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202 of 204 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars See the Forest Through the Trees
This is the best overview of Maxwell's equations I have ever come across. I cannot praise it enough for it's brilliant clarity.

If you have taken or are taking an electromagnetism or vector calculus course, you may have run into the classic problem of not being able to see the forest through the trees. These courses can be very dense, and anything that can...
Published on March 24, 2008 by R. Markham

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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars 5 stars for book, 1 star for Kindle edition
As many other reviewers have noted, this is a great book for learning and understanding electromagnetism via Maxwells equations.

However, the kindle edition is basically unusable. The equations are so tiny that you can barely read them. Whats worse, if you click on the equations, they will not expand to a larger size (at least on my kindle fire hd). This is...
Published 19 months ago by tagger9


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202 of 204 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars See the Forest Through the Trees, March 24, 2008
This review is from: A Student's Guide to Maxwell's Equations (Paperback)
This is the best overview of Maxwell's equations I have ever come across. I cannot praise it enough for it's brilliant clarity.

If you have taken or are taking an electromagnetism or vector calculus course, you may have run into the classic problem of not being able to see the forest through the trees. These courses can be very dense, and anything that can help give a sense of perspective can be very helpful. Daniel Fleisch's book is just such a tool. It provides a thorough overview of Maxwell's equations with stunning clarity. Each equation is broken down into it's component parts, and the physical significance of each part is thoroughly explained. In this way, not only are the core concepts of Maxwell's equations made clear, but many concepts from vector calculus are also brought out in crystal clarity, (I got much more out of this book than I did the often recommended "Div, Grad, Curl"). It will help you see the "forest through the trees".

Also of note are the problem sets at the end of each chapter. The problems work very well to reinforce the concepts from each chapter. They are not overly difficult or too simplistic. They are geared specifically at reinforcing concepts. The author has also posted on his web site a set of solutions for every problem, and each of the problems is thoroughly worked out with clear explanations. This is a HUGE plus for anyone picking up this book for self-study.

In my mind this book is a perfect compliment to an electromagnetism or a vector calculus class (or as a review after having taken such a class). Although the writing is clear enough that one could probably get a lot even without having had a vector calculus class, ideally one would have had at least some minimal exposure to vector calculus. It's not that you need to be an expert in vector calculus; all the concepts are explained very well in the book and the actual calculus you need for solving the problems is minimal, but in my mind the book will work best for those with some exposure to vector calculus.

My only suggestion to the author would be to include a table summarizing Maxwell's equations, (and perhaps a table of some basic constants). Other than that, this is a perfect book. It is THE standard by which other self-study books ought to be compared.

Update: When I wrote the above review I was half way through chapter 4 (of five chapters). Having completed the book, I do want to point out that the beginning of chapter 5 ('From Maxwell's Equations to the Wave Equation) does include a summary of Maxwell's equations. It would have been nice to have such a table at the front or back of the book for quick reference, but the summary is there, contrary to what I had originally thought. Chapter five also has a nice summary of the del operator and its use in finding the gradient, divergence, and curl. And finally, chapter five provides a very good physical description of the Divergence Theorem and Stokes' Theorem. So all in all, there is really little one can fault in this book. It's the book to get if you want to see the forest through the trees.

[Side note to author (written before the above update, and answered by the author in the comments): I believe the solution to problem 2.3 for surfaces 'A' and 'B' should include a factor of 1/2 since the area is a triangle; I did not see a feedback form on the website, or I would have posted there.]
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92 of 95 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Epiphany of clarity!, March 2, 2008
This review is from: A Student's Guide to Maxwell's Equations (Paperback)
Maxwell's equations represent a comprehensive and descriptive condensation of (once believed to be disparate) electromagnetic phenomena, into a gloriously concise set of self-consistent (albeit arcane) mathematical statements. Daniel Fleisch has lucidly crafted explanations both of Maxwell's equations that describe EM phenomena, while simultaneously employing the latter to motivate, justify, and describe the vector calculus of the former with great clarity--the perfect synthesis. The author addresses chapters to each of the four equations in turn: (1) Gauss's law for electric fields, (2) Gauss's law for magnetic fields, (3) Faraday's law, and (4) the Ampere-Maxwell law; describing each first in its integral then differential forms, with brief expansion of the utilities for each form. The final chapter concludes elaborating the true nature of light as part of the greater EM spectrum, culminating in motivation of the wave equation and determination of c, the speed of light. I wish I had a shelf full of similar pithy, fun-reading, and revelatory books on other like topics!
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51 of 52 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Everthing you wanted to know about Maxwell's equation but were afraid to ask!, June 28, 2008
Like most practicing engineers, my understanding of EM is based more on experience rather than rigorous mathematical theory.
I'm sure many of us can remember being exposed to vector calculus as applied to EM as undergraduates, but regarding it as an academic hurdle to be overcome, rather than something that might actually be useful later in a professional career.
The situation is worsened latterly by the evolution of EM modeling tools, which do all the donkey work for you - further reducing the requirement for a sound understanding of Maxwell.
But one day, you run into a problem that needs a bit more than the stock solutions - what now ? You rush to your text books, and you than discover that you have forgotten everything from your college days, and without your friendly old professor on hand, everything looks like gobbledegook !
I always been amazed that such an important subject is always presented so poorly, even in well regarded text books. In my opinion, a book should convey understanding - not just regurgitate facts.
Fleisch does an excellent job of conveying the concepts of div,grad and curl. The influence of the late Prof Kraus is clearly evident in his style (ref Electomagnetics, Kraus). Fleisch uses analogy to help the reader get an intuitive feel for the problem before diving into the maths. Personally, I fully endorse this approach - Fleisch is also diligent enough to highlight the limits of the analogous approach, which should keep the purists happy.
My only minor criticism of this book has already been stated by another reviewer, a tabular summary of equations covered in each chapter would be helpful. Also having the word 'student' in the title means I have to keep it stowed in my draw when not in use to avoid embarrassment ;)
So just own up - you're just like me - you never really understood Maxwell, and have been afraid to ask ! Get this book and sort your EM life out.
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28 of 28 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Read this book before that first EM class, August 18, 2008
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This review is from: A Student's Guide to Maxwell's Equations (Paperback)
The first class in Electricity and Magnetism is often difficult for undergraduates. The course material brings together diverse concepts in Physics and Mathematics in a way that can challenge some students. This book is a useful primer for undergraduates. The book focuses on the mechanics of applying the four equations attributed to Maxwell. There is little or no discussion of the engineering or physics involved in applying these equations. The author presents each equation in a separate chapter and shows the different forms, e.g. integral, differential, in which they are written. The step by step identification of each and every term and operation can get boring but it provides a good explanation for the new student. It is a quick read and can be a useful reference during a class. The problems at the end of each chapter are good ones and I particularly liked the approach of providing solutions to all problems on a website.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Powerful Demonstration of What Clear Mathematical Explanation can do, August 29, 2008
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This review is from: A Student's Guide to Maxwell's Equations (Paperback)
A new category of Pulitzer Prizes now must be established so that its first recipient can be Daniel Fleisch, who deserves it for the impressively clear mathematical exposition presented in this book.

This "Guide to Maxwell's Equations" alone proves that there is no need for mathematical explanations to be enigmatic and obscure to the point of being incomprehensible simply because the concepts are abstract and difficult. What this exposition suggests is that it takes one kind of talent to understand abstract mathematics and an entirely different type to be able to explain complex and abstract ideas, simply.

And as is always the case with great minds like Fleisch's, they begin simply: by explaining clearly the function of each mathematical term in an equation, and then showing how they all go together to explain larger more abstract concepts.

If there is a clearer explanation of complex mathematics than this, I have yet to see it.

The bonus of the book of course is not just that it allows one to understand perhaps the most important four equations known to man (even more important than Einstein's E=MC^2, since it is derivable directly from Maxwell's Equations) but that all of this understanding is transferable to other mathematical contexts.

Now when I am reading other complex mathematics -- especially where the surface, or line integrals are used. Or when I forget the conceptual difference between the curl and the divergent, I just pull out this little book, review the concepts in context and then transfer that conceptual understanding to the new problem. I did not even need to consult the website to get a pretty much full understanding of the equations. But once I did, it just nailed down all remaining doubts.

What an incredible find! Fifty stars
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fleisch is thorough, September 7, 2008
This review is from: A Student's Guide to Maxwell's Equations (Paperback)
As an undergrad physics major, my toughest challenge was electromagnetism; many of my non-physics major friends are surprised that it's not quantum that was the hardest, or general relativity. Nope, it was good ol' E&M.

I am now just starting my PhD physics courses, so I was on Amazon looking for supplements to Jackson's book on electrodynamics. I came across this book and had thought it would have been a great help in my undergrad course, but probably too elementary for the upcoming PhD course...but when I noticed Fleisch had podcasts for every section in every chapter, I became intrigued. After reading the positive reviews, looking at some excerpts, and sampling a few of the podcasts, I knew this was no ordinary book on electromagnetism: Fleisch might be the first guy in history to say, "Maybe E&M is presented to students a bit too strongly at first; let's slow it down and break it apart piece by piece so the student can actually understand what's going on instead of fumbling in the dark."

I went over most of this book before classes began this semester and I truly feel it solidified the basics enough that I confidently face the graduate text.

In short: I recommend it.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Doesn't get any better than this!, August 28, 2008
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This review is from: A Student's Guide to Maxwell's Equations (Paperback)
I've studied quite a few textbooks (Jackson, Griffith, etc) and supplementary material ("Div, Grad, Curl,...", Feynman Lectures, etc) on classical electromagnetism over the years and I can say without a doubt that for clarity and explanatory power, this book is in a class by itself! The folks that choose the course materials for university physics curriculums need to be made aware of the existence and quality of this booklet. It's a shame there aren't more out there of this caliber. It isn't a replacement for the usual textbooks on the subject. But, it definitely is a much needed supplement to any of them since it lays out the foundational concepts and mathematical framework in a much more understandable and memorable (!) manner than any textbook has ever done; at least, any that I'm aware of.

dh
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars 5 stars for book, 1 star for Kindle edition, March 14, 2013
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As many other reviewers have noted, this is a great book for learning and understanding electromagnetism via Maxwells equations.

However, the kindle edition is basically unusable. The equations are so tiny that you can barely read them. Whats worse, if you click on the equations, they will not expand to a larger size (at least on my kindle fire hd). This is fundamentally a quantitative book where the equations are key to understanding the material, so not being able to read the equations dramatically reduces the usefulness of the book.

Come on amazon, it shouldn't be that hard to make tech books that are readable on the kindle. Never have any problems like this with pdf's.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good adjunct to textbook, or stand-alone, July 29, 2008
This review is from: A Student's Guide to Maxwell's Equations (Paperback)
I took a graduate course in electromagnetics, and there was so much material that I sometimes had a feeling I had lost site of the basics. I have completed only the first section in the book, on Guass's law for electric charge, but that is enough to get a flavor of the whole book. The material is well organized, easy to understand without being too simplified. A unique feature, which I have never seen before, is the printing of the fundamental equations in large type, with arrows with text explanations for each and every part of the symbol. I have found in my math and physics studies it is essential to frequently ask oneself "what exactly does this equation mean?" It is easy to get wrapped up in or bogged down in symbolism and forget what exactly is being talked about. Many textbooks help to foster this disconnect by being overly cryptic and making statements like "it obviously follows that ... " while skipping over the three pages of calculations needed to make the statement "obvious"! The author of "A Students Guide" never does this, taking care to explain in detail what each part of the equation means both mathematically and physically. Finally, I like the problem sets at the end of each section. You can work the problems, then find the completely worked out solutions on the web. If you get stuck part way through, the website even provides hints to keep you going. By the way, if you are serious about learning the material, ALWAYS work through the problem sets. This is the only way to really get a grasp on the material. I am looking forward to going through the rest of the book!
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Maxwell's equations, September 21, 2009
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This review is from: A Student's Guide to Maxwell's Equations (Paperback)
Finally, a physics book that does not apologize for having math in it. In a simple manner, the author takes each equation apart and explains every squiggle, dot, and delta and how they relate to each other. With only a high school diploma I was able to understand what was happening in the application of these basic equations. Thank you for taking the time to explain them rather than telling me that I am just too dumb to understand.
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A Student's Guide to Maxwell's Equations
A Student's Guide to Maxwell's Equations by Daniel A. Fleisch (Paperback - January 28, 2008)
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