Fundamentals of Physics: Mechanics, Relativity, and Thermodynamics

Fundamentals of Physics: Mechanics, Relativity, and Thermodynamics PDF

Author: R. Shankar

Publisher: Yale University Press


Publish Date: March 25, 2014

ISBN-10: 0300192207

Pages: 464

File Type: EPub

Language: English

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Book Preface

Given that the size of textbooks has nearly tripled during my own career, without a corresponding increase in the cranial dimensions of my students, I have always found it necessary, like my colleagues elsewhere, to cull the essentials into a manageable size. I did that in the course Fundamentals of Physics I taught at Yale, and this book preserves that feature. It covers the fundamental ideas of Newtonian mechanics, relativity, fluids, waves, oscillations, and thermodynamics without compromise. It requires only the basic notions of differentiation and integration, which I often review as part of the lectures. It is aimed at college students in physics, chemistry, and engineering as well as advanced high school students and independent self-taught learners at various stages in life, in various careers.
The chapters in the book more or less follow my 24 lectures, with a few minor modifications. The style preserves the classroom atmosphere. Often I introduce the questions asked by the students or the answers they give when I believe they will be of value to the reader. The simple figures serve to communicate the point without driving up the price. The equations have been typeset and are a lot easier to read than in the videos. The problem sets and exams, without which one cannot learn or be sure one has learned the physics, may be found along with their solutions at the Yale website,, free and open to all. The lectures may also be found at venues such as YouTube, iTunes (, and Academic Earth, to name a few.
The book, along with the material available at the Yale website, may be used as a stand-alone resource for a course or self-study, though some instructors may prescribe it as a supplement to another one adapted for the class, so as to provide a wider choice of problems or more worked examples.
To my online viewers I say, “You have seen the movie; now read the book!” The advantage of having the printed version is that you can read it during take-off and landing.
In the lectures I sometimes refer to my Basic Training in Mathematics, published by Springer and intended for anyone who wants to master the undergraduate mathematics needed for the physical sciences.
This book owes its existence to many people. It all began when Peter Salovey, now President, then Dean of Yale College, asked me if I minded having cameras in my Physics 200 lectures to make them part of the first batch of Open Yale Courses, funded by the Hewlett Foundation. Since my answer was that I had yet to meet a camera I did not like, the taping began. The key person hereafter was Diana E. E. Kleiner, Dunham Professor, History of Art and Classics, who encouraged and guided me in many ways. She was also the one who persuaded me to write this book. Initially reluctant, I soon found myself thoroughly enjoying proselytizing my favorite subject in this new format. At Yale Universtity Press, Joe Calamia was my friend, philosopher, and guide. Liz Casey did some very skilled editing. Besides correcting errors in style (such as a long sentence that began in first person past tense and ended in third person future tense) and matters of grammar and punctuation (which I sprinkle pretty much randomly), she also made sure my intent was clear in every sentence.
Barry Bradlyn and Alexey Shkarin were two graduate students and Qiwei Claire Xue and Dennis Mou were two undergraduates who proofread earlier versions.
My family, from my wife, Uma, down to little Stella, have encouraged me in various ways.
I take this opportunity to acknowledge my debt to the students at Yale who, over nearly four decades, have been the reason I jump out of bed on two or three days a week. I am grateful for their friendship and curiosity. In recent years, they were often non-majors, willing to be persuaded that physics was a fascinating subject. This I never got tired of doing, thanks to the nature of the subject and the students.

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EPub December 16, 2018

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