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5.0 out of 5 stars No fuss over mathematical formalism here!
Why is everyone complaining about the mathematical formalism in this text? While perhaps such formalism requires a certain level of mathematical maturity on the part of the reader, it does *not* detract from pedagogy. In my opinion, it is better to become used to such formalism in the context of classical dynamics, where intuition can be of great help, than later on,...
Published on June 30 2000

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars Dynamics newbies will need a supplementary text...
Pros:
The Hamiltonian and Lagrangian sections were well-explained.
Good intro to mathematical formalism/style used in higher level courses. Notation a little clunky though. No use whining about the Math; just get used to it if you want your degree and graduate school.
Problems were interesting & challenging, but will kill newbies... more on that below...
Published on Jan. 23 2002


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1.0 out of 5 stars Utterly disgraceful! May be the worst in the physics canon., July 31 2003
By A Customer
This review is from: Classical Dynamics of Particles and Systems (Hardcover)
(Disclaimer: All my criticisms are directed against Stephen Thornton, who prepared this edition when Marion died. I haven't seriously examined the earlier editions.)
Let it not be said that this book is utterly without virtue. It does have a good store of challenging, interesting problems. Also, the introductory chapter includes a unique (for this level) discussion of the Levi-Civita notation, which is great for managing complicated expressions in vector and tensor analysis (if you're currently taking junior or senior E&M, use this if your teacher asks you to verify all those crazy vector identities on the inside cover of your book!). But beyond this, I can see no redeeming virtues. In a genre which is littered with astoundingly bad books, this book is a standout, and is among the "hated classics" like Reif's statistical mechanics book or J.D. Jackson's E&M book. But even those books, which are admittedly overly-difficult and often obtuse, do contain a lot of quality thought and valuable knowledge. A good book, when re-read, will reveal greater and greater depths of insight and knowledge.
But rereading this book only revealed greater levels of sloppy thought. Only the more elementary derivations are comprehensible; the rest are befuddling, and I found that I had to write my own derivations and look up alternatives because the examples were either unconvincing, incomprehensible, or seemed to be based on incorrect physical reasoning. Ironically, I found that this book improved my confidence in mechanics because I had to spend so much time trying to compensate for the enormous failings logic, calculation, and pedagogy. But I'd still give it zero stars if I could.
This book is just plain bad (a judgement I very rarely make), and I am very curious as to whether the reviewers who defend the book really thought about its contents or tried to follow all of its logic step by step, as one should do during any serious examination of a science text. Now some reviewers had good teachers, in which case they probably paid more attention to their lecture notes than the book. An individual skilled with mathematical manipulation can do surprisingly difficult problems without thinking very much about the underlying physical concepts or looking at any part of a derivation other than the part in the box. Finally, a very bright person may simply think through matters for themselves during and after a class, not taking time to examine the book. So I am not insulting the readers who gave it good reviews; I'm sure they did well in class, since students who get good grades don't write vitriol-filled reviews about the required text on Amazon.com. But I know they didn't really read it carefully.
Instructors often choose this book because they were taught from previous editions (which may be superior), and may be too lazy or recalcitrant to change their ways. Although I often got cross looks from my professors for complaining about it, they generally agreed with my criticisms when I pushed the issue. But I didn't need to convince them. I overheard one professor bashing Chapter 4 as "just hacked together at the last minute because the material is sexy and fashionable." And right he was, for that chapter contains the worst explanations of nonlinear dynamics concepts I have ever seen (even if you discount the wrongly-printed Poincare sections towards the end). This same teacher admitted that he had spend over twenty minutes trying to understand the explanation of a very simple formula (and he is a theoretician who knows far more math than the average physicist).
Another fellow I knew, a Ph.D who was teaching an advanced mechanics class at my school for the first time, and was asked to use Marion, rewrote just about every example and explanation in the book for his students because he found them incomprehensible or too obtuse for beginners.
So don't feel bad if this book befuddled you. You're not alone, either among the great (Ph.D theoreticians and experimentalists) or the small (bile-spouting nobodies with undergraduate degree only).
Finally, a bit of advice for students: If you were made to buy this book, I recommend that you go to your library and find books about classical mechanics. Pick up a book or two that doesn't have the name "Thornton" on the cover. Now, it may be too easy (French's "Newtonian Mechanics" is less mathematical, but I still recommend it) or too hard (Goldstein is for highly motivated and prepared undergrads only), but I can tell you in all confidence that the random mechanics book you pick out will be better than the one you have now.
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2.0 out of 5 stars such a schism!, May 21 2003
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This review is from: Classical Dynamics of Particles and Systems (Hardcover)
i agree to a lesser or greater extent with many of the polar opinions expressed here. my professors, despite their continued use of the book, have a bit of distaste for it. they claim previous editions were better. i cannot attest to the quality of the earlier editions, but i can say that the current one is not a very good text. but i will concur with the others in that the book does a fantastic job of explaining lagrangian and hamiltonian dynamics.
the downside is that this was the only portion i fully understood after leaving my mechanics class. a research seminar on gravitational lensing would give me a second swing at the central-force motion chapter, which i did, in all honesty, find easier to read the second time around.
i believe a second look at many of the sections would prove to be very helpful to those that are troubled. one thing in M&T, however, is simply egregious: the problems are sloppy, poorly described, and overly complicated. if the goal is to achieve a better understanding of the material, these questions fail miserably. good exercises are lost amidst mathematics that are overly troublesome to really be useful.
having a course that discusses mathematical methods in physics before diving into this book is a great idea. i used potter and goldberg's "mathematical methods" and found it to be a very useful text, both as a teaching device and as a reference. combined with marion's text, i feel that one could certainly wade through classical mechanics.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Mediocre Classical Mechanics, April 28 2002
By 
Hemingray "halluck" (Rochester Hills, MI United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Classical Dynamics of Particles and Systems (Hardcover)
I'm currently studying for a final exam in an introductory classical mechanics course. Throughout the course, I knew this book was hard to understand, but a truly excellent professor helped clarify the text and explain the ambiguities in the problems.
Presently as I go through the text in preparation for the final with an increased maturity in the subject, I can see its flaws more clearly. The notation used throughout the book is inconsistent (such as the use of T or K almost randomly for Kinetic Energy), examples are not thorough, and the explanation of basic physics is convoluted. In short, using this book as an introduction to classical mechanics without the assistance of an experienced professor is almost impossible.
Being an introductory course, the Lagrangian and Hamiltonian methods were only touched upon as a primer for later classes. I purchased my copy of the book in used condition and have not had any problems with the binding, although the price does seem extravagant.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Dynamics newbies will need a supplementary text..., Jan. 23 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: Classical Dynamics of Particles and Systems (Hardcover)
Pros:
The Hamiltonian and Lagrangian sections were well-explained.
Good intro to mathematical formalism/style used in higher level courses. Notation a little clunky though. No use whining about the Math; just get used to it if you want your degree and graduate school.
Problems were interesting & challenging, but will kill newbies... more on that below.
Cons:
The other sections were so-so. Very often I could not see the forest for the trees. Initiates need some kind of context/background to fit the various topics together and with what they already know.
It's not readily obvious that intuition is just as important as analysis in Dynamics problem-solving--no advice given in this respect. Caused me to use up too much time trying to crack a problem when my approach was unsuitable in the first place.
Examples did not help in solving the problems; often felt like I was thrown into the deep end of the pool before I could swim.
Try Schaum's Outlines, Landau, Goldstein as well. Feynmann's Lectures give some background.
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5.0 out of 5 stars No fuss over mathematical formalism here!, June 30 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Classical Dynamics of Particles and Systems (Hardcover)
Why is everyone complaining about the mathematical formalism in this text? While perhaps such formalism requires a certain level of mathematical maturity on the part of the reader, it does *not* detract from pedagogy. In my opinion, it is better to become used to such formalism in the context of classical dynamics, where intuition can be of great help, than later on, and please, calculus and linear algebra is all that's required! It's not *that* formal!
I'd also like to say that the Hamiltonian and Lagrangian sections present one of the more lucid explanations that I have seen.
Finally, no, the author does not give you an example problem and then ask you to do the same problem with different numbers at the end of the chapter--he assumes you could do that. If you can't read a book that doesn't have such trivial problems for you to work, perhaps you should go elsewhere. The problems in this book are often challenging, and require you to extrapolate from the previous chapters. I find such problems more interesting than ones that require you to only look back in the chapter, grab two equations, eliminate one variable, and then plug in numbers. I'm not sure why everyone has jumped on the "the problems aren't worded well" bandwagon either, as I have encountered very little ambiguity throughout this book. If you want to master classical dynamics, this isn't the only book you'll want to work through, but it certainly should be on your list.
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1.0 out of 5 stars A miserable textbook., Jan. 12 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Classical Dynamics of Particles and Systems (Hardcover)
Back when I was an undergraduate, we used this text for a year-long junior level course on classical mechanics. I will never, I mean NEVER, understand how this book became the standard undergraduate text. Perhaps it is okay as a reference, but for learning the material it is completely useless. The examples are mostly useless, the problems are poorly worded, and it often fails to explain concepts in any significant detail. I eventually gave up on it and started reading the IMHO excellent classical mechanics text by Arya, which covers mostly the same topics but with much more detailed explanations--something important for an undergraduate textbook. I ended up learning the material and doing fine in the course, but I can't thank Marion and Thornton for it. Indeed, all I can thank the authors for it making the course a "character building experience", viz., a horrible ordeal. Do yourself a favor and go elsewhere for an intro classical mechanics book if it is at all possible to avoid this one.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Competent presentation of introductory dynamics, Nov. 22 2000
By 
This review is from: Classical Dynamics of Particles and Systems (Hardcover)
I agree with the reviewer from Connecticut in his/her assessment of this text. Unless one is mathematically immature, in other words a high school student, the 'formalities' of Marion/thornton are of no consequence. The problems are soluble, and are given only after in-chapter exercises that will acquaint the reader with appropriate problem-solving techniques. Many of these techniques are not the most elegant, see for instance the chapter on gravitation and Gauss' law for this interaction, and at times the author(s) dwell in the realm of the mathematically turgid as one my professors once phrased it, but this is more than compensated by a very interesting presentation of Lagrangian and Hamiltonian dynamics. One really appreciates the power of these alternatives to Newtonian mechanics after working out the problems. Although goldstein is much deeper in this regard, it is recommended that you see it once at this level before moving on to that venerable text.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Great at Lagrangian & Hamiltonian Dynamics,, Nov. 21 2001
This review is from: Classical Dynamics of Particles and Systems (Hardcover)
I am unsure on why the ratings of this textbook are so low, it is a very solid textbook on undergraduate mechanics. Its treatment of the caclulus of varations and Lagrangian & Hamiltonian dynamics is very elegant and clear. It is the best treatment out there at the undergraduate level.
In other topics it is strong as well, but not as strong as the Lagrangian/Hamiltonian treatment. The physical ideas conveyed are very good. The math is not really that formal, it just requires what is needed to do Analytical mechanics: the normal calculus sequence, Differential Equations, and Linear Algebra. The problems are not easy, but you can not expect them to be at this level of physics.
The only stumbling block of the textbook is at times the mathematical notation (outside of Lagrangian/Hamiltonian Dynamics) is cumbersome and just plain bad. It is just notation however, and it just needs getting used to.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Great at Lagrangian & Hamiltonian Dynamics,, Nov. 21 2001
This review is from: Classical Dynamics of Particles and Systems (Hardcover)
I am unsure on why the ratings of this textbook are so low, it is a very solid textbook on undergraduate mechanics. Its treatment of the caclulus of varations and Lagrangian & Hamiltonian dynamics is very elegant and clear. It is the best treatment out there at the undergraduate level.
In other topics it is strong as well, but not as strong as the Lagrangian/Hamiltonian treatment. The physical ideas conveyed are very good. The math is not really that formal, it just requires what is needed to do Analytical mechanics: the normal calculus sequence, Differential Equations, and Linear Algebra. The problems are not easy, but you can not expect them to be at this level of physics.
The only stumbling block of the textbook is at times the mathematical notation (outside of Lagrangian/Hamiltonian Dynamics) is cumbersome and just plain bad. It is just notation however, and it just needs getting used to.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Saved my life, Feb. 19 2003
By 
Bruce Lee (Boston, MA USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Classical Dynamics of Particles and Systems (Hardcover)
Take no notice of the tripe written below about this book. Having missed taking my school's graduate course in classical mechanics due to arriving late in the year, I was nevertheless required to take qualifying exams which contained a classical mechanics section. I decided to buy this book and "cram" classical mechanics in an intense 10-day period - and it got me through. In other words the book is extremely lucid and great for self-study, with excellent worked examples and questions of varying degree of difficulty.
To be honest, classical mechanics was not one of my favorite subjects in physics, but studying from this book was a joy. The Lagrangian and Hamiltonian formulisms are amongst the most beautiful theories in physics - revelatory stuff.
Although the price of the book is tantamount to daylight robbery, it saved my bacon and hence in my opinion the book is priceless.
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Classical Dynamics of Particles and Systems
Classical Dynamics of Particles and Systems by Jerry B. Marion (Hardcover - Jan. 1995)
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