I've found Landau's book General Physics for a first course in physics (available from the Internet Archive as ark:/13960/t2q53vp6x); the book is freely and legally available, but it's from 1967. Is that OK, or is this material outdated?

More generally, what's the most recommended first course in physics? Which such books (or other resources) provide the best intuition, rigour, etc.?

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    $\begingroup$ Related: physics.stackexchange.com/q/13861 $\endgroup$ – Abhimanyu Pallavi Sudhir Aug 24 '13 at 11:48
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    $\begingroup$ I've noticed the Landau books on archive.org and have been wondering about the legal situation. For example, they have the English translation of The Classical Theory of Fields, which seems to have had its copyright renewed appropriately in 1979 (listed at collections.stanford.edu/copyrightrenewals/bin/search/advanced under Hamermesh, the translator). Even if there were some strange loophole involving Soviet-era copyrights, I don't see how it would affect the translations. $\endgroup$ – user4552 Aug 24 '13 at 13:59
  • $\begingroup$ There is indeed "some strange loophole involving Soviet-era copyrights" - the copyright convention does not cover books published in the USSR before 1973 (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… ). This loophole is also relevant to translations published in the USSR before 1973 (I don't know what kind of translation is mentioned in the question). $\endgroup$ – akhmeteli Aug 24 '13 at 14:29
  • $\begingroup$ Even more related: physics.stackexchange.com/q/12175 $\endgroup$ – Abhimanyu Pallavi Sudhir Aug 24 '13 at 17:02
  • $\begingroup$ @akhmeteli: Thanks for the info, although it doesn't seem very clear to me. "Since its accession to the Berne Convention in 1995, the following Russian and Soviet works were copyrighted outside of Russia: All works copyrighted in Russia in 1995, when Russia joined the Berne Convention, became copyrighted in other Berne countries.[54] By virtue of the retroactivity of the Russian copyright law of 1993, this also included many pre-1973 Soviet works,[90] namely all works published in 1945 or later" -- en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… $\endgroup$ – user4552 Aug 24 '13 at 20:21

Welcome to physics.SE!

There doesn't seem to be much in the book that is really outdated; mechanics hasn't changed much since 1967. However, I would not recommend this book for self-study. It doesn't have any homework problems, and has very few examples. For self-study, you really need a book with problems as well as answers and/or complete solutions (or at least answer checking on a computer).

I don't know what your background is, but the book seems to assume strong previous knowledge of vectors, including dot products, which most students in the US don't have. In general it looks like a book that's meant for people who have already taken a really solid high school course (i.e., something much more substantial than what is offered in the US except in an AP course).

As a matter of taste, I strongly dislike the way the principles are presented without motivation or connection to experiment, e.g., the definition of work without any physical motivation or interpretation.

What's the most recommended first course in physics?

It depends completely on your level. If you're at a level where you can make sense of the Landau book, then I would suggest Kleppner and Kolenkow. If you've got no money and no access to a university library, there are other free physics books online. I maintain a catalog of free books here: http://theassayer.org

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks!I have a a good background in basic math ,none in physics(real physics),is there a good book that introduces mechanics with other subjects? $\endgroup$ – Daniel Faust Montana Aug 24 '13 at 14:48
  • $\begingroup$ @DanielFaustMontana I second the Kleppner & Kolenkow recommendation. The problems alone are worth buying the book; but it's a great book overall. If you don't have much experience with calculus, then reading K&K will be rough-going, but then again so will reading pretty much any book on mechanics at the university level. $\endgroup$ – joshphysics Aug 24 '13 at 19:24
  • $\begingroup$ @DanielFaustMontana: I would not recommend K&K for someone with no high school physics preparation and only a background in "basic math" (depends somewhat on what you mean by that). My own books are free online, and might be right for your level, but obviously I can't give an unbiased opinion on their quality. $\endgroup$ – user4552 Aug 24 '13 at 20:24

I would say read

1.) MIT introductory Physics series

2.) Berkeley Physics series (Purcell's E&M has 3ed with new problem-set and solution added by Morin!)

and watch

1.) MIT open course (It provides free textbook along with excellent problem-set & detailed solutions)

2.) Standford Theoretical physics (not for physics major, but I would say they are good)

and discuss Physics...

1.)Here! :D


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