Judge a (Physics) Book by its Cover IV

28Aug06

Ah, I thought I was done with this, but I just came across a fantastic book cover that got me laughing:

The book is not listed on Amazon, but I found the following description on authorhouse:

This is a text on Hamiltionian and Lagrangian Dynamics aimed at the student who has just finished the calculus sequence. 

            Such a student has probably heard of relativity and quantum mechanics, but has not heard of Hamiltonian or Lagrangian Dynamics.  A natural reaction to something new is “If it’s so important, why haven’t I heard of it before.”  Such a student deserves an answer.  Hamiltonian and Lagrangian Dynamics are important because they make problems easy that would otherwise be very, very painful.  Also, it is these formalisms, not that of Newton, that still has meaning in quantum mechanics.  And, on a spiritual level, this material explains the underlying reasons for why things are the way they are, in both quantum land and on the classical level.  A very large amount of physics ends up tracing its way back to this material.

            This book distinguishes itself from others by developing Hamiltonian mechanics before Lagrangian mechanics.  The Hamiltonian is more or less what you would call energy, so it is closer to the intuition than the Lagrangian, so it puts the reader on firmer ground intuitively and “schematically” than the usual approach.

            This book has a much stronger geometric character than is typical of books on this subject.  And so many of the exercises are unusually “artistic” in the sense of asking the student to draw pictures, or accompany calculations with drawings.  This the reason for the subtitle “A Coloring Book for Young Physicists.”  I don’t mean that this is meant for elementary school age students.  But I do mean that this book is intended to be a core intimate exploratory experience, like a coloring book can be.  Find out what things are, and find out what they feel like on the tip of your crayon.

            There is a split in the literature of classical mechanics.  The mathematical literature is not accessible to the undergraduate, and seems too general and abstract  to be about physics, while the physics literature tantalizes the reader with hints of a beautiful and satisfying explanation, but tends to disappoint.  My hope is that this book will live in between those two worlds, that it will be concrete, revealing, and satisfying.

            The text may also be useful for mathematics students who are just ready to begin their upper division work, because it gives them a quick and painless introduction to some advanced mathematics, giving them some ideas about what it is like and what it is good for.

Now I kind of want to check it out. If (when) I ever end up teaching a mechanics course, I’ll have to suggest this as an optional textbook.



3 Responses to “Judge a (Physics) Book by its Cover IV”

  1. 1 VM

    It seems the cover is meant for relieving the average student of the monotony of Lagrangian and Hamiltonian!
    -VM (entrancephysics.blogspot.com)

  2. 2 Alex

    Thank You



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