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BOOK REVIEW: The Theoretical Minimum: What You Need to Know to Start Doing Physics by Leonard Susskind and George Hrabovsky

Review by Tom Siegfried

Most popular books on physics attempt to explain ideas without equations (the popular dogma says that each equation cuts sales in half). But when the book’s advertised purpose is to provide the (minimum) knowledge needed to actually do physics, equations are a must. And this book is full of them.

Susskind and Hrabovsky introduce dynamical systems and vectors, then lay out the basics of calculus, building the basic mathematical toolkit that physicists rely on. Then come energy, symmetries and conservation laws, along with increasingly elaborate mathematical notions to deal with them. Once you get through Lagrangians, Hamiltonians and Poisson brackets, you’ll just have to grasp gauge symmetries and vector potentials. Then you can dazzle your friends by analyzing the decay channels for the Higgs boson.

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