would blow ourselves up one day.

    Also, not even sure how this is relevant at all really? Feynman is by far one of the greatest minds of physics, right up there with Einstein and Newton, QED is so fundamentally widespread and broad that it underpins all of biology and chemistry. But how is this related to his reaction when his wife died?
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    (Original post by 01010000 01001010)
    Clearly you didn't understand the situation Feynman was in at that time, not sure where you read that he didn't cry? That's hardly relevant at all anyway...
    He admits it in "Surely you're joking Mr Feynman", though he does claim to cry months after.

    I suggest you watched these videos: http://youtu.be/_ah7f-1M2Sg http://youtu.be/ZEP7pzm5Qq8
    I had watched the first one before and I already knew the content of the second.

    Infinity (1996) is based around that whole period of Feynman's life, which shows how upset he was about his wife's death. Also, Feynman grew very pessimistic about mankind's aims and uses of the atomic bomb after he helped create it, he developed a strong opinion that we would blow ourselves up one day.
    He admits in his book that he wasn't upset for months. I doubt someone cold enough to build an atomic bomb would have any emotions left for anyone. I'd assume she had already "served her purpose" to him by giving him children. You can sense strong resentment in Feynman's son's voice when he speaks about him. I don't think he's the hero everyone thinks he is.

    Also, not even sure how this is relevant at all really? Feynman is by far one of the greatest minds of physics, right up there with Einstein and Newton, QED is so fundamentally widespread and broad that it underpins all of biology and chemistry. But how is this related to his reaction when his wife died?
    There comes a point when I have to stop reading or listening to someone if I disagree with how they live or have lived their lives because I'm filled with disgust. I have to have a degree of respect for someone before I can be taught by them.

    EDIT: Although a lot of his videos that I see on youtube do give me a little more respect for him. He's quite a good storyteller.
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    (Original post by The_Last_Melon)
    I doubt someone cold enough to build an atomic bomb would have any emotions left for anyone.
    I think that is somewhat of a disservice to Feynman and to anyone who was involved in the Manhattan project to be honest, since it misses out a huge amount of historical context. This was the middle of a war and the feeling was that building an atomic weapon would end the war earlier and save countless lives. Besides, there was no real room for doubt as the Axis was well under way with construction of its own nuclear weapons. While we may say with modern eyes and hindsight that building an atomic weapon is a bad thing, it was a completely different set of circumstances at the time and to suggest that they were cold hearted is deeply unfair. This was war, practically everyone has a relative who fought in the second world war, killed people, dropped bombs on civilians, are these people cold-blooded?
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    (Original post by The_Last_Melon)
    I doubt someone cold enough to build an atomic bomb would have any emotions left for anyone.
    So Bohr, Einstein, Fermi, etc. all also fall under that catagory?

    Just remember that without the team working on the atomic bomb, we would have had nuclear power stations much later on in our history...
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    Is Hidden Unity in Nature's Laws worth the money? From the list, I've read Great Physicists, which was ace. Looking for as in depth and mathematical as it comes before going into undergrad textbooks
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    The Birth of Time: How Astronomers Measured the Age of the Universe by John Gribbin is definitely a good read.
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    Relativity for the Layman by James Coleman I found to be a straight forward (if a bit basic) read.
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    (Original post by L-x)
    If you can finish "The Road To Reality" and honestly say you understood it all, you don't need this thread.

    You also probably don't need to revise for your A-Level physics or Fmaths... anything you forget you should be able to work out from first principles.

    "Surely you're joking, Mr Feynman" is worth having on the list somewhere too, not because it'll make you any better at physics, but because it's a brilliant book.
    If you can understand "The Road to Reality" without reference to any other books you're probably one of cleverest people in the world. I have a degree in physics and, flicking through it recently, still found much of it very tough to understand.


    Personally, off the top of my head, I can endorse:

    Quantum - Manjit Kumar (fascinating historical perspective)
    Fabric of the Cosmos - Brian Greene (brilliantly written exposition on major physics)
    Physics of the Impossible - Michio Kaku (a light hearted but very interesting discussion on the future of scientific inventions)


    For more serious but still approachable stuff, the Feynman Lectures on Physics are of course incredible.


    With regards to the atomic bomb, I think Feynman was very candid on his role in the making of it and his various regrets and his justification for helping to make it at the time. Unfortunately I can't find the whole video but here's a bit from it:

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    Does anyone have a chemistry recommended reading list?


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