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I'm thinking of following some kind of education in physics online. I have a master degree in Computer Science and have reasonable good knowledge in physics. I would like a program of 1-2 years and I'm more interested in particle physics.

Is there any good online program that offer something similar?

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Before answering, please see our policy on resource recommendation questions. Please write substantial answers that detail the style, content, and prerequisites of the book, paper or other resource. Explain the nature of the resource so that readers can decide which one is best suited for them rather than relying on the opinions of others. Answers containing only a reference to a book or paper will be removed!

What is your goal? If you just want to learn physics, there are lots of online resources that could be useful. If you want a degree, why? If you want to be a physicist, you would need to enroll in a real PhD program, not an online course. – Matt Reece Nov 12 '10 at 23:43
how about ;) – Pratik Deoghare Nov 14 '10 at 7:42
@TheMachineCharmer: I realize your comment is tongue in cheek, but I hope no one really tries to "learn physics" from this site, as opposed to learning the answers to specific questions about physics. Albert, if you want to really understand physics (in a rigorous way), you've got to work your way through some textbooks. In some cases free online lecture notes can be a reasonable substitute. A mentor could be useful for when you get stuck, but in that area this site could also be a good resource. – Tim Goodman Nov 15 '10 at 16:08
To be clear, I'm not criticizing this site, which I think has the potential to become a great resource. But to "learn physics" in the broad sense requires a more structured program of study, at least in my opinion. – Tim Goodman Nov 15 '10 at 16:09
@Tim Goodman: I definitely agree. This site is intended to help answering specific questions which may occur while learning and researching, not to teach the very basics for which there are some really excellent textbooks available already. – Tobias Kienzler Nov 16 '10 at 11:44

14 Answers 14

up vote 12 down vote accepted

Since you say you're mostly interested in learning physics, not in a degree, there are lots of options. You say you have good knowledge of physics; if you want to learn particle physics, you need a good undergrad physics background plus some additional knowledge. I tend to think that reading textbooks is still the best way to learn the basics; if you want to learn particle physics, you might start with the book by Griffiths. If you find that you don't have enough background knowledge for it, then you would need to read other, more basic textbooks. Once you pass some threshold of background knowledge, though, you can learn a lot online. You could try searching for introductory lectures on various topics. In particle physics, for instance, you might search for the word "TASI", which is a summer school for graduate students to learn more about the field (the lectures are often written up and posted online). Most of this will assume you already know quantum field theory, though.

You can get a prepublication draft of Mark Srednicki's QFT textbook from his website (PDF file).

The Perimeter Institute has a one-year Master's degree program and videotapes all of the lectures. You can watch the videos from their archive.

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That perimeter institute masters program sounds amazing! Thanks for the link. – nibot Aug 28 '11 at 21:00
@Matt, I'm a final-year student of mechanical engineering . The perimeter institute masters program does look very attractive, but applicants are required to have taken at least 3 courses apart from introductory physics. I've had only 1 course in Physics so far as the university where I study is not really flexible when it comes to offering elective courses from other departments. Do Masters programs for engineering in the United States allow students to take courses offered by Physics department? If so, could you suggest some universities? – u6844 Jan 10 '13 at 16:41
@Matt, so let's just say someone has zero experience in physics, what path of learning may be the best way to cover all the cores? – Pacerier Feb 1 '13 at 14:09
You should enroll in a undergrad physics program @Pacerier – Self-Made Man Feb 12 '15 at 15:13
@Self-MadeMan, I mean self-learning, not paid-learning. – Pacerier Feb 12 '15 at 21:57

Stanford has posted a bunch of theoretical physics courses by top physicist Leonard Susskind:

Classical Mechanics

Quantum Mechanics

Special Relativity

General Relativity


Statistical Mechanics

I'm a physicist but I still watched all these, just because Susskind is such a great teacher of physics. This is as good as it gets!

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Susskind also has a series on quantum information and computing. It's called Quantum Entanglements. – Raskolnikov Nov 15 '10 at 16:34
There are also Lenny Lectures about particle physics here, here,here,‌​and here, and cosmology2 here (the title is a misnomer, it is cosmology). I`ve seen them all ... :-))) – Dilaton Aug 9 '12 at 19:08
@mtrencseni, is it best (build on previous knowledge) to consume them in the order you listed? – Pacerier Feb 1 '13 at 14:11
@Pacerier, CM > QM > SM is one thread, SR > GR > Co is another. – mtrencseni Feb 4 '13 at 13:26

List of recommended books and notes from the beginner level to advanced:

How to Become a Good Theoretical Physicist

Similar list on mathematics, parts of it may be useful for physics too:

How to Become a Pure Mathematician (or Statistician)

MIT OCW offers complete courses in Classical Mechanics, Electricity and Magnetism and others, designed for independent students. Tens of other physics courses are available, but may not be complete.

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I highly recommend MIT OCW. Prof Walter Lewin has done a wonderful job in making all the lectures awesome. – shortstheory Nov 3 '13 at 14:58
  • NPTEL has a bunch of undergrad review level physics and math courses in the Basic Courses category.
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  • ICTP has a lot of high-undergrad and graduate-level courses, including condensed matter and HEP.
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My main piece of advice to someone asking this question is: don't skip the basics. It's very tempting to try to skip right to something sexy: field theory, general relativity, string theory, etc. Avoid this temptation and take a slow, methodological approach.

Since you say you have a good background in physics, however, you might be able to pick up David Griffiths' undergraduate particle physics textbook immediately.

If you were starting out from zero, I would suggest: spend six months or a year reading the three-volume set of the Feynman lectures and working out the problems. Spend six months each working through Griffiths' quantum mechanics textbook, an analytical mechanics textbook, a thermal physics textbook, and an E&M textbook.

Something that works well for me, and as a computer scientist, might work well for you, is to try to simulate physical scenarios numerically in addition to solving them analytically (as in the textbooks). Working with a numerical model and seeing how it agrees or disagrees with the formal theory is often quite illuminating.

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  • UCCS has a large collection of online math courses - some very useful.

Good luck! (And sorry the links had to be spread across multiple answers.)

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Here are a few that don't appear to have been mentioned: [EDIT: I will list one per answer, as the spam filter won't allow me to post more than one link at a time.]

  • I second MIT's OCW as the very best resource for self-learners.
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It always makes me laugh when people hope they can learn physics online. Yeah, sure you can, just as you can learn languages online but you're not going to be articulate compared to someone that is on a full time course. They live physics for years with like minded people, day in, day out. If you want to learn physics the same way someone learns a foreign language by carrying around a translation dictionary because they lack the effort required, then go right ahead. Just don't delude yourself in believing you can know what a graduate physicist knows.

Let me put it another way:

A physicist on a full time course might spend at least 50 hours a week learning about physics. How much time do you have to spare?

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Only 50 hours per week? – Pacerier Feb 1 '13 at 14:25

In general, I think the following is a fair - if a bit strongly-worded - response to your question:

"It always makes me laugh when people hope they can learn physics online. Yeah, sure you can, just as you can learn languages online but you're not going to be articulate compared to someone that is on a full time course. They live physics for years with like minded people, day in, day out. If you want to learn physics the same way someone learns a foreign language by carrying around a translation dictionary because they lack the effort required, then go right ahead. Just don't delude yourself in believing you can know what a graduate physicist knows."

There is little substitute for a full-time course of studies if you really want to learn physics the way a young postgraduate / PhD. student knows the subject.

However, if this option is not currently available to you, or you prefer the out-of-class method / approach, the following may be useful:

The Road to Reality: a complete guide to the laws of the universe (Vintage, 2007), R. Penrose

An excellent "roadmap" / reading-resource book to guide you from basic* mathematics to advanced-level** physics.

(* As Penrose suggests in the Preface, the only prerequisites are a familiarity with [whole numbers and] the ability to do fractions.)

(** 'Advanced-level' physics means the frontiers of modern-day research physics, e.g. loop quantum gravity, string theory, twistor theory, dynamical triangulation theory, et cetera.)


The book is definitely NOT for casual reading: it may be best described as a roadmap for those pursuing a full-fledged undergraduate - then postgraduate - degree in theoretical physics.

The best way to utilise it is to*: [start from the beginning, then] (i) read a specific section of a chapter dealing with a specific topic (or area if relevant); (ii) find an appropriate textbook(s) to study the topic (or area) in full detail - with problem-sets and self-administered homework, quizzes, and regular tests to help you assess your progression; then, (iii) return to step (i).

Gradually, after several years, you should have mastered the requisite materials to understand a sizable fraction of research-level physics papers, et cetera.

(* In your case, as you already have some knowledge of undergraduate-level physics, the chapters pertinent to your interests may be more relevant.)

Also, the following online resource may also be helpful:

For online reading materials, et cetera: (there are many, so any sites which you might find helpful / useful may be added as you like)

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Kahn Academy has a bunch of great online lessons - in the Physics section - too many to count - proibibly about a hundred or so.

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If you are familiar with the general physics (first year of science and engineering schools; i.e., I mean 105-106 not the 101-102 or 103-104) you can jump start to become a real theoretical physicist by reading Feynman's Lectures on Quantum Mechanics. This beautiful book made me courageous to talk about physics. If you find some referral to basics that you cannot understand then go to the previous volumes of his basic lectures on university physics; just read them. Feynman is a bit boring since he expects some commitment and vehemence from the reader (he gagues your real interest to physics vs your whim) but once you fall on his track then you can follow his fast pace. He teaches everything you need as a future physicist in the same place. You are not a physicist if you do not know mechanics as much as Goldstein's and electrodynamics as much as Jackson's books. Happily all these books are available free by bit-torrent sharing of resources on-line.

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No list would not be complete without reference to Richard Feynman lectures.

I wished I could have watched them sooner.

My favorite is his The Vega Lectures

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As most of the people have mentioned the best way to learn physics is from textbooks, and then resolve the doubts from the Internet. But, if you face difficulty in getting access to books, then there are a number of excellent free lectures notes on line. As you would need to start with the basic classical mechanics, relativity and statmech and later QFT. The lectures by david tong are an excellent resource.

For Quantum Mechanics, I have been very much impressed by the online video lectures and notes of James Benny at Oxford. He has also written a lecture notes on other topics.

There are the notes of Srednicki for QFT mentioned above. After having mastered CM, QM, QFT(a bit), read a bit of representation theory, and move on to the particle physics.

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