The Theoretical Minimum: What You Need to Know to Start Doing Physics

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Overview


A Wall Street Journal Best Book of 2013

If you ever regretted not taking physics in college—or simply want to know how to think like a physicist—this is the book for you. In this bestselling introduction, physicist Leonard Susskind and hacker-scientist George Hrabovsky offer a first course in physics and associated math for the ardent amateur. Challenging, lucid, and concise, The Theoretical Minimum provides ...

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The Theoretical Minimum: What You Need to Know to Start Doing Physics

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Overview


A Wall Street Journal Best Book of 2013

If you ever regretted not taking physics in college—or simply want to know how to think like a physicist—this is the book for you. In this bestselling introduction, physicist Leonard Susskind and hacker-scientist George Hrabovsky offer a first course in physics and associated math for the ardent amateur. Challenging, lucid, and concise, The Theoretical Minimum provides a tool kit for amateur scientists to learn physics at their own pace.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

Wall Street Journal, Best Books of 2013
“Every minute of our lives is now dependent on technology, yet the wonders of basic science are foreign to many of us. Everyone who remembers even a bit of math should read this inviting and accessible account of ‘what you need to know to start doing physics.’”

Wall Street Journal
“So what do you do if you enjoyed science at school or college but ended up with a different career and are still wondering what makes the universe tick?.... Leonard Susskind and George Hrabovsky’s The Theoretical Minimum is the book for you. In this neat little book the authors aim to provide the minimum amount of knowledge you need about classical physics…to gain some real understanding of the world…. They do so with great success…. Along the way you get beautifully clear explanations of famously ‘difficult’ things like differential and integral calculus, conservation laws and what physicists mean by symmetries…. Messrs. Susskind and Hrabovsky’s book is a powerful exposition of why science is ‘real’ and a counter to the kind of wishful thinking employed by people who, for whatever reason, reject the scientific worldview.”

Science Blogs: Built on Facts
“[A] charming and erudite instance of a genre with very few members – a pop-physics book with partial differential equations on a good fraction of the pages…. More impressive still is that the book entirely resists the temptation to skip to the good stuff – quantum mechanics and so on. This is a book which is purely about classical mechanics…. [S]ucceeds admirably in its goal. It presents classical mechanics in all its glory, from forces to Hamiltonians to symmetry and conservation laws, in a casual but detailed style.”

Scientific American's Cocktail Party Physics blog
“It’s clear, insightful, and designed for those hardcore physics fans who’ve read all the popular treatments and now might be interested in moving out of the armchair into the real action of actually engaging in theoretical physics.”

Physics World
“Very readable. Abstract concepts are well explained….[The Theoretical Minimum] provide[s] a clear description of advanced classical physics concepts, and gives readers who want a challenge the opportunity to exercise their brain in new ways.”

Home Education Magazine
“In combination with the online lectures, The Theoretical Minimum provides the student who is proficient in algebra, trigonometry and calculus a thorough introduction to theoretical physics.”

Not Even Wrong
“[Q]uite good…. The style is breezy and colloquial, with lots of nice explanations of some of the basic concepts of physics. It’s wonderful to see Poisson brackets appearing and nicely explained in a popular book destined to be displayed at bookstores everywhere.”

Sean Carroll, physicist, California Institute of Technology, and author of The Particle at the End of the Universe
“What a wonderful and unique resource. For anyone who is determined to learn physics for real, looking beyond conventional popularizations, this is the ideal place to start. It gets directly to the important points, with nuggets of deep insight scattered along the way. I'm going to be recommending this book right and left.”

Publishers Weekly
Readers ready to embrace their inner applied mathematician will enjoy this brisk, bare-bones introduction to classical mechanics drawn from Stanford University’s “Continuing Studies” program. Although physicist Susskind (The Black Hole War) and science advocate Hrabovsky touch briefly on electricity and magnetism, the book is primarily about mechanics and the motion of particles. The authors open with a look at closed and open systems and the reversibility of physical laws, a concept central to the field. Next are rigorous chapters on trigonometry and vectors, and a no-nonsense intro to differential and integral calculus, and how these tools are used to calculate the motion of objects through space. Not for the faint of heart, successive chapters introduce Newton’s law of motion, the complex mathematics of “systems” of particles, phase space, conservation of momentum, and the Principle of Least Action, which allows scientists to “package” a system’s velocity, mass, direction, and forces into a single function. The authors intend this book as a toolkit for determined readers who want to teach themselves basic mechanics. Although their discussions are clear enough, even the hardiest reader will want to bring a basic calculus text along for the journey. 62 line drawings. Agent: Katinka Matson, Brockman, Inc. (Feb.)
Library Journal
This unique guide is tailor-made for the independent learner who wants just enough math and mechanics to think like a physicist or move on to more advanced topics.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780465075683
  • Publisher: Basic Books
  • Publication date: 4/22/2014
  • Series: Theoretical Minimum Series
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 105,346
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.10 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author


Leonard Susskind has been the Felix Bloch Professor in Theoretical Physics at Stanford University since 1978. He lives in Palo Alto, California. George Hrabovsky is the president of Madison Area Science and Technology (MAST), a nonprofit organization dedicated to scientific and technological research and education. He lives in Madison, Wisconsin.
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  • Posted April 12, 2013

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