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Susskind, Hrabovsky: The Theoretical Minimum

Sean Carroll locates and praises a new book by Leonard Susskind and George Hrabovsky. (Funny, in the Czech spelling, Jiří Hrabovský is a rather famous guy in the Czech TV News and P.R. industry.)

This book's goal is to teach you everything you need to actually follow and do physics – including equations – but it is not a textbook. One may be surprised how a book with equations may refuse to be a textbook and what the word "textbook" really means ;-) but whatever it is, it is surely successful. For example, it's #150 at (and it was #4, we hear) and #1 in "science for kids" right now. I am sure that Leonard...

Hofstadter bought the book – which borrowed the title from Lev Landau's famous entry exam – for Penny, too. However, the book is now hopelessly sold out at so if you order it, you may have to wait for 1-2 months.

You may want to know something about the content of the non-textbook.

It discusses the nature of classical physics; geometry and vectors; motion; integrals; dynamics; partial derivatives; multi-particle systems; energy; principle of least action; symmetry and conservation laws; Hamiltonian mechanics and time-translational invariance; the phase space fluid and the Gibbs-Liouville theorem; Poisson brackets, angular momentum, and symmetries; electric and magnetic forces; and – in the appendix – central forces and planetary orbits.

The style is talkative and the diagrams and equations are colorful and eye-catching. An index is included, much like lots of problems that help the readers to become truly familiar with the ideas.

As you can see, the readers of the book won't quite get to string theory – an intellectual child by one of the authors of the book (and a few others) – but they will get much further than most of the folks who just self-confidently talk about things like string theory although they know almost nothing about physics.

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reader Dilaton said...

This seems to contain roughly what Lenny Susskind explained in his Classical Mechanics course ... :-/. But he has given Courses about

- Quantum Mechanics
- Special Relativity
- General Relativity
- Cosmology
- Basic concepts in particle physics (QFT)

- The standard model
- Supersymmetry, Renormalization, GUTs
- String Theory
- Topics in String theory (cosmological applications)

too ...

So, he will have to write such a book for eacch course :-P.

If the book is written in the style he gives his lectures, it must be fun as hell to read :-D

reader Peter F. said...

Thanks for letting me know such a book is available. It tempts me. :-)

reader John McVirgo said...

Lubos, there's a link to Lenny's Theoretical Minimum video lectures series:

He has this gift of actually being able to teach people, unlike some, and I'm so glad that he has made this into some sort of book which he can make money from.

Roger Penrose did an amazing job on a similar book a few years back called Road To Reality, but unfortunately you needed either a PhD or a few years of time on one's hands, to really appreciate the book.

reader Di said...

More information and Solutions for The Theoretical Minimum, Classical Mechanics book can be found at . It will be updated regularly.

reader Luke Lea said...

I'd bet that Lenny's online video lectures are a lot more accessible to serious amateurs than any book covering the same material at the same level of rigor (including Feynman's Lectures on Physics). It's hard to imagine a guided tour through an equation without an expert teacher in front of a blackboard with a piece of chalk in his hand, pointing, talking, and doing the necessary algebraic manipulations and derivations in front of your eyes, answering all questions as they arise. Maybe it's not like that with real physicists.

reader George Christodoulides said...

string theory is the intellectual child by one of the authors? maybe and maybe not. and maybe not at all. in the elegant universe documentary from nova they showed that he was the father but this is not how it happened.

reader Luboš Motl said...

Dear George, the history is complex and interesting, but:

Veneziano found the first nontrivial formula that was later found to be a result of string theory. For some years, people would study "dual models" based on similar formulae without knowing that there were any strings inside.

The realization that the formula resulted from particles' being strings was due to Leonard Susskind and, independently Holger Bech Nielsen and Yoichiro Nambu. They said there were strings (and said their inner dynamics should be studied systematically) so in this sense, they were fathers of string theory.

reader George Christodoulides said...

nice i will read it. thanks.

reader hajoucha said...

unfortunately, the new book in the series - "Qunatum mechanics" is somewhat more troublesome. It is hard to believe that Leonard Susskind would seriously consider "hidden variables" . See eg. page 36 (hardcover).

reader Luboš Motl said...

Hi Hajoucho, it's weird, isn't it? This is not how I would have imagined Susskind for years.

In Bousso-Susskind

we learned that Lenny is willing to combine the "many worlds" interpretation with other types of parallel universes in awkward ways but the hidden variables are much worse.