Saturday, February 23, 2013
Book review: "The Theoretical Minimum" by Susskind and Hrabovsky
By Leonard Susskind, George Hrabovski
Basic Books (January 29, 2013)
Susskind made his lecture notes into a book and did a great job. His book is explicitly not aimed at students but at everybody with an interest in physics who wants to expand their toolkit and start speaking the language of physicists.
The book primarily covers classical mechanics: momentum and forces, energy and potentials, up to the principle of least action, Hamiltonian mechanics and poisson brackets. In content it is very similar to the lecture notes that I learned from, it might also remind you of Goldstein's classical book on classical mechanics. However, what's special about Susskind's book is that he introduces along the way all the mathematical concepts that are needed, starting with vectors and functions to integration and differentiation. The book is thus very self-contained and yet really brief and to the point, which is quite an achievement.
It seems pretty obvious that there will be a sequel to this book that continues this educational effort.
I appreciate this book very much. It would have been dramatically useful for me when I was a teenager, because there is a gap in the physics literature between high school level and the level aimed at students, a gap this book can bridge. However, if you think this book will bring to up to speed with modern physics, you got it wrong. It's a long way to quantum field theory and there really are no shortcuts. Susskind's book, and the ones that will probably follow, however might be the shortest route, the one of least action so to say.
That having been said, I'm not a teenager anymore and frankly don't have much use for the book. Which is why I'll give away my copy for free. The book will go to the first person who has a mailing address in Europe and leaves a comment to this blogpost telling us why you want the book and what is your interest in physics.
Update: The book is gone.