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This 220 page 6 x 8.5 little text is packed with valuable nuggets, and does NOT shy away from advanced math. This book is based on the popular Stanford, online and YouTube "adult ed" lectures and is targeted at scientists and "amateurs" who missed physics in undergrad but are still interested.

NOT a "popular" physics book with a bunch of fluffy, non substantial speculation about membranes, stings, fractals, superpositioned states and multiple universes! Has real, tough, solid content with a LOT of advanced formulas, including tensors and many partial derivatives. You CAN "get" these with supplemental study, but the pace of the 11 lectures included is fast enough to leave you behind very quickly if you're rusty in math.

I teach ordinary differential equations to non engineers at classpros dot com, including Psychologists interested in the latest progress in nonlinear dynamical systems as applied to neurons, behavior, etc. This book is a real GEM as an intro to those topics, without "dumbing down" the content for a "lay" audience.

If you love reading populist texts on quantum physics, etc. this wonderful book will take you all the way from classic upwards, with the requisite math, and will provide a great foundation for really getting what's going on in the more advanced areas. Unfortunately, the math will scare lots of folks off, but please, don't be one of them!

The 11 lectures included are: 1. Classical Physics, 2. Motion, 3. Dynamics, 4. Multiple Particle Systems, 5. Energy, 6. Least Action Principle, 7. Symmetries and Conservation, 8. Hamiltonian Mechanics, 9. Phase Space Fluid and Gibbs-Liouville, 10. Poisson Brackets, Angular Momentum, Symmetries, 11. Electric and Magnetic Forces.

There also is an appendix on Central Forces and Planetary Orbits and "math interludes" on Trig, Vectors, Integrals and PDE's. NOTE that only classical mechanics are covered here, HOWEVER circular motion and momentum are covered, and if you've seen the "Feynman" approach to QED (QED: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter), you know that even advanced Physics grad students were astonished that Richard was able to use "clock metaphors" and circular momentum to explain Quantum math and mechanics that normally take a grad student 3 years to master!

Nothing is covered in a LOT of depth, for example there's little on computational complexity, but the theory of information conservation is touched on briefly as the "most fundamental of all physical laws" -- the cyclic "memory" of where we start and end!

The REALLY COOL thing is that the authors don't talk down to us, they assume that just as "amateurs" can discover new stars in Astronomy, non-college types can also make great new contributions in Physics! No fooling, no tongue in cheek. Seems like a revolutionary view from Stanford types, but perhaps they've seen the future of distributed, non-brick and mortar education for real! At under 20 bucks this is a MUST HAVE even for HS students in my humble opinion. GREAT GIFT for a bright grandchild for their 18th birthday as well! This is such an original math refresher too, that I'm guessing a lot of folks will also use it to brush up on applied math. By page 60 we're already at differential equations-- so hang on to your saddle!

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224 helpful votes
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on April 28, 2013
I majored in humanities but I'm interested in math and science, and I find this book both challenging and rewarding. But as I worked through it I found a number of things that looked wrong. Eventually I Googled the book's web site and found an Errata file that I downloaded. It identified 58 errors, most of them in equations and many of them significant enough to thoroughly befuddle a careful reader who trusted the book as written. That's an appalling number of errors. Somebody at Basic Books ought to be looking for a new job. I recommend the book if you are interested and willing to read carefully, but if you can't wait for a second, corrected printing be sure to download the Errata before you dig in!
288 helpful votes
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on October 16, 2015
This is actually partly a review of the math that you may have learned in high school and as a freshman in college (or from an advanced placement calculus high school course), plus the classical dynamics from a moderately advanced college physics class. The physics begins with the traditional Newtonian approach that is covered in high school and in freshman physics, but then proceeds to the more advanced concepts of the Lagrangian and Hamiltonian approaches used in classical mechanics, quantum mechanics and relativity theory, although the applications in this book are limited to classical mechanics. The aim of the book is to show what you need to know to start doing physics, but not necessarily to make you a full-fledged physicist.

I have the required math and basic physics background, but no background in the sort of classical mechanics covered in the book. I found the book interesting and recommend it, with some reservations, to someone like myself with the proper background. However, I definitely do not recommend the book for anyone without knowledge of trigonometry, vector analysis and basic calculus, plus knowledge of freshmen physics as I feel that the book is likely to be just too overwhelming for them.

I enjoyed the book and it definitely did clarify a lot of things, such as: Noether’s correlation of symmetry and conservation laws (which is discussed and derived in the book), and the basics of the Lagrangian and Hamiltonian approaches to mechanics. My reservations were that Professor Susskind sometimes just states concepts and equations without what I felt was a sufficient introduction. Also, and even more importantly, while the problems of chapters 1-7 are given in the website listed in the book, there are no solutions to the more difficult problems of the later chapters. This would be OK if the book were used for a formal class, where the teacher could discuss these problems, but I found it more than a bit frustrating not to have them provided for a self-study book.
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on June 23, 2016
I like this book much better than I like the corresponding lectures in [....]; I guess it's because Prof. Susskind had more time to express his ideas in a clearer way, and because, while reading, you set your own pace and rhythm.

There are, however, several errors in the text that will bewilder you; some of these are in the errata of the book, in [....]
A reviewer mentioned the book "Classical Mechanics - The theoretical mínimum" is the same book (printed in 2014) but without the flaws, but strangely enougth you can get "The theoretical mínimum" (2013 or its reprints) directly from amazon.com but the other only through amazon marketplace.

Anyhow, if you imagine the existence of errors to be "planted" there for you to find (or if you only intend to read the book lightely), you'll enjoy the book; if you need more guidance, you could easily get frustrated or mislead. In the latter case, perhaps the other versión "Classical Mechanics - The Theoretical Mínimum" would be a better choice.

It reminds me of Landaus' "Classical Mechanics" which, in my opinion, is a very concise and elegant exposition of the theme, but the "Theoretical" should be accesible to a broader public.
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on December 17, 2013
My understanding of a few things increased sharply after reading this book. For example, Lagangian and Hamiltonian dynamics. So I consider it a great book for someone like me: good math background but only basic physics.

On the other hand, the book is not appropriate for those who do not have at least a good understanding of basic vector calculus. I do not mean this as a criticism, just that it is not the intended audience. The comment by one of the reviewers that complains that a sentence about integrals, mentioning tables of integrals, Mathematica, and integration by parts, was incomprehensible is an example. The sentence is perfectly clear for anyone who took calculus.

So why do I give it only four stars? For two reasons. First, the book does not have that many equations but contains quite a few typos. This should not happen in such a slim volume. Second, it would be useful to have a summary or "wrap-up" of some of the concepts being introduced. I had to read some chapters several times to be able to do this summary in my own mind.

These are minor quibbles. The book is highly recommended, if you are not a physicist and you have decent math training. For others it will not be that useful, for different reasons.
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on May 17, 2015
I purchased this slim volume after reading a book review in the Wall Street Journal (February, 2013). The reviewer touted the Susskind book as kind of a 'physics in a nutshell,' or as an 'introduction to physics.' Further, the reviewer described the target audience for 'The Theoretical Minimum' as college graduates without a solid grounding in science, or high school graduates who want an introduction to physics before embarking on a college-level physics course.
Wrong on all counts! 'The Theoretical Minimum' functions more as a refresher course for someone who has *already completed* a college-level physics course. The mathematics in the Susskind book is rigorous-- trigonometry, calculus, and much more. I was lost after three chapters, and I have a college degree in chemical engineering.
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on March 9, 2013
Susskind and Hrabovsky condense the first set of Susskind's continuing-education lecture into a short book, under 200 pages. The (first volume of) The Theoretical Minimum covers the general types of material that physics majors encounter in a classical mechanics course, but in a streamlined, abstract form. The book begins with a general introduction to the notion of physical states, some refresher material on the required math (vectors and partial differentials, among other topics), and then accelerates about halfway through to get from the notion of least action to Poisson brackets.

Throughout, the book reflects Susskind's approach to the continuing-education lectures in a clear focus on general principles and using exactly as much math as required to explain the way physicists see the world. If you are willing to learn (or brush up on) some ideas in multivariate calculus and slow down in the second half, the book will reward you amply.

It is clear that this is the first volume in an intended series that will cover the same material as Susskind's lectures. As a result, some concepts are introduced with an explicit expectation that they will become much more important in the next book, on quantum mechanics. This first volume ends with an introduction to vector potentials and gauge invariance, the notional concepts that are essential to modern physics, and then leaves the reader abruptly with the promise of another volume.

If you cannot wait for the next volume, you will need to watch Susskind's lectures on quantum mechanics. Or you can wait for the next installment of the written version.
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on October 2, 2017
The rating above does not apply to the content of the book but rather to the presentation. The substance so far is very good but I'm not sure that whoever is responsible for the digital edition of this book actually bothered to review it before posting it for sale. Regardless of whether the reader is using an iPad, a Kindle, or a computer to read this volume they will require a magnifying glass to read the formulae as the font appears to be either 5 or 6 point size. The typesetting generally leaves much to be desired with large gaps in the text spacing that exist for no fathomable reason. After almost 1000 purchases I have never returned a digital book to Amazon but am seriously considering it with this one.

The publisher - Basic Books - should be panned for this effort. Amusingly, the back of the title page states that the book was typeset using Mathematica. I have Mathematica and I've never seen the application produce such poor renditions of formulae. If there was an option to acquire the volume in an nb file format (Mathematica's notebook format) at least I could read it on my computer!
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on June 10, 2015
A must preamble to Quantum Mechanics: The Theoretical Minimum, also by Susskind. Great fun and a real morale booster for those like me with an undergraduate (albeit rusty) grasp of differential and integral calculus, but a desire to understand the evolution from classical physics to quantum mechanics with the objective of appreciating the current scientific understanding of reality. Both books are laced with real homework assignments designed to confirm your understanding of the concepts presented. In other words, this is not one of the many philosophical publications that relies more on analogy that math to present the concepts. This is real math and clear proof of the soundness and beauty of mankind's greatest logical achievements. Nevertheless, these two books are more a survey of the vast complexity of theoretical physics and probably not intended for hardcore academic pursuits ( for instance, no bibliography for further reading). I have enjoyed immensely.
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on March 9, 2015
This is exactly what I was looking for. I had Calculus I 25 years ago, but it was taught in a very abstract way without reference to actual problems it could be used to solve. Trying to read the basic formulas of mechanics, I was lost--if the symbol conventions used in mechanics were taught in my Cal class, I'd forgotten then, though I think they just weren't taught at all.

This work covers very quickly an intro to Calculus in the context of concrete mechanics problems along with the basic conventions for numeric subscripts for dimensions, dots above a letter to represent differentials the function represented by that letter, etc., that allow one to read the basic mathematical language of physics with at least some comprehension.

Having taken a Calculus class at some point, even if you're forgotten 90% of it, is sufficient background for this work. I don't know if would be comprehensible by someone who had no previous contact with Calculus at all.

I was looking for an introduction to the language of physics, and this work perfectly fit that bill.
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