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Saturday, November 07, 2009

Reviewing high school and university science subjects

I learned an awful lot of science in high school and university. And it’s a shame that all of this knowledge from years ago has been forgotten. I’d like to rectify this by refreshing my knowledge of chemistry, biology, math, and physics. And I’d like to use books that are more interesting than what I used in my courses.

For instance,

General Chemistry by Linus Pauling ($9 used including shipping at

Why we like it: It’s by Linus Pauling, winner of two Nobel prizes.
What you’ll learn: Covalence, oxidation, aldehydes, etc.
Amazon-review money quote: “Linus Pauling's treatise on general chemistry is exciting and interesting.”
Opening line: “The universe is composed of matter and radiant energy.”

Biology by Neil Campbell ($4 used including shipping at

Why we like it: It’s widely considered to be the best undergraduate biology textbook.
What you’ll learn: Photosynthesis, DNA, circulation, etc.
Amazon-review money quote: “Many times I forgot to take notes because the richness, depth and flow of the text made me feel like I was reading a novel instead of a text.”
Opening line: “In this very first section, we introduce one of life’s most distinctive features, its order.”

Math Refresher for Scientists and Engineers by John Fanchi ($26 used including shipping at—get at least the 2nd ed. to get the statistics chapters)

Why we like it: It’s a dozen math courses packed into one short book.
What you’ll learn: Linear algebra, calculus, statistics, etc.
Amazon-review money quote: “It's the sort of book that you can easily read for an hour, cover 20 or 30 pages, and not feel too exhausted.”
Opening line:Math Refresher for Scientists and Engineers, Third Edition is intended for people with technical backgrounds who would like to refresh their math skills.”

The Feynman Lectures on Physics by Richard Feynman ($57 used including shipping at—search for ISBN 0201021153 to get the 3-vol set)

Why we like it: We love anything written by Feynman.
What you’ll learn: Relativity, dielectrics, the Schrödinger equation, etc.
Amazon-review money quote: “If you already know physics you can probably breeze through the books pretty easily getting a lot of nice insights, but otherwise you need to be prepared to work hard. ”
Opening line: “This two-year course in physics is presented
from the point of view that you, the reader, are going to be a physicist.”

What textbooks would you recommend (or not recommend)?


  • I used that Biology book in High School! oh, the memories!

    By Blogger Ellen Keri Goldberg, at 11/08/2009 7:22 AM  

  • Me too, Ellen! It's a beautiful book - can't wait to get it. This time, I'm going to read it at a leisurely pace.

    By Blogger Jonathan, at 11/08/2009 1:52 PM  

  • "Education is what is left after you've forgotten everything you've learned."

    -- Albert Einstein

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11/14/2009 6:12 AM  

  • Cool quote!

    By Blogger Jonathan, at 11/14/2009 11:59 AM  

  • Although not a textbook, I highly recommend Poor Charlie's Almanack by Charles T. Munger

    Charles Munger happens to be Warren Buffet's business partner.

    Most of the book is comprised of 10 speeches he's given in the past. In them, he lists out what he feels is a solution to the problem of education as seen by him (and also mentioned by Alfred North Whitehead): that of fatal unconnectedness of ideas/theories/concepts.

    You can find some of his speaches online, but you will get a lot more out of the book.

    I recommend the book to anyone who is interested in obtaining a really good education.


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11/16/2009 9:21 AM  

  • Cool stuff Carlos - I'll have to check that out.

    By Blogger Jonathan, at 11/17/2009 2:55 AM  

  • the "Cartoon Guide to x" are a pretty good series and mildly entertaining as well. they have them on a number of different subjects including genetics, statistics, physics, and chemistry.

    By Blogger w, at 11/22/2009 10:04 AM  

  • Those look cool!

    By Blogger Jonathan, at 11/22/2009 1:35 PM  

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