Top critical review
13 people found this helpful
on May 20, 2014
I have pulled far too much hair from my head because of frustration with this book. Having read through the first six chapters, here are my major concerns thus far:
1) The end-of-chapter exercises are brutally hard. Each chapter has ~20-30 problems, ~10 of which are starred for difficulty. Personally (as an honors physics senior undergrad working through these problems with a friend) I have had enormous difficulty tackling even the non-starred problems, not to mention the starred problems. The problems seem to assume knowledge that wasn't presented in the chapter, or assume that I have the physics intuition of a veteran grad student. While there certainly are answers in the back of the book, there are no worked-out solutions, even online, so there is nowhere to go for help. (Note: physics.stackexchange.com has been a life-saver for discussing and getting advice on many problems).
2) The organization of the book, and even organization within individual chapters, is beyond me. For instance, the Lagrangian is introduced as early as Chapter 2, with several sections devoted to it. However, the Largrangian is addressed in very few problems and doesn't appear again until Chapter 10, where it is analyzed for an entire chapter - so why introduce it in Chapter 2? It seems completely unrelated. Other chapters have many skipped steps, incomplete derivations (or, in the case of the chapter on the dipole expansion, complete absence of derivations and frequent use of "oh this is obvious!"), and frequent inconsistency between using the continuous (integral) and discrete (summation) formulation. Heck, the authors even write the quadrupole moment as a scalar! (Why, oh why, would you ever lead students to believe that the quadrupole moment is a scalar?!)
Some aspects of the book were nice, however:
1) The Appendix has lots of great information that is very well laid out. It's excellent general knowledge.
2) The exercises are extremely satisfying when/if you've finally solved them. They are nothing short of real-life, physically-relevant problems.
Overall, I can't tell who this book is intended for. The problems are too hard for someone first learning post-freshman level classical mechanics but the material is not advanced enough for this to be a graduate text. I do not recommend this book.
EDIT: All of these issues are further exacerbated in the latter half of the book. I switched to Goldstein's Classical Mechanics; even though it is formally a graduate-level text, it's much more readable, intuitive, and enjoyable (and the problems are doable and insightful). Admittedly the writing is more abstract and requires a strong background in some kind of formal physics (E&M, Quantum, or GR/SR) so that you are more comfortable with notation and with the higher-level mathematics.