Saturday, January 07, 2006

Jackson's Classical Electrodynamics

Given this is a "classic" graduate textbook for E & M, it seems one doesn't need to say anything about this since everyone is using it. I'd think this book is overrated. As is often the case in the academic community, this textbook has been unjustly passed on from one generation to another generation as an unrefutable "bible" of E & M just because of its encyclopedic contents, not particularly of pedegogical or inspiring exposition. The text is very dry, with a lot of formalisms and little accompanying physically intuitive discussions. And of course the notorious sets of problems --- everyone who has ever used Jackson will know a lot of the problems are really hard --- I personally like this feature though, provided one is fully devoted to solving the problems, one would be able to improve on one's problem-solving skills. However I must also add that some problems are just mathematical drills, and you'll gain little physical insight from those kinds of problems. In all, it's good for use as a reference book (after you've gained mastery of the subject or at least have a good feeling of it), but not as good as a textbook for learning. For that I recommend Griffiths' Introduction to Electrodynamics (I'll review that in a separate post). That good old book that you used in your undergraduate course is still useful, and serves as a good company with Jackson. Another little known gem is Smythe's Static and Dynamic Electricity, for which you can still find it in Amazon.co.uk. Despite the age of this book, it covers materials in considerably more detail than in Jackson, and most importantly, with a lot of useful examples dispersed throughout.

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