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Fundamentals of Physics: Mechanics, Relativity, and Thermodynamics (The Open Yale Courses) [Paperback]

R. Shankar
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

2 May 2014 0300192207 978-0300192209
Professor Ramamurti Shankar, a well-known physicist and contagiously enthusiastic educator, was among the first to offer a course through the innovative Open Yale Course programme. His popular online video lectures on introductory physics have been viewed over a million times. In this concise and self-contained book based on his online Yale course, Shankar explains the fundamental concepts of physics from Galileo's and Newton's discoveries to the twentieth-century's revolutionary ideas on relativity and quantum mechanics. The book begins at the simplest level, develops the basics, and reinforces fundamentals, ensuring a solid foundation in the principles and methods of physics. It provides an ideal introduction for college-level students of physics, chemistry and engineering, for motivated Advanced Placement Physics students, and for general readers interested in advances in the sciences.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (2 May 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300192207
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300192209
  • Product Dimensions: 23.1 x 16.6 x 2.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 33,432 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


"The book captures, and enhances, the experience of being in the room as Shankar explains the material. This is physics as it should be taught, clearly and entertainingly presented."--Alan Chodos, American Physical Society--Alan Chodos (12/15/2013)

About the Author

Ramamurti Shankar is John Randolph Huffman Professor of Physics, Yale University. His popular Open Yale Course "Introduction to Physics" has a major following in the United States, India, Australia, China, and elsewhere. He is the 2009 winner of the American Physical Society's Lilienfeld Prize and the author of two previous textbooks, Principles of Quantum Mechanics and Basic Training in Mathematics: A Fitness Program for Science Students.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Professor Shankar's latest book. 15 Jun 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book covers Prof. Shankar's Open Yale course on the Fundamentals of Physics Part I comprising mechanics, relativity and thermodynamics. How does it compare with all the other standard introductions to university physics? It is smaller in size, just over 400 pages, compared with the other mountainous tomes in circulation. Also the book introduces mathematical techniques quite quickly but at a pace which most students would find understandable.

One's reactions to new books tend to be subjective and based on one's own tastes and background, but I have to say in this case I was enormously impressed with Prof. Shankar's latest book. I found the text interesting, clear and to the point. It certainly deserves to be considered as a standard text for first year physics students. I look forward to a second volume covering the second part of his Open Yale course, namely electromagnetism and quantum mechanics.

There are no problems for solution contained in the book but problem sets with solutions are available on the Open Yale website.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.7 out of 5 stars  17 reviews
50 of 51 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I hope he publishes the second series! 17 Feb 2014
By Aeyr - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Greetings! I am a student of philosophy at University of North Texas that digs a lot into scientific topics on my own. I personally own multiple physics textbooks (Feynman lectures, my university's choice textbook, Dover's Theoretical Physics textbook, etc) and this might be the best one for many reasons:

-It contains all the information contained in my other textbooks except for the content on electromagnetism (which is the subject of his second series of lectures on Yale's website) and quantum mechanics
-It is $25, the cheapest of all the textbooks I have seen
-It is small, lightweight, and only ~430 pages (The feynman lectures are multiple volumes, fragile, and bulky like the university textbook I have)

In terms of the presentation, it tops the dover textbooks (which are usually written like they are being presented to 1950's grad students... the equations are difficult to follow and there is little explanation of what is being done. The topics are kind of random and jumbled). It is on par with my university's textbook for presentation, but isnt a giant 10lb monster and has a lot less miscellaneous information that textbooks are notorious for (also, that textbook was almost $300... granted it contains electromagnetism topics as well). It is hard to compare it to the presentation of the Feynman lectures because of how... unique they are. I would say for a general understanding, the average reader interested in the mathematical physics and a more focused reading would probably prefer Shankar's book.

I think the best part is that there are just as many words as equations (with Shankar's humor that he adds in the lecture series that he based this book off of). This DOES require a little bit of pre-requisite mathematical knowledge, but nothing extremely complex (if you understand how to take a derivative and anti derivative and are familiar with the idea of sines and cosines... you will probably be fine. Otherwise, all you will probably need is to watch the lectures on Khan Academy's website for free and you will probably be prepared). This does go a TINY bit into partial differential equations (multivariable calculus) and deals a bit with extremely rudimentary vector geometry (linear algebra material)... but again, anyone with a basic understanding of high-school level algebra who is familiar with rudimentary calculus will be able to follow. Shankar explains everything that he thinks you might not know.

As a summary:

If you want to learn physics (not just the "facts" like in a Hawking book, but REAL mathematical physics) then this book just about trumps all. The only downside is that this is essentially volume one of what could be a three volume set (2 at least). I first started watching Open Yale Courses back in 2007 as a junior in high school and that has essentially shaped me into who I am today, and this comes directly from his first series there. He has since done a second series on electromagnetism, and I sincerely hope he also makes that into book just as accessible as this one.
29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Must-read! 12 Feb 2014
By Branislav Djordjevic - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book is a must-read for anybody interested in learning, or teaching fundamentals of physics. It is based on Professor Shankar's masterfully held course: Fundamentals of Physics I, available at Open Yale Courses website. This book preserves the unique spirit of Professor Shankar's superb teaching style, the style that makes watching his lectures as exciting and pleasurable experience as watching some great movie! Lot of essential material is expertly covered on these 446 pages: Newtonian mechanics, Oscillations, Waves, Fluids, Special Theory of Relativity, Thermodynamics, Statistical Physics, and useful chapters on relevant mathematical methods, as well as many solved examples. The book is extremely readable being stripped of all distractive colorful pictures that burden most of the standard textbooks today. It is written with utmost clarity and with original approach to presenting major topics in physics. As Richard Feynman would put it - no baloney in this book! The text is full of humor, which gives a glimpse of how exciting it is to sit in Prof. Shankar's class. The book is an excellent addition to the recorded course at Open Yale Courses website. The price of the book is very affordable. I hope the second volume, covering Fundamentals of Physics II, will be published soon too. In short - I highly recommend this unique book, written by one of the greatest living bards of the Art of Physics Teaching!

Branislav Djordjevic
Term Associate Professor of Physics
George Mason University
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Work 25 Feb 2014
By CT Fisher - Published on
-old physics seen in a new light and complemented by his usual superb writing style

-packed with fresh ideas, verve, and vitality.

-no other texts are needed regardless of whether you are a pro or an autodidactic enthusiast such as myself.

-never seen a work so brief in number of pages yet filled with so much vital information

-try it and you will become a fan of Shankar as so many others of us have


- and if you are not a mathematics major,don't worry, neither was I and high school calculus/trig more than suffices
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A succinct, yet thorough treatment of fundamentals of mechanics and thermodynamics. 17 Mar 2014
By dinakar - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
If you saw the movie (video lectures of PHYS 200) like I did, you must read this book. It covers key concepts of mechanics and thermodynamics in the same lively spirit as Prof.Shankar's classroom lectures. I particularly like the way he handles Special Relativity and Entropy. It's hard to find books that explain otherwise hard to grasp concepts this lucidly. Also, you can't beat the price!
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent for quick review. Jokes are not that funny. 17 Jun 2014
By Leeber Cohen - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book is a good way to refresh your memory of concepts from the first year of college physics. Shankar is well known to many quantum mechanics students book from his textbook. He is a highly respected teacher with an online series on basic physics. I particularly enjoyed Chapter 16 on mathematical methods which is a quick summary of Taylor Series and complex variables. If you are familiar with this material, it is a nice relaxing read of old mathematical friends. The derivations for the series for e, sin, and cos are straightforward if you remember beginning calculus. Shankar quickly mentions Leonard Euler. If you do not know who Leonard Euler is or the significance of the formula attributed him please read Maor's e:the Story of the Number and then Nahin's An Imaginary Tale. The chapters in this book are approximately 20 pages long and usually can be read with about an hour of time. The chapters on rotational dynamics, simple harmonic motion, and waves are an excellent review of concepts that will be required for future study of basic quantum mechanics. There are three nice chapters on special relativity. The reader may also want to check out Collier's A Most Incomprehensible Thing. As stated elsewhere electromagnetism and quantum mechanics are planned in the second volume of this book. Be warned that the author inserts many jokes that are not that funny.
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