I have a masters degree in pure mathematics and I'm working towards my dream of a PhD, but I know very very little about sub-atomic particles. I would like to find some good popular science books or even documentaries or pod-casts that explore these subjects.

The trouble is most such resources are very light-weight in the area of mathematics, they consciously avoid equations or even mentioning anything beyond basic algebra. I'd like to think my mathematical experience and knowledge would help me to learn about this subject more effectively.

On the other hand those texts that use a lot of math also use a lot of physics and it's, frankly way over my head.

I would like to be able to say something coherent about things like string theory and to understand the experiments at the large Hadron collider better. Not, looking to be an expert just an informed amateur.

I think the people here would be most likely to know about good starting points in these areas and I bet there are others here who would benefit from such a big list.

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    $\begingroup$ I have heard good things about Penrose's <i>Road to Reality</i> as a light survey that doesn't skimp too much of the math. $\endgroup$
    – Neal
    Commented Dec 8, 2011 at 19:35
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    $\begingroup$ There is a similar question asked on MO with some good answers. $\endgroup$
    – Sasha
    Commented Dec 8, 2011 at 19:40
  • $\begingroup$ Related post on Phys.SE: physics.stackexchange.com/q/6047/2451 $\endgroup$
    – Qmechanic
    Commented Feb 10, 2013 at 20:17

1 Answer 1


Mathematical knowledge can sometimes be more of a hindrance than an asset when studying physics: trying to make mathematical sense of what the physicists write can be very difficult or impossible. But you might try Folland, "Quantum Field Theory: a Tourist Guide for Mathematicians", ISBN 978-0-8218-4705-3

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    $\begingroup$ This is a good point. Speaking as a physicist, sometimes we do things mathematically, and sometimes we just make things up and see if they work ;-) $\endgroup$
    – David Z
    Commented Dec 9, 2011 at 0:34
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    $\begingroup$ And sometime we make stuff up that turns out to have been known to mathematicians for a century or so: i.e. quantum mechanics is linear algebra (plus a little of this and a little of that), only physicists didn't know it for a while. That's how it goes some days. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 9, 2011 at 1:32

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