Re: META: Recommendations for a 13 year old transhumanist
Wed, 12 May 1999 10:53:44 -0700

Anders Sandberg, <>, writes:
> "Chandra Patel" <> writes:
> > On the physics side I'm starting with Feynman's lecture
> > series.
> A good idea. A very good series.

We used this series in college. With Feynman I often found that the chapters were easy to read and it seemed like I was following him, but it was hard to apply what I had learned. I seem to recall that there was a separate book of exercises, perhaps by Leighton, cross-referenced to his chapters? I can't seem to find it online. Maybe available from the Caltech bookstore.

> > If anyone has any recommendations for good introductions to
> > relativity, quantum mechanics, and other topics please let me know.
> I wonder if Misner, Thorne, Wheeler _Gravitation_ is worth reading for
> you. I like it and it is a standard book, but some may have different
> opinions and I'm not sure about the intro potential. Anyway, it is
> likely not worth reading until you have the basic physics clear.

The MTW Gravitation is nice because it is marked into two tracks, and you can stick with track one which gives you a good feel for the subject.

More accessible though is Spacetime Physics, by Taylor and Wheeler, which discusses special relativity. Like the MTW book it takes a geometric approach. It turns out that velocity boosts are exactly the same as coordinate axis rotations, except using hyperbolic geometry rather than Euclidian. They have a lot of exercises to help pin down your understanding, including discussions of many of the traditional paradoxes.

> > I'm also interested in sharpening my programming skills which have been
> > isolated mainly to BASIC and QBASIC at this point. What computer languages
> > are best for beginning my trek toward Coding Deity status? There seem to be
> > lots of options and my teachers and friends have no ideas about where to
> > start.
> Like the others, I think C is worth knowing. Pascal - well, it is good
> for you, but in my opinion it tastes bad :-) Once you understand C, I
> would suggest going directly to Java, C++ is in my opinion a bit too
> messy.

I agree that C++ is too messy and that Java is superior. Personally I would start with Java since that way you are working with objects from the beginning; you would find it easy to then move to C since the syntax is 80% the same. Plus with Java you can make cool web applets from the start. I'm not sure what the best Java development system is though; it would depend on your host. But there are a lot of recommendations online.

I'm sure you'll do well whatever path you follow. It sounds like you are off to a great start. Don't forget to spend some time enjoying life; learning is fun but there are a lot of other fun things to do in your teens.