Slowly diving into Physics and Mathematics

, by Frank Hellenkamp

I was always interested in science and especially in physics for almost as long as I can remember. And I always used to read articles and a lot of books about it.

But I always strayed away from going into the mathematics of it. But that has changed since last autumn.

I started reading a lot of physics books, that not just describe things in terms of text descriptions but also in mathematical formulas.

And I am slowly getting a teeny-tiny glimpse of the depth, the mathematical reasoning and the connection(s) between mathematics and our physical reality.

It is only a very first small step – but I get a deep satisfaction from learning and thinking about it.

The interesting thing for me is, that the impulse for me to do it, is the same one, that motivates me to design or to write code:

Aesthetics — The deep feeling of a connection to beauty and (by all complexity) to simplicity.

Leonard Susskind and "The theoretical minimum" series

For starters, I am reading the "Theoretical Minimum" books series by Leonard Susskind.

I don't remember wearing out books like this. It's not that I read everything once and be done with it — I read everything over and over again, working through it, getting a little bit of better understanding every time.

There are three books of the series (as of now):

These books are based on courses that Leonard Susskind gave in Stanford for "normal" people. You can find all these courses on Youtube for your own viewing pleasure. And there are a lot more and deeper courses than the books.

These are not easy by any means, but Leonard Susskind makes them very engaging, interesting, often funny and very human. In his own words: He's trying to make it as simple as possible but not simpler.

And I appreciate the pragmatic way he tries to teach physics to us non-physicists.

Roger Penrose

The other books I am working through are by Roger Penrose. One especially:

He's a very deep thinker, a much dryer character than Susskind and has a much more mathematically formal way of presenting things. (He is also much more english.)

A lot he writes about is very much further down the road from what I am able to understand at the moment. But it's a very worthwhile challenge, trying to wrap your head around.

And what I also find interesting: He has a very geometrical thinking mind and illustrates a lot of mathematical ideas through illustrations.

I think his deep connection between visual thinking and mathematics is just beautiful!

Frank Wilczek, Physics and Beauty

A third book that fits into the category aesthetics and physics is A Beautiful Question: Finding Nature's Deep Design by the Nobel laureate Frank Wilczek. I actually read it already in 2018 and this is not mathematical.

But it is about the connection between physics and beauty and maybe it will get you hooked too, to take a deeper look into what lies at the base of our universe.

Physics is amazing! ;-)

Additional reading recommendations

If you don't have the time to read books or watch Youtube lectures, but you are nonetheless interested in science:

I warmly recommend to read the quantamagazine.