I want to learn Physics (without taking a class). Any tips?

I’m in my mid-30s and have always regretted never taking any kind of physics course in high school or college. About the closest I came was an astronomy class my freshman year of college that dealt with some of the basic concepts.

I know bits and pieces of the big basic concepts that I’ve just picked up over the years (I think mostly from Mr. Wizard, sadly), but I’m really interested in some more in-depth learning on the subject - even if it’s just the equivalent of a semester or two of high school level concepts.

Any advice on a good way to go about this? Any good books or interactive websites that you think I might find helpful?

Physics for Dummies?

hyperphysics is a great website that has simple explanations, diagrams and such for nearly every important physical equation you could want to learn.

The Phetwebsite has lots of online, interractive simulators to learn physical principles. Check the activities links under each simulator. They are written by teachers and often help you learn through exploration and tinkering. Very fun.

First buy a hammer.

Then, beat yourself in the head with it, until the blood runs freely. Extra points for a compound fracture.

Okay, now you can approach physics, and after the hammer, physics will be a breeze!

If you have access to it, say through your local library, try the first few chapters of the first volume of the Feynman Lectures on Physics. It will eventually get pretty hard, but it’s arguably the best textbook whose emphasis is on understanding rather than calculation, while at the same time not simplifying or glossing over anything without clearly telling you so.

The Feynman Lectures are probably not the best place to start. There’s a reason they are almost never used as an intro physics text.

Feynman’s autobiographies are fun, but not physics textbooks either.

I suggest Schaum’s outlines. I strongly suggest getting a tutor to help you when you get stuck.

I don’t want to start an argument, so after this post I’ll bow out, but if you actually want to understand and get the spirit of physics and how we go about learning about how the world works, then please, for the love of God, do not got to Schaum’s outlines. Schaums outlines are convenient for help memorizing some of the basic ways of solving physics problems, without necessarily understanding why. And I’m making the assumption about you that you are interesting in learning physics because you are a curious person, wanting to know more about the world around you. Memorizing how to calculate a block going down an inclined plane (for example) is not going to be very inspiring for you, and it probably won’t really satiate you, or lead you to have a better understanding of this crazy universe we find ourselves in. I agree that the Feynman Lectures as a whole are not a great place to start, but I do think the first few chapters are.

I enjoyed the Cartoon Guide to Physics when I was young.

I would agree with this. Schaum’s outlines are great, but they’re outlines. They’re not instructional texts. They are best for reviewing and reminding yourself about stuff you already knew.

To the OP: How’s your calculus?

You can access video from MIT courses for free.


^^ this. I remember my physics teacher in 9th grade asking us if we knew any calculus. When we said we didn’t, he spent the next two weeks teaching us the basics of it, then started teaching physics.

I found this cool site:

Come back! Schaum’s are great supplements to textbooks and classes - I should have said that before. I like that Schaum’s has clear and concise explanations - but that probably won’t work as your only tool. I also love that Schaum’s is filled with solved problems that show the steps. IMO extremely useful
In learning how to solve problems. Especially when your textbook or teacher say stuff like “it’s inuititvely obvious”. Intro students don’t have the background to have the “intuition” of experienced pros. Again, supplements to a main text and teacher, not replacements.

Wow! What a great site. Thanks for sharing that! :smiley:

My calculus knowledge is pretty much nonexistent. I had a tough time with math in school (not that the subject is hard for me, but I had un-diagnosed ADD at the time and just couldn’t get into anything that wasn’t interesting to me). Since I had everything I needed to graduate already by my senior year, I dropped calculus after the second week in favor of an open period. On the plus side, I spent a lot of that open hour making out in the band practice rooms, so it wasn’t a total waste of my time.

I’ve put the Cartoon Guide on hold at the library, and have bookmarked all of the suggested websites. Thanks everyone for the suggestions so far, keep them coming!