A good way to explore physics concepts further than the A-Level syllabus, and to gauge your interest, is to read around the subject. Although this is not the only way you should prepare – and won’t particularly relate to your interview, as that will be focused on solving questions – it’s still important to read around the subject. It will improve your familiarity with the subject as a whole, and greater familiarity will lead to greater ease and confidence in talking about and working with Physics. You might even recall a fact that will help you solve a problem at interview!
Conveniently, we’ve prepared this physics reading list for you, with selections by Oxford Physics students. Here, then, are a few good starting points if you are interested in exploring physics further.
Richard Feynman – QED: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter
This is an adaptation of four lectures on quantum electrodynamics (QED). This book contains enough information to show the reader how to solve basic quantum electrodynamics problem, and also provides a full expository account of this diverse and contemporary field of physics. It teaches the basic mathematics, and focuses on teaching a conceptual understanding of the field. It is a great place to start, as it provides an insight into a thriving topic, and also shows how important physics theories are developed.
Hawkins – A Brief History of Time
This classic physics book asks many of the questions central to the subject:
- Was there a beginning of time?
- Will there be an end of time?
- Is the universe infinite?
- Is anything infinite?
This book gives a great overview of all the major thinkers in the subject, including Newton and Einstein, as well as analysing contemporary physics topics such as spiral galaxies and black holes. It is a staple text, and will provide you with a great picture of the subject you are diving into!
Richard Feynman – Six Easy Pieces
This text goes through some of the most accessible material from Feyman’s university lecture series. This is a useful taster of the style of physics you will be exposed to at university. Also, as it covers a broad range of topics, it can help ignite an interest in a specific area and lead you to further investigation. Following up on something that interested you, and explaining this on your personal statement, will impress admissions tutors!
If you enjoy Feynman’s lectures, you can watch and read a wide variety of them online. This would be a great way of preparing – it would give you a real taster of university study.
Bill Bryson – A Short History of Nearly Everything
This is a more colloquial, easily digestible book, covering on a basic level many key physics concepts, such as:
- The Solar System
- Quantum developments
- The development of physics
- Einstein’s Theory
Although the physics included is not particularly technical, it is an enjoyable read, and gives an accessible and informative overview of the subject.
Reading around Physics is a great way to explore the subject, and to discover which topics you might be particularly passionate about. It can also be great to mention on your personal statement – so why not take a look at our guide to your Physics personal statement, which will give you tips on naturally integrating your reading?