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Fundamentals of Physics I: Mechanics, Relativity, and Thermodynamics

Fundamentals of Physics I: Mechanics, Relativity, and Thermodynamics PDF

Author: R. Shankar

Publisher: Yale University Press


Publish Date: August 20, 2019


Pages: 462

File Type: PDF

Language: English

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Book Preface

Besides the correction of typos, the most important change is the inclusion
of over 300 exercises to go with these 24 chapters. Answers are given to
all exercises, but not the solutions. They were chosen to test the material
covered in this book. This was done in response to calls from students
and instructors. A similar inclusion will be made in the next edition of the
companion volume, Fundamentals of Physics II.

Given that the size of textbooks has nearly tripled during my own career,
without a corresponding increase in the cranial dimensions of my students,
I have always found it necessary, like my colleagues elsewhere, to cull the
essentials into a manageable size. I did that in the course Fundamentals
of Physics I taught at Yale, and this book preserves that feature. It covers
the fundamental ideas of Newtonian mechanics, relativity, fluids, waves,
oscillations, and thermodynamics without compromise. It requires only
the basic notions of differentiation and integration, which I often review
as part of the lectures. It is aimed at college students in physics, chemistry,
and engineering as well as advanced high school students and independent
self-taught learners at various stages in life, in various careers.
The chapters in the book more or less follow my 24 lectures,
with a few minor modifications. The style preserves the classroom
atmosphere. Often I introduce the questions asked by the students
or the answers they give when I believe they will be of value to
the reader. The simple figures serve to communicate the point without driving up the price. The equations have been typeset and are
a lot easier to read than in the videos. The problem sets and exams, without which one cannot learn or be sure one has learned the
physics, may be found along with their solutions at the Yale website,, free and open to all. The lectures may also be
found at venues such as YouTube, iTunes (
itunes-u/physics-video/id341651848?mt=10), and Academic Earth, to
name a few.
The book, along with the material available at the Yale website, may
be used as a stand-alone resource for a course or self-study, though some
instructors may prescribe it as a supplement to another one adapted for
the class, so as to provide a wider choice of problems or more worked
To my online viewers I say, “You have seen the movie; now read the
book!” The advantage of having the printed version is that you can read it
during take-off and landing

In the lectures I sometimes refer to my Basic Training in Mathematics,
published by Springer and intended for anyone who wants to master the
undergraduate mathematics needed for the physical sciences.
This book owes its existence to many people. It all began when Peter
Salovey, now President, then Dean of Yale College, asked me if I minded
having cameras in my Physics 200 lectures to make them part of the first
batch of Open Yale Courses, funded by the Hewlett Foundation. Since my
answer was that I had yet to meet a camera I did not like, the taping began. The key person hereafter was Diana E. E. Kleiner, Dunham Professor,
History of Art and Classics, who encouraged and guided me in many ways.
She was also the one who persuaded me to write this book. Initially reluctant, I soon found myself thoroughly enjoying proselytizing my favorite
subject in this new format. At Yale University Press, Joe Calamia was my
friend, philosopher, and guide. Liz Casey did some very skilled editing. Besides correcting errors in style (such as a long sentence that began in first
person past tense and ended in third person future tense) and matters of
grammar and punctuation (which I sprinkle pretty much randomly), she
also made sure my intent was clear in every sentence.
Barry Bradlyn and Alexey Shkarin were two graduate students and
Qiwei Claire Xue and Dennis Mou were two undergraduates who proofread earlier versions.
My family, from my wife, Uma, down to little Stella, have encouraged
me in various ways.
I take this opportunity to acknowledge my debt to the students at Yale
who, over nearly four decades, have been the reason I jump out of bed on
two or three days a week. I am grateful for their friendship and curiosity.
In recent years, they were often non-majors, willing to be persuaded that
physics was a fascinating subject. This I never got tired of doing, thanks to
the nature of the subject and the students.

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