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Back to physics: a reading list

Back to university means picking out the best textbooks to use for your studies. If you’re just starting out in your first year of studies or are pursuing further degree in a more specialized field, we have some great resources to explore. From the basics of fundamental physics to the intricacies of understanding light-matter interaction, this list provides the best starting point for under-graduates and post-graduates alike. What else would you recommend for physics scholars?


From Classical to Quantum Fields by Laurent Baulieu, John Iliopoulos, and Roland Sénéor

By beginning with the basic axioms that a ‘reasonable’ relativistic theory seems to obey (which most theoretical physicists admit to be true) you can arrive at results that shape your understanding of our physical reality. It’s possible to assert that quantum relativistic theories exist in a real global mathematical sense, which means that you can manipulate (with the usual precautions) some interesting quantities including vacuum expectation values of products of fields.

The Physical World: An Inspirational Tour of Fundamental Physics by Nicholas Manton and Nicholas Mee

Many natural processes, and our own everyday activities, aim to put in the least amount of effort to get the most back as quickly as possible. For example, you may take a longer route in the car in terms of distance, in order to get to your destination faster (by detouring to a highway or motorway). Physicists say that these satisfy a variational principle, a fundamental idea explored in the introduction of Manton and Mee’s textbook.

Materials for the 21st Century by David Segal

We all know glucose – that simple sugar that makes so many of our favourite foods taste wonderful, including candy floss (or cotton candy). It plays a central role in the structure of other natural products, including cellulose – a natural polymer of glucose molecules (where glucose is the monomer) and the most abundant biorenewable material on earth. Teach yourself about the latest advances in materials science research and learn about over 500 materials.


Light-Matter Interaction: Physics and Engineering at the Nanoscale, Second edition, by John Weiner and Frederico Nunes

Light-matter interaction is a rapidly developing field but one that graduate students from many disciplines need to thoroughly understand. Key notions such as phasor representation, expressions for energy density and energy flux are constantly used within the field and are paramount to understanding the physical optics of plane waves.

Generating Random Networks and Graphs by Ton Coolen, Alessia Annibale, and Ekaterina Roberts

Testing a hypothesis against a control case is one of the most important aspects of the scientific method. Random graphs have proven pivotal in establishing network science, with a wide scope of application in the field. In order to utilize random graphs most effectively, students and researchers must determine a mathematical connection between the stochastic graph creation process and the stationary probability distribution.

Spectroscopy and Radiative Transfer of Planetary Atmospheres by Kelly Chance and Randall V. Martin

The interactions between matter and electromagnetic radiation as well as the energy transfer in electromagnetic radiation are research areas in physics that are increasing in importance as ever more attention is being paid to weather, climate, and air quality on Earth within the fields of atmospheric and planetary science. Einstein coefficients nuclear spin and rotational spectroscopy are among the fundamental principles required to perform quantitative spectroscopy.

Featured image credit: Dr. Richard Feynman during the Special Lecture: the Motion of Planets Around the Sun by Energy.gov. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

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