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Advice on Majoring in Physics

  1. Jun 16, 2006 #1

    I have had conceptual physics courses with very little math involved and I have had math through my first term of calculus. So far I really like them both. However, I am unsure about what to expect when physics is combined with calculus. Is it mostly problem solving or are there practice exercises too, like in math? I don't mind a lot of work, but I would like to know what the work is like so that I can be sure that I will enjoy it. I have it in my mind that most of the homework is sitting and figuring out problems, but I don't know if that's all or just part of it. Please advise on what I can expect the work to be like as a physics major. Thanks.
    Last edited: Jun 16, 2006
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 17, 2006 #2
    It's hard to answer this because I have no idea what school you are at, nor what your curriculum is like. So take what follows with a grain of salt.

    It's mainly problem solving. In the calc based physics offered at my school, the only thing we ever did was solve word problems (some straight forward... Some fat and juicy). But this varies from teacher to teacher.

    In your first physics class, classical mechanics, you really won't use much calculus. When you get to electricity and magnetism, however, you will do a lot of integrating and will even get exposed to a little bit of vector calculus.

    You have to study the material well to be good at solving the problems, but yes, it's mainly solving word problems.
  4. Jun 17, 2006 #3
    Thank you

    Thank you. Your reply answered my question. I am also in the Northwest (Oregon). It is my plan to do a double major in physics and philosophy. Now I am concerned about the physics part.
    Even though I finished with an a+ grade overall, my last calculus class had mathematical modeling problems that were really difficult. My teacher said not to worry and that it is hard for everyone at first and that it just takes practice, but after those hard problems I began to wonder if I am cut out for physics. :cry: The straight forward problems are not bad of course.
    If anyone has their experience to share on this, it would be helpful. For example: if it did get easier with practice for them or if it didn't.
  5. Jun 18, 2006 #4
    Everything gets easier with practice. :wink:
  6. Jun 18, 2006 #5
    In my experience the word problems in physics tend to be easier to conceptualize than equivalent word problems in mathematics (basing this on Halliday-Resnick-Walker 7th Ed). In that physics textbook, every single problem is effectively a word problem, but there is minimal mathematical modeling that needs to be done (most of the questions are presented clearly and straightforward).

    Mathematical modeling does takes some practice to get used to, but you should do fine in a physics class as long as you can apply the concepts to the problems.
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