This series of books is generally inappropriate for any physics course. The material is basically introductory, but most first-year university student...moreThis series of books is generally inappropriate for any physics course. The material is basically introductory, but most first-year university students will find this work overwhelming and difficult to read. The lack of examples will seriously hinder most students in problem-driven courses (as physics courses tend to be). Furthermore, these lectures were written for a rigorous two-year introductory sequence at Caltech, but most universities offer only one year of introductory classes and relegate much of the material Feynman presents other courses. For a professor to pull an appropriate amount of material from these lectures to use in a one-year course would be a challenge to say the least. On the other hand, the material is "basic" and would thus be inappropriate for an advanced course.
Although Feynman wrote these lectures with undergraduate students as the intended audience, I believe that the best audience is comprised mostly of graduate students and professional physicists. This audience is already knowledgeable of physics and very familiar with the bulk of the lecture content. However, these people will be best able to appreciate some of Feynman's unique perspectives and interesting explanations. Also, they can pick and choose which sections interest them. I do not have the time to sit down and read through these extensive volumes in one pass, but I enjoy occasionally picking one up and reading just a section.(less)
This book provides a satisfactory mathematical background for undergraduate physics courses, but not for graduate courses, and certainly not for (theo...moreThis book provides a satisfactory mathematical background for undergraduate physics courses, but not for graduate courses, and certainly not for (theoretical) research. I give it a rating of 3 stars because it does cover a reasonable range of topics, but I found a lot of the explanations unsatisfactory. In retrospect I wish my professor had chosen the traditional text by Arfken. I do occasionally use this book as a reference, and sometimes it does not disappoint.(less)
This is the book for nonlinear dynamics. Strogatz's writing is not only easy to follow, but is also pleasant, conversational, and at times even a bit...moreThis is the book for nonlinear dynamics. Strogatz's writing is not only easy to follow, but is also pleasant, conversational, and at times even a bit whimsical. The book opens with very simple material, and while it eventually touches on some fairly advanced ideas (eg renormalization), it builds up to that point very carefully, so the student should never feel overwhelmed. The examples and problems are drawn from a wide range of fields, so students from disciplines besides math and physics should see some connection to their own interests.
Some people criticize the book's scope, claiming that it is too limited, but specialized topics such as pattern formation and network dynamics are better reserved for a more advanced course.
An excellent complement to the book is the set of lecture notes written by Michael Cross and available on his website: Chaos on the Web.(less)
Universality is the idea that a large number of different physical systems in the same "class" will share common behavior, eg scaling laws. This is po...moreUniversality is the idea that a large number of different physical systems in the same "class" will share common behavior, eg scaling laws. This is possible when the behavior depends exclusively on certain characteristics and not on the details of the individual systems (course graining). Although this idea was not a new one, the computation of critical exponents in thermodynamic systems remained imprecise for many years because it was not well understood what the relevant characteristics were. Only with the introduction of the renormalization was this mystery fully solved.
This text starts at the beginning: Ising model, mean field theories, etc. From there, it builds up through improved theories (eg Landau) and introduces important concepts like symmetry and ergodicity breaking as needed along the way. Finally we reach RG, and the student will be amazed at how (relatively) simple the correct description is! Yet, despite its simplicity, it is easy to understand why RG took so long in coming. The concept is truly brilliant.
This book is wonderfully written. The notation and typesetting are a bit uninspiring, but by the time one is ready for a work of this level, one should be able to adapt to these minor difficulties.
A reasonably good background in stat mech is necessary, and for RG in particular some knowledge of nonlinear dynamics is recommended.(less)