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The Theoretical Minimum

I read this book cover to cover.  The somewhat (deliberately) ambiguous title refers to the minimum amount of theoretical foundation necessary to start doing physics. This book essentially covers classical mechanics and is based on the successful video lecture series of Professor Susskind (http://www.newpackettech.com/Resources/Susskind/Susskind.htm).

The book is written clearly and concisely. There is a calculus and vector calculus refresher course: that necessary for the exposition. The chapter preambles are amusing entres to the content. There is a rapid progression from Newton;s law, to the Lagrangian and Hamiltonian formulations of mechanics. The relationship between symmetry and conservation laws are clearly discussed and illustrated. The utility of Poisson brackets was shown repeatedly.  Finally, gauge transformation and gauge invariance are discussed in the context of electromagnetic force: a clear derivation of the Lorentz force from the magnetic potential  in the Hamiltonian framework. The author hints at the links between this “theoretical minimum” and Quantum Mechanics and General Relativity.

I have read a number of books on these topics but found the clarity and conciseness wonderful.

I look forward to the video lectures for these area appearing in print and I will be immersing myself in these also.

Categories: books
  1. March 24, 2013 at 4:27 pm
  2. March 9, 2014 at 2:44 am

    I do not know whether Susskind mentions this, but the “theoretical minimum” was a famous test created by Lev Landau to filter his prospective students. From 1934 to 1961 only 43 people passed the test.

  1. April 20, 2014 at 9:13 pm

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