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  • Users: pmr
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  1. P

    Schools Should I take a gap year to self study before college?

    Hey Nicolas, First of all, congratulations on getting into a good school! I recently worked as a teaching assistant at Columbia for their advanced level intro physics sequence, 2800 and 2801. I graded papers, held recitations, etc... I also took those courses myself as an undergraduate, so...
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    Other Plugging numbers into my calculator wrong

    I'm sorry, but you just don't know what the real world is like. When you finish school and get an actual job they'll be putting reams of contrived questions on your desk every day. You'll have only a brief moment to answer each one, and precision use of a calculator under time pressure will be...
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    Testing How to sign up for Calculus BC on your own

    Try calling the college board, it might be a soft deadline, who knows. Also, any sane school will let you skip whatever intro courses you want. Just register for whichever classes feel at your level. If you complete a major in math or physics with a good GPA and some administrator notices that...
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    Policy Question on Posting Articles

    That sounds great. I submitted an application to be a writer on the insights pages.
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    To be a great mathematician/physicist, must one start young?

    To offer an extreme view, just for the sake of argument, you might say that all great physicists and mathematicians start at childhood, always. People who have these sorts of minds will always be counting blocks as kids, or multiplying numbers in their head for fun while bored during car rides...
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    Policy Question on Posting Articles

    Hey everyone, I have a policy question about posting some articles that I've typed up in TeX. I want to now if it's allowed, and if so then under what circumstances. I'm putting together a website where I'll be posting my notes on math and physics. Whenever I learn something new or work out...
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    Learning LaTeX and Note-Taking

    If you want to really learn how to be a TeX hacker then I would suggest the following: 1) Get on a UNIX based operating system, if you're not already on one. Good candidates are OS X, Linux, or FreeBSD. If you go the Linux route then try either Fedora or Ubuntu. 2) Learn how to use a bash...
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    I can get my B.S. in Physics in 2 years w/ this Schedule....

    I second what Kilgour22 said. Incidentally, I'm 26 myself, so I'm in the same boat when it comes to doing a later-in-life undergrad degree in physics.
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    I can get my B.S. in Physics in 2 years w/ this Schedule....

    I never enjoyed moving quickly in school. I've done fast, and I've done slow. Slow is better. I'm sure you'll be able to do the homework and pass your exams, but will you really understand any of it on a deep and fundamental level? Just like your friends said, I would be terribly overwhelmed...
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    What are the prequisites for studying The Art of Computer Programming?

    I would list these as the prerequisites: (1) Solid mathematics experience, up to at least intermediate calculus. (2) Experience in a low level programming language. These days probably plain C. You should have written at least 2-3 small programs in plain C. (3) Experience with assembly...
  11. P

    Books on the Fourier Transform

    At different times I'm an experimentalist, mathematician, theorist, and engineer. Though my skill levels across those domains varies tremednously. I would be interested in an introductory text from any perspective, really. My key requirement is that any introduction should arrive at the...
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    Books on the Fourier Transform

    I'm solid with Fourier series, yep. The integral expression for the Fourier transform feels close enough to a Fourier series that I almost feel like I could figure out what it does on my own (with a blackboard and a lot of free time). That book by Lathi looks interesting, I'll give it a peek...
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    Books on the Fourier Transform

    I need a good book on the Fourier transform, which I know almost noting about. Some online sources were suggesting Bracewell's "The Fourier Transform & Its Applications." I gave it shot, but it's competely unreadable. On page 1 he throws out an internal expression and says "There, that's the...
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    Programs Should I give up being a physics major?

    If you're taking classes that use MasteringPhysics-based textbooks, then something already feels off to me. I would probably get a D in those classes too, just as a function of getting bored or frustrated with the low quality of the books.
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    How should I proceed in my study of physics / mathematics?

    I'd study the following things, and in this order: 1) Vector calculus 2) Basic linear algebra, of the non-abstract sort (especially eigenvalue problems) 4) Classical Mechanics, on a moderately advanced level) 5) Special Relativity 6) Electrostatics 7) Electrodynamics
  16. P

    Complementary self-studies during my undergrad

    The content of your post already makes it evident that you're very smart. Explicitly stating that you're gifted and have top marks with "moderate effort" is, at the very best, superfluous.
  17. P

    What is your experience with caffeine?

    I'm a part-time student at Columbia, and part-time employee there too. So between work and challanging classes I have a lot of sleepy days. I used to have a large cup of coffee every morning (always black, no milk or sugar). Then I would go grab another cup from from the department's kitchen...
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    Too late to pursue Computer Engineering at age 27?

    I'm 25 currently, and I'm doing a later-in-life undergraduate degree in physics at Columbia. I was a a software developer from ages 15-22, but it eventually killed my wrists, so now I'm switching careers. Actually, physics was always my primary passion, so it was a blessing in disguise that...
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    What is Voltage?

    I'm currently taking an EM course. We're doing AC circuits, but I'm having a hard time understanding how voltage is defined. In the electrostatic context I understand how the voltage is defined as the line integral of E over a path, and I get how that line integral has nice path-independent...
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    Programs Should I switch my perspective major away from Physics?

    You shouldn't quit physics, at least not for those reasons. You might, however, consider quitting high school, and forgetting the AP exams. Giving up interest in physics due to an AP exam is like giving up on Mexican food because of a bad meal at Taco Bell. The US high school system is like...
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    Ideas for physics project

    You could also take the pendulum example up a notch and do a double pendulum: You'd have to learn Lagrangian mechanics, but if you're good at calculus and you understand why ##\vec F = \nabla U## then Lagrangian mechanics is easy to pick up.
  22. P

    Train thought experiment confusion

    I think we need to put mathematical labels on things in order to make sense of this. I'm going to propose the following scenario: Jack on the platform thinks that he is globally at rest. We will call his frame ##Q##. Ashley is on the train, and she doesn't care to look outside of it. From...
  23. P

    Ideas for physics project

    If you write a general gravity simulation then give all of the masses charge as well, with some having positive charge and some having negative charge. Now that the particles are charged, throw in a Coulomb force. Then on top of that throw in an "air friction" force that resists motion in...
  24. P

    Good book on C++?

    I would suggest the 3rd edition of Stroustrup's book, which covers C++98: I would also advise using C++, though I do think that learning it is worth the effort.
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    Schools Adjusting to university teaching and learning

    The material in first year lectures will probably be available in textbooks. So note in advance that the opinions I'm about to express assume that students aren't desperately dependent on lecture sessions. In my experience you can't get any deep authentic learning out of math or physics...
  26. P

    4-Velocity and World Line Parameterization

    I would like to think that I understand how 4-velocity is defined in special relativity. It makes sense to me that one takes a differential segment of the world line ##(dt, d\vec x)## and translates it into a frame in which its spatial component disappears, leaving only ##(d\tau, 0) =...
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    Interesting book explaining the principle of least action in detail

    I would highly recommend Taylor's book on classical mechanics: You'll have to read the chapter on Variational Calculus and then the chapter on Lagrangian Mechanics. Once you understand those, the variational principle will make...
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    Is my Schedule too Much to Handle with Work Study?

    I think that's a really insane workload. You won't be able to delve into any of those subjects with any satisfactory depth given that sort of schedule. Especially not with work study on top of it all. Sure you'll be able to chug through problems related to conservation of energy in the...
  29. P

    About Earth's rotation

    The Earth's rotation is definitely not absolute. Consider, in a simpler case, a rotating hoop. The hoop's "rotation" is really just a macroscopic emergent phenomenon perceived by our human brains. The "rotation" doesn't really exist in the strictest sense. From a finer perspective the "rotation"...
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    Pulley on a Pulley

    I take back my previous statement. The problem is indeed solvable once you know that one tension is twice the other. After doing some algebra I see that we can find the accelerations based on only just the ratio between the two tensions. However, I now have a different confusion. It no longer...
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    Pulley on a Pulley

    Yep, it's all in the PDF I linked to. The relation between the accelerations is on the last line of the first page; the acceleration of the second block is twice that of the first (and in the opposite direction).
  32. P

    Pulley on a Pulley

    That the one tension would be twice the other makes sense. But having the relative tensions doesn't produce an answer. To find an absolute acceleration we need an absolute tension, which we don't yet have.
  33. P

    Pulley on a Pulley

    I'm currently reading Kleppner and Kolenkow's "Introduction to Mechanics", and I'm working through the problem sets. I'm only on chapter 2, but I happen to know Lagrangian mechanics. When I get stuck on a problem I occasionally take the Lagrangian approach to find the solution, and then I try...