NYC physics and math self-learners group Message Board › first meetup -- deciding on "course materials"

first meetup -- deciding on "course materials"

Matt S.
New York, NY

We had a successful first meeting, the attendees being small in number but large in spirit.  Based on our backgrounds and interests, we have decided to start with Lagrangian and Hamiltonian mechanics, with an eye toward hitting quantum mechanics and quantum field theory later on.  We recognize that we need to settle on a single basic set of course materials, so that we have something concrete to discuss.  (We can always change horses midway through if we find our course materials are lacking.)

Below are four candidates.  Please take a look at them, and choose one (or two) of the four below, or send me some alternative suggestions of your own that cover the basics of Lagrangian and Hamiltonian mechanics.  (Email me your views by clicking “Contact us” under my photo on the “Organizer” section at the left of our group’s home page.)  I will then synthesize the comments, and we'll be off. 

·         Prof. Balakrishnanfrom the Indian Inst. of Technology, Madras, is very lucid and smart.  We can use his “Classical Physics” video lectures as our basic course.  The downside is that there appear to be no lecture notes or problem sets.  However, I think we could find our own problem sets on a ad-hoc basis, and there’s probably plenty to discuss in the lectures themselves.  Here are two samples:  Lecture 2 gives you a good feeling for his approach (­), and Lecture 7 is where he starts discussing the Euler-Lagrange equations (­).

·         Prof Susskind at Stanford did a series of adult-education lectures on the Lagrangian and Hamiltonian formalisms.  Here is his third lecture, where he discusses the Euler-Lagrange equations:­.  These lectures also lack lecture notes and HW sets.  They are also a little computationally basic, but we can extend them ourselves.

·         John Baez of UC Riverside offers two course outlines: one in the Lagrangian approach, the other in the Hamiltonian formalism.  These courses don’t have videos, but they have lecture notes and homework sets, which is an advantage because it gives us something concrete to work on and discuss.  Here is the home page for those classes:­.  You can get a feeling for them by clicking into the Lagrangian section, and checking out the pdf lecture notes there.

·         David Tong of Cambridge has a complete course listed, with both Lagrangian and Hamiltonian approaches.  Again, there are no video lectures, but he has both lecture notes and problem sets.  This can be sampled here:­.

Other ideas are welcome.  I genuinely feel that any of the above would work, since our group knows enough to generate problems and questions on our own.  I guess my own preference would be to pick one of the two video lectures, and one of the two lecture notes, and to proceed on both in parallel.

BUT -- If anyone finds a really great course that has the best of both, by all means let us know.

- Matt 
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