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I'm interested in learning physics. I do realize that the subject is large and that it would be easier if I had a specific area of interest. However, I do not. I suppose I want to learn about the fundamentals of it all; the axioms that combine all physics fields. Or, in other words, a high school physics class.

Specifically, a book or series of videos would be helpful. I looked over MIT and unfortunately the material wasn't for me. I don't mean to be "picky" so I am not completely ruling out any resource just yet.

Thanks in advance.

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closed as primarily opinion-based by Chris White, user1504, twistor59, Manishearth Jul 12 '13 at 6:01

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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How much math background do you have? Do you know specifically what you didn't like about the MIT course? Walter Lewin's lectures would have been my first recommendation, so it's hard to recommend something else without some knowledge about why those ones didn't work for you. –  Mark Eichenlaub Dec 24 '10 at 4:29
    
I found his approach to be counter productive. He appeared to "beat around the bush" rather than "getting to the point." He would say something useful, and then waste time with an experiment that did not further cement my knowledge of the material. EDIT: I do not mean to condemn him. I am certain that he is very useful to many people. –  user951 Dec 24 '10 at 5:03
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Some (slightly) related questions: Books that every physicist should read, Books that develop interest... –  Marek Dec 24 '10 at 9:55
    
Well, for starters try searching this site. There have already been multiple questions similar to yours e.g. this one‌​. –  Marek Feb 14 '11 at 22:47
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@David: since this question gets same answers as the previous one, it is safe to close it, I suppose. –  gigacyan Feb 15 '11 at 8:02

8 Answers 8

I say, start with the Feynman lectures. You can even watch them online. There are also many online physics courses by reputed physicists on Youtube. Some with Leonard Susskind, but I think they are advanced.

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Susskind's lectures are not too advanced. They're intended as an overview of theoretical physics for adult learners. Probably easier than Feynman, since Feynman is very slick and it takes some sophistication to appreciate his approach, even though he's discussing basic topics. –  Mark Eichenlaub Dec 24 '10 at 4:47
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@Mark: Susskind's lectures go as far as discussing SU(3) matrices and QCD interactions. Not that it's terribly hard at the qualitative level but they can safely be called advanced, I think. Certainly for someone with no prior physics background. –  Marek Dec 24 '10 at 9:52
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@Marek Well, I guess I tend to think of "advanced" as "anything I can't understand" and "not advanced" as "anything I can understand." I haven't watched all of Susskind, but I understood what I did watch, so I figured they weren't "advanced". I'm using a rather ridiculous criterion, I admit. –  Mark Eichenlaub Dec 24 '10 at 10:17
    
Great link to the pdf files. +1 –  sigoldberg1 Dec 26 '10 at 22:08

Physics for the 21st centuryis a new, free, on-line course that explores the most modern development in physics. It includes videos, readings, and interactive labs. It's quite good, and represents a modern reformulation of The Mechanical Universe and Beyond, a series of videos from the mid-eighties that covers all of introductory physics—also available online for free.

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This is an excellent resource for a gentle survey of physics. –  TMarshall Feb 19 '11 at 22:46

For freshman level physics, the canonical text is Halliday, Resnick, and Walker's Fundamentals of Physics (at least in the US). It will require calculus. Don't worry about the hefty price tag - you can get an old edition and be fine. It covers everything you'd learn in the first year as a physics student.

Halliday, Resnick, and Walker is good for teaching you how to do physics problems and great at the fundamentals, but it isn't really very fun. If you want something that's more fun to read, you should definitely go for the Feynman Lectures. They're amazing, pitched at a basic level but full of deep detail. You won't learn how to solve actual real-world problems especially well, but they are full of insight on every page and really well-written.

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How I would've answered :), +1 –  dbrane Feb 15 '11 at 1:29
    
You are right about the price tag. I was lucky to spot an almost unused copy of "Halliday, Resnick, and Walker's Fundamentals of Physics" at a scrap dealer and bought it by weight for a mere 20 Indian Rupees, that's less than half a Dollar. More than it's weight in gold however. Pity the fool who disposed it off. –  Vaibhav Garg Apr 3 '12 at 6:20

Here is an excellent guide titled "How to Learn Math and Physics" http://math.ucr.edu/home/baez/books.html

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Here are the sources I think are best.

Start with Jewett and Serway Physics for Scientists and Engineers with Modern Physics for Classical Mechanics and Special Relativity.

Then learn about Lagrangian Mechanics and Hamiltonian Mechanics here and here.

Then learn about General Relativity from Malcom Ludvigsen's General Relativity: A geometric approach but it doesn't cover the EH action, which you can learn here.

Then learn about Quantum Mechanics from NPTEL and Feynman Hibbs and Styer Quantum Mechanics and Path Integrals.

Then learn about Quantum Field theory from wikipedia and this lecture notes which is mainly (but not completely) about QCD.

Finally, String theory: http://math.berkeley.edu/~kwray/papers/string_theory.pdf., http://arxiv.org/pdf/hep-th/0207249v1.pdf, http://arxiv.org/pdf/hep-th/0207142v1.pdf, McMohan String theory Demystified, Becker, Becker, Schwarz String theory and M theory, This site : ).

Beyond the level of these,

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You could try the Khan Academy's room on Physics. It's been known to be an excellent resource, even to the likes of Bill Gates.

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The book by by Resnick and Halliday

alt text

Try to solve as many problems as possible. :)

May the force be with you!

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the Feynman Lectures are the thing if you want to learn physics. He was the best.

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