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2.7 out of 5 stars
2.7 out of 5 stars
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on August 1, 2016
I haven't studied it yet, but it looks like a good textbook.
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on December 6, 2003
Whether knowingly or unknowingly, most of the physics text reviews that I have read may be divided into two categories:
- those who loved or hated the book because it was not written to teach physics through a conceptual framework.
- those who loved or hated the book because it was not written to teach physics through the development of skills.
Then the reviews may be divided again into two categories:
- those who loved or hated the book because it conveyed an exclusively classic and/or historical treatment of physics.
- those who loved or hated the book because it conveyed a modern treatments of physics.
Therefore, I will write my review within the same framework that everyone else seems to...
I loved this book because it was written to teach physics through the development of SKILLS; I loved this book because it did so through a CLASSIC TREATMENT of physics.
Now I will explain why...
The study of physics is FAR MORE than an extraction of information from a book, the way that, say, reading an encyclopedia entry is. The study of physics, rather, is a MENTAL DISCIPLINE, that takes 10,000 hours of intensive mental effort just to become a 'fairly skilled beginner', and at least half a lifetime of intensive mental effort to become an expert in just one, very small, sub-sub-field. It is a journey in which one must tavel the same mental footsteps that the great physicists of the past did before one is ready to travel the new and original mental footsteps of their own research activity. Along the way, one must start with easy treatments, must progress through the intermediate treatments, and must one day tackle the tremendously difficult advanced treatments, of every sub-field of study. Early in the study of a new stage of such a sub-field, one must obtain a solid understanding of every concept, and after this, they must move on from mere concepts, and must develop an exceptional skill set. And one day, if one has been utterly dedicated and unwavering, and if one has worked harder than they ever thought would be necessary when they stood at the beginning of the road... one WILL find that they have reached a higher realm.
I am utterly convinced that this book is the ideal written work that one should study at the time and place in the journey that it is usually encountered on this road.
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on October 12, 2003
I took a mechanics course 9 years ago with an earlier edition, finished undergrad and left the study of physics. Recently I bought a new edition and I have just finished self studying this book and I felt that it's quite excellent. The problems are challenging but that is precisely what I expected. I think it really deserves 4 stars but I gave it 5 because the average ratings given by other reviewers is too low. I would like to go through the positives and negatives of this text. However keep in mind that the negatives of this text are apparent pretty much in every physics text.
Positives: 1) The text is easy to understand, the problems follow from the text 2) Answers to even numbers excercises in the back of text. This is absolutely crucial if you are self studying without an instructor. 3) Problems are random in their difficulty and individually comprehensive in their review of the chapter.
4) The Mathematics is pretty elementary, with a solid understanding of Calculus and differential equations you should be properly equipped to handle the entire text.
Negatives: 1) There are little to no difficult problems involving Newtonian formalism (Forces). Energy and momentum is predominantly used, for good reason, but it does not hurt to go back to the more rigorous approach of Forces for some difficult problems.
2) It would be nice to have a chapter dedicated to cyclic coordinates, Poisson Brackets and Canonical Transformations.
3)Impulses(chap 9) are dealt with in Integral form as opposed to differential form of the time change in momenta. The latter is much more intuitive and useful for solving problems.
4)Wider use in problems and examples of Poisson's equation for gravity.
5) Relativity should be introduced much earlier in the text. This is one of the formalisms of every undergraduate textbook in physics which I do not understand. Relativity always gets pushed back towards the end of textbooks. There is nothing particularly difficult about the subject that demands that it get treated in such a fashion. As opposed to the three chapters prior (dynamics of rigid bodies, coupled oscillations and waves) which are much more demanding. Furthermore it would be useful for students taking E&M at the same time as Mechanics to have had some experience with 4 vectors before dealing with Maxwell's equations.
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on September 28, 2003
I came to this course after taking honors freshman physics at Yale with An Intro to Mechanics by Kleppner and Kolenkow. And, unfortunately, this book just is not as good. The mathematical derivations are often tedious and uninsightful, a good description as well for many of the problems. In addition, many of the problems, particularly the tougher ones, are already worked out in the text. For me, the text is a combination of mediocre treatment of material with exceptionally poor problems. The problems in this text are, in general, easier than those in K&K, but they often take three times as long to write out. Many of them are exercises in 10th grade algebra, or 12th grade calculus (read: horrible integrals and looong expressions to simplify). What is required is not insight, but exceptional care at not making simple errors and patience for long derivations of often obvious results. For a physics major, this book just seems like a colossal waste of time and money. If you want reinforcement of concepts, turn to Feynman in his lectures. For insightful and challenging mechanics (though Hamiltonian and Lagrangian dynamics are missing), Kleppner and Kolenkow is a far better text.
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on July 31, 2003
(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 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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on July 21, 2003
This book is great for advanced undergrad mechanics. I used it first time through and thought it wonderful. All you need is a little bit of DiffEq and some Linear Algebra (all of which he gives you in Chapter 1). Chapters 12-13 are a little tricky, but Marion does a thorough job.
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on June 25, 2003
This is a good intermediate mechanics book for an upper level undergraduate physics course. One must have mastered Introductory Physics 1&2, Calculus 1,2&3, Differential Equations and Linear Algebra before attempting to read this book. Like most Physics and Math books this is not meant for lite reading. Math and physics texts should be read with scrutiny and a paper and pencil at hand. The problems are a bit difficult but the student solutions manual is a great resource to have. Armed with the right tools this book is an insightful read. I recommend it to all math and science majors alike.
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on May 21, 2003
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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on April 20, 2003
I had the misfortune of taking a class that used this book. This book contains piles of mathematical expressions barely any of which are adequatelly explained. This text is intended to be used in courses that introduce mathematical methods in physics, what it actually does, is present some qualitative ideas and some equations that don't really seem to connect to the text unless you already know the material. This book would make a nice rewiew material for someone who learned the subject already, however, in no way it provides any real insight into the priciples of physics that it attempts to explain.
This book really is one of those unfortunate examples that are targeted at beginnig students, but are only readable to professors.
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on February 19, 2003
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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