I am reading many physics books lately and the equations in them are all so
interesting...the beauty of a powerful equation. So I am wondering...I want
to get back into math again (I was in colllege for a couple of years about
15 years ago)...I took Calculus 1 and 2, Differential Equations, Physics,
etc......your basic college core stuff. But now, 15 years later, I want to
re-learn math...and to be able to understand and figure out how these
physicists came up with these advanced equations. I look at it like I am
setting out to learn a new foreign language just like anyone else would
teach themselves French, Spanish, Italian, etc....
So does anyone have any suggestions for best going about this? Any books or
study tips to use to accomplish my goal? Where even to start?
My main goal is to best understand the equations in books from like Stephen
Hawking, Einstein, string theory, etc.......theoretical physics
stuff...dealing with cosmology and quantum mechanics.
I think your eye for beauty is a tad misplaced. Physicists are like
good car mechanics. Math, for them, is like a toolbox. Having a
ravishingly complete toolbox and understanding every tool in the box
will not make you a good mechanic. On the other hand, a mechanic won't
be able to get the intuitive grasp of how a car works (especially when
it's working right and when it's not) that marks a good mechanic unless
s/he is completely familiar with his/her tools.
You won't get an understanding of physics by learning the math. You
won't get an understanding of physics without learning the math.
Keep in mind my other post on this subject.
But for a reference/starting point, do a search on Amazon for
"mathematical methods physics". A good book here will give you a
*starting point* for the tools you'll need.
However, to truly understand the equations, you will need to work
through physics books on a variety of subjects to understand what
physics demands what math.
Quantum mechanics 1 - Griffiths
E&M 1 - Griffiths
Mechanics 1 - Goldstein
Quantum mechanics 2 and QFT - Weinberg
E&M 2 - Jackson
GR - Misner/Thorne/Wheeler or Weinberg
Why don't you try to find your old college books and study from them? I
usually find it easier to restudy something in a book I already know.
I find it a very nice thing you're about to do, it's really nice you
want to learn about physics and mathematics! Please don't let yourself
get discouraged when you find it hard to find the equations written in
the books you mentioned. Often there's pages and pages and pages of very
advanced calculations needed to find them. Therefore it might be useful
to read some books on "Introduction to Quantum Mechanics", "Introduction
to Quantum Field Theory" and so on after the math books, to have a clue
where the equations come from.
"Mo0dy" <[Only registered users see links. ]> wrote in message
news:EHsLd.25231$[Only registered users see links. ].blueyonder.co.uk ...
Draper couldn't help a cat catch a bird, he's helpless.
If you want to understand anything, work it out, otherwise you'll
just become a parrot, like Draper.
Sam, Joe, a mosquito and a ladder.
Much of this story is credited to Daryl McCullough, only the ladder
was added by me. It explains the origins of Einstein's Special
for those having difficulty grasping the subject.
Sam and Joe are housepainters, and are walking along the street at 3 fps
in still air carrying a 32 ft long ladder between them, Joe leading the
way. Sam is carrying some paint cans and Joe has the brushes and
At some point along their journey a mosquito named Albert buzzes past
Sam's ear. Sam swats at it, but drops a can of red paint as he does so.
Albert flies along the ladder from Sam to Joe at a constant speed
of 5 fps. When it reaches Joe, Joe also swats at it, but drops a paint
roller. Albert, still hungry but not liking the smell of Joe's cigar,
flies back along the ladder toward Sam, again with a constant speed of
5 fps in the still air. Upon reaching Sam, once again Sam tries to swat
wee beastie but drops a can of green paint. He yells as the mosquito
him and this startles Joe, who drops a paint brush.
Now it's your turn. I'll give the answers further down, but take a
to do the calculations for yourself.
1) How many seconds did it take for Albert to fly from Sam to Joe?
2) How many seconds did it take for Albert to fly from Joe to Sam?
3) How far is it between the red paint can and the roller?
4) How far is it between the green paint can and the roller?
Assume the speed of the mosquito is c = 5 fps.
The speed of Sam and Joe is v = 3 fps, given.
We then must have a distance along the road for Joe of
32ft + vt, and for the mosquito, a distance of ct.
Solving for t,
ct = 32 + vt
ct - vt = 32
t(c-v) = 32
t = 32 /(c-v) = 32/(5 - 3) = 16 seconds
So the answer to Q.1) is 16 seconds.
The mosquito coming back is going to meet Sam going forward,
so it flies along the 32 feet of the ladder in time
t = 32/(c+v) = 32/8 = 4 seconds.
The answer to Q.2) is therefore 4 seconds.
The distance from the dropped red paint can to the dropped roller
is just ct, or 5 * 16 = 80 feet, so the answer to Q.3) is 80 ft.
Or we could do it by vt + 32 = 3 * 16 + 32 = 80, once again.
(Remember Joe had a 32 ft head start over the mosquito)
Coming back, Albert again flies at 5 fps but this time
for only 4 seconds, so it reaches the green paint can 20 feet
from the roller, which is the answer to Q.4)
So, as Sam sees it, Albert takes 16 seconds to reach Joe, flying at
5-3 = 2 fps, and 4 seconds to return, flying along the ladder at
5+3 = 8 fps.
Now we think like Einstein with his mosquito brain. Sam wants to know
when the mosquito reached Joe.
He isn't able to see the mosquito, its too small at 32 feet away,
so he guesses that since it went 32 ft each way, and took 20 seconds to
away and back again, it must have reached Joe after 10 seconds = ½ of
So we explain it carefully. First we label the red paint can "A" and the
dropped roller "B". We write:
If at the point A of space there is a clock, an observer called Sam at
red paint can will determine the time values of events in the immediate
proximity of the red paint can by finding the positions of the hands
are simultaneous with these events. If there is at the point B of space
another clock in all respects resembling the one at the red paint can,
is possible for an observer Joe at the dropped roller to determine the
values of events in the immediate neighbourhood of the roller at B. But
is not possible without further assumption to compare, in respect of
an event at A with an event at the dropped roller, B. We have so far
defined only an "A time" and a "B time." We have not defined a common
"time" for the red paint can and the dropped roller, for the latter
be defined at all unless we establish by *definition* that the "time"
required by a mosquito to travel from the red paint can to the dropped
roller equals the "time" it requires to travel from B to the red paint
Note the *definition*. Remember this is hypothetical, not real. The
definition is very important.
Now, we want to do this algebraically, because tomorrow Joe and Sam
be carrying a different length of ladder, running at a different speed,
whatever, and we want a general solution.
So we write:
If we place x'=x-vt, it is clear that a point at rest in the system
must have a system of values x', y, z, independent of time.
What that means is the ladder's length is x', so that 32 = 80 - 3 *
and doesn't change as time passes. Did you think it would? Well, we'll
to see. Maybe if we water it, it might grow.
According to Albert, we are to assume the speed of the mosquito is
independent of the speed of Sam (which is fair enough) and also we are
assume that the time for the mosquito to make the round trip (20
when divided by 2 is equal to the time it took to reach Joe, 16 seconds,
by Albert's DEFINITION.
We don't know yet about the 16 seconds, we can only write it
and pretend it is 10 seconds.
It is actually written as x'/(c-v) [or 32/(5-3) in real numbers].
Now we say:
From the origin of system ladder let a mosquito be emitted at the time
along the ladder to x' (the other end of the ladder), and at the time
be reflected thence (that just means go back) to the origin of the
co-ordinates (which we are deliberately vague about as to whether we
mean Sam on the ladder or the red paint can), arriving there at the time
tau2; we then
must have (don't you just love that phrase, "then must have" ?)
½(tau0 + tau2) = tau1,
or ½([midmorning + 0] + [midmorning + 20]) = [midmorning + 16], which is
curious to say the least, since Sam and Joe could be doing this in the
late afternoon for all the difference it would make.
But ok, Einstein wanted to be complete, so I guess its fine.
But our hero and physics wizard isn't satisfied with this. Oh no, we
to include the length of the ladder as well, or we won't have any
to prattle on about later so that people will see just how smart we are.
It is very important to include the length of the ladder into the
You'll see why later.
Here is Einstein's equation:
½[tau(0,0,0,t)+tau(0,0,0,t+x'/(c-v)+x'/(c+v))] = tau(x',0,0,t+x'/(c-v))
You can read about it at [Only registered users see links. ]
(in Section 3)
In agreement with experience (gotta love that phrase!) clearly!
is pretty meaningless, and we can drop the "t+" since we really don't
if Sam and Joe are walking in the midmorning or late afternoon.
½ * tau(0,0,0,20) = tau(32,0,0,16).
Now do you see why we need to include the length of the ladder into the
evaluation of time? We cant just say ½ * 20 = 16 without it. Even my
grandson would say that wasn't right, and he's not learning algebra yet.
There's some differentiation by Einstein to make himself look smart and
important, he has to show off all his skills if not his common sense,
because "common sense is the collection of prejudices acquired by age
eighteen", or so he tells us, and he eventually arrives at
tau = (t-vx/c^2) / sqrt( 1 - v^2/c^2 )
xi = (x-vt) / sqrt( 1 - v^2/c^2 )
eta = y
zeta = z.
That is what you get when you treat time as if it were a vector and mix
We can forget y and z, the mosquito didn't fly up into a tree or into
ditch at the side.
c = 40 ft / 8 seconds = 5 fps. Yep, that's the right speed for Albert.
We are standing at the roadside watching Sam and Joe carry a 40 ft
that they think is a 32 ft ladder, because the speed of mosquitoes is 5
in all inertial frames of reference.
It must be right, its only algebra after all is said and done.
So now you should be able to fully understand Special Relativity, all
you need do is replace the speed of the mosquito with the speed of
have Sam and Joe run at the relativistic speed of 0.6c, the algebra is
perfect, and who needs common sense anyway?
Just remember that 40 ft ladders shrink to 32 ft ladders when you run
them at 180,000 km/sec, and you'll be as smart as Einstein the cretin.
For myself, I'll keep the collection of prejudices I acquired by the
time I was eighteen.