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Classical Mechanics: The Theoretical Minimum

(Theoretical Minimum)

4.12  ·  Rating details ·  1,432 ratings  ·  132 reviews
A Wall Street Journal Best Book of 2013

A world-class physicist and a citizen scientist combine forces to teach Physics 101—the DIY way

The Theoretical Minimum is a book for anyone who has ever regretted not taking physics in college—or who simply wants to know how to think like a physicist. In this unconventional introduction, physicist Leonard Susskind and hacker-scientist
Paperback, 238 pages
Published February 25th 2014 by Penguin (first published January 1st 2013)
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4.12  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,432 ratings  ·  132 reviews

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Sep 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone who really wants to understand physics
Of Mice and Men and Generalized Conjugate Momenta

They had been walking down the road since daybreak, but now the sun was high enough in the sky that it was starting to get hot, and they were pleased to see the little creek. They stopped and drank some water and splashed some more on their faces. Suddenly, Lenny looked at his friend.

"George," he said, "there's somethin' I gotta ask you. Why-- why're we here?"

George smiled. "Well," he said. "You know I don't hold with all that church talk. It jest
Manuel Antão
May 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018, favorites
If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

Action/dx = d/dt(dLagrangian/dv)-dLagrangian/dx = 0: “The Theoretical Minimum - What You Need to Know to Start Doing Physics” by Leonard Susskind, George Hrabovsky

Math is just a skill, like any other and not everyone can do it. What gets my goat is the "anyone can do anything if only they try hard enough "attitude. No, they can't. Some people are good at certain skills and not other, and others have different skills. I happen to be goo
Jan 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: physics, science
As someone squarely in the target audience for this book I found it to be right on the money. The audience is those who find themselves wishing popular physics books could be a little more technical at times. And, being technical means including the mathematics and the unifying concepts behind the theories. This book, and the online lectures it is a companion to, delivers on that count.

In order to get the most out of it you need to bring with you: some exposure to calculus (even if you are very
Roy Lotz
I’ve heard people wonder aloud (insofar as writing comments on the internet can be considered “aloud”) whether a layperson could understand this book. Well, take it from me, a certified layman, that it can be done; it is difficult, but doable.

Before the review, some advice. This book pushes forward quickly; the reader, especially the struggling reader, will be left far behind if she isn’t careful and thorough. The beginning lectures, up until about the middle of the book, I found fairly easy; S&
May 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a great book.
- Perfect level of detail: the book provides an accurate and elegant quantitative description of advanced classical mechanics based on the actual mathematics, but without being bogged down into un-necessary detail.
- The authors provide a rigorous mathematical treatment of the subject, but they manage, always, to beautifully highlight the elegance of the main concepts: for example, they make the reader thoroughly appreciate the beauty of the Lagrangian and Hamiltonian appro
Jan 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
خیلی خیلی حرف داشتم که بزنم و نوت گذاشتم بین صفحه های کتاب :)
وقتی که مغزم اجازه بده که دوباره برم سراغشون، یه ریویو می نویسم :)
+ وقتی داشتم کتابو می خونم، یه مقاله در مورد تحقیقات نویسنده در مورد جاذبه ی کوانتومی خوندم. یه حس خیلی خاصی داشت یاد گرفتن این موضوعات از زبون کسی که می دونی در این حد اطلاعات دست اول از موضوع داره...

+ It's actually an art to be able to teach physics so great. I enjoyed every part of the book. I watched some of the YouTube films of him and those were amazing, too.
+ I c
John Gribbin
Aug 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Are you one of those people who enjoyed science at school or college, but ended up with a different career, still wondering what makes the Universe tick? Maybe you subscribe to Scientific American, follow news stories about black holes, and read reviews of science books in WSJ without quite finding enough meat to satisfy you. If so, The Theoretical Minimum is the book for you. The subtitle “what you need to know to start doing physics” sets out the authors’ stall, and the “minimum” referred to i
Jack Laschenski
Despite my education, far beyond my ken.

However, the book has caused me to start studying calculus again at the Khan Academy!!
Mark Hebwood
Jan 04, 2015 rated it really liked it
Excellent. This is pitched at a readership who are clearly not academic physicists, but are beginning to feel frustrated with the endless metaphors and non-mathematical explanations you find in most pop-science books. I had great fun reading it, doing the exercises, and looking for additional material in the form of internet lectures or MOOCs.

I would recommend this book to anybody who wishes to develop (or rediscover) an in-depth understanding of classical mechanics. I do think, however, that fl
Oct 19, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: physics, maths
This book is useful if you want to refresh the pre-existing knowledge but it is not an effective learning tool for “anyone who has ever regretted not taking physics at college”. Namely, this is not the book for someone who wants to learn from scratch.
This is a book I've wanted for a long time. Being many years out of college, and having forgotten everything I once knew about theoretical physics (which, sadly, was not nearly as much as I thought I knew), I have been looking for a way to refresh my knowledge. This little book is that way.

It's intended for people who have some mathematical background, and it is definitely not easy going, despite the lighthearted style of the book. You really do need to do the exercises, and it helps to watch th
Dec 03, 2018 is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science, mathematics
I read Susskind and Hrabovsky’s The Theoretical Minimum from August 2017 to tbd. There have been two follow-up Theoretical Minimum books since this was published – Quantum Mechanics, and Special Relativity, which I have not read and for which I consider this book on Classical Mechanics to be prerequisite. They are refresher text books – there are problems to solve, but much of background development is omitted. The book is as if you took a typical physics text book, highlighted the important def ...more
Jose Moa
Jun 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: physics, science
A grat popularization science book that with the mathematics of high school level that are explained in the first half of the book,and the notions of partial derivatives , diferential operators and stationary points in a two variable function is able of the incredible achievemet,after a brief discussion on newtonian mechanics,of give a serious introduction and fundaments of advanced lagrangian and hamiltonian mechanics.

Begins by proving by a original discrete method the deduction of Lagrange equ
Feb 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Yes! This book is awesome. I borrowed it from the library, but I believe I will buy a hardcopy and get the next one on QM as soon as it comes out late this month. The Theoretical Minimum has elegantly overviewed the basics of classical mechanics, through a focus on the Lagrangian and Hamiltonian, equations of motion, symmetries, in a way that is clearly preparatory for QM. I have a new appreciation for how many concepts tie together in a way that were left un-unified before.

That being said, this
Jun 26, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is not a book for the physics "enthusiast." It runs through some pretty hefty mathematical mechanics in pretty short order, but does a decent job of that. Most of the time I was reading I was thinking "gee, I remember being able to do that at one time," and "oh yeah, I remember learning about that." I wish they had provided solutions to the exercises they gave in each chapter, if only to verify you actually did understand how it works. It's short on explanation and the bigger picture, but f ...more
Myat Thura Aung
Sep 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is a condensed version of the Standford lectures on classical mechanics by Leonard Susskind. (The videos are available on Youtube.) It offers you the minimal theoretical knowledge to advance to the next step, quantum mechanics. If you are dissatisfied with what most pop science books are offering you but can't afford time and energy to read fat textbooks, then this is definitely for you. It might be quite challenging if you're not so familiar with math. But if you really wanna get seri ...more
Santiago Ortiz
Feb 14, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is not a book to be read in 4 days (I read this book in 4 days).
Murray Cumming
Jan 14, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If I had read this at 18 it would have driven me to continue studying mathematics and physics. Instead I had no idea what might come next. All this time I've been oblivious to the Lagrangian and Hamiltonian (deep abstractions that apply to all physical laws including quantum mechanics), and had never heard of the vector potential (gauge fields). This book isn't perfect but I'm grateful to the authors for enlightening me. Maybe there are better books that cover the same stuff and maybe I'll find ...more
Dec 06, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-related
An elegant, well-written book. In the first 50 pages or so, Susskind introduces integral and differential calculus, as well as multi-variable calculus, so that he can conduct his discussion of classical mechanics on a high level, so that its beauty and simplicity is clear. I really appreciate this approach.

What baffles me is that this was a NYT bestseller. Who's reading this? The introduction to calculus is cursory -- I imagine it serves best as a review for those who have seen it before. And th
Tom Schulte
...This work presents classical mechanics including conservation laws, Hamiltonian mechanics, and planetary orbits. Such focus is appropriate for a book under two hundred fifty pages. There are little to no mentions of relativity, quantum mechanics, and string theory. This allows room for the clear description of advanced classical physics concepts. Somewhat surprising, the authors also use that room for the breezy and humorous. I challenge anyone to show me a book that can skip from a groaner j ...more
Peter Mcloughlin
Susskind is great at taking very difficult topics and making them manageable. In his first book of his the Theoretical Minimum series he tackles the central idea and more importantly equations of physics and breaks them down. The first book of the series is Classical mechanics after a short mathematical introduction to Calculus, Trig and vectors, we are introduced the ideas of Classical Physics. We cover derivations of energy, momentum,velocity, acceleration, force and so on. Then we are introdu ...more
Douglas Ross
Jan 27, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Let's be clear, I will never be able to "do" Physics at anything even remotely approaching Susskind's level. But, what I loved about this book are the little nuggets of common sense interspersed in the mathematics that help (me at least) understand Physics better conceptually. The book reminded me of the good fortune I had in the 1960's to be introduced to Physics by Dr. Robert Packard, the much beloved Physics professor at Baylor University for over fifty years. Dr. Packard taught us that the r ...more
Guillaume Belanger
Interesting, but I would never qualify the book as accessible. I studied Physics in my first degree. Then did a masters in Particle Physics, and then a PhD in high energy Astrophysics, and there are things in there that I had never encountered. So, just to say, I liked it because it was a nice review of things I studies a long time ago, but I can't imagine anyone without a technical background reading this book and understanding much. In addition, I found some of the "simple" explanations confus ...more
Jon West
Jan 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was an excellent book for its intended audience, but it's not for everyone. If you want a working, practical toolset for solving everyday physics problems, this is not your book. If you want an introduction to general yet deep principles of physics, along with the more advanced necessary mathematics, this book will not disappoint. By the last of its 256 challenging pages, you'll be thinking about classical mechanics like a theoretical physicist, and you'll be fully equipped to move on to mo ...more
Jon Vegard
Nov 25, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fysikk
Kan du litt matte og kan tenkje, så er dette boka for deg.
Samuel Boyle
Jun 22, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: math-and-science
This book lets the numerate know what they missed by not majoring in physics.
Nathan Velson
Jan 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is book about classical mechanics, you know, Newton's Laws, the stuff you learned about freshman year. Or so you think...
Having a graduate degree in mechanical engineering, I figured I knew everything there was to know about, well, mechanics. I was pleasantly surprised when about halfway through this book I was shown how wrong I was. Concepts that I had heard of before but never really learned about previously, such as the least-action principle, the Lagrangian, the Hamiltonian, Poisson bra
João Ritto
Nov 18, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Books for non-physicists on the subject may vary in style but typically have one thing in common: they skip the math. This is precisely what this book tries to make up for. In a few hundred pages the authors attempt to give an introduction of physics for a lay reader not sparing the use of equations.

If your field is not physics but you are relatively comfortable with calculus (my field is economics, for example, and I could skip most of the mathematical appendices), this book may give you some u
Jan 29, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own
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Leonard Susskind is the Felix Bloch Professor of Theoretical Physics at Stanford University. His research interests include string theory, quantum field theory, quantum statistical mechanics and quantum cosmology. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, an associate member of the faculty of Canada's Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Phys ...more

Other books in the series

Theoretical Minimum (3 books)
  • Quantum Mechanics: The Theoretical Minimum (Theoretical Minimum #2)
  • Special Relativity and Classical Field Theory: The Theoretical Minimum
“If a system is chaotic (most are), then it implies that however good the resolving power may be, the time over which the system is predictable is limited. Perfect predictability is not achievable, simply because we are limited in our resolving power.” 1 likes
“In most cases the tiniest differences in the initial conditions—the starting state—leads to large eventual differences in outcomes. This phenomenon is called chaos. If a system is chaotic (most are), then it implies that however good the resolving power may be, the time over which the system is predictable is limited.” 0 likes
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