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Calculators Calculator for physics studies

  1. Jun 29, 2009 #1
    I was wondering if a graphing calculator (like the HP 50g, which really "turns me on") is really necessary for studying physics. I guess you're not counting much in these courses, you're just going to operate on a's and x's while using a simple calculator just to get the exact result at the end.
    Do I need to have such a calculator for my physics studies? Will it help me, will it improve my studies or would it just make everything harder? What do you think?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 29, 2009 #2


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    Do you need one for a physics course - no.
    Can you use a physics course to justify buying one - yes !
  4. Jun 29, 2009 #3
    I guess I won't be buying one if I don't need it, then.. It's not really cheap.
  5. Jul 3, 2009 #4
    It is the price of a textbook (actually, half the price of some of the more expensive ones). It has an equation library full of many geometric and physics equations, and built-in constants.

    It has a fairly good Computer Algebra System that can accomplish most of what you might be likely to need to do with a program like Mathematica (although slower and much more cumbersome).

    Do you "need" it? No, not really. But it can help you replace an equation table, a constant table, a scientific calculator, a unit conversion table, et cetera. It's ability to formulate equations as "pretty print" makes it more difficult to make a mistake than if you have to convert your written equations into machine order of operations.

    I doubt it will help you with your studies, but it might give you an edge on a test, but the downside is that you could become too reliant on it, and the HP-50 has a fairly steep learning curve to access some of its more advanced functions, so, depending on your current level of knowledge, I would factor in at least 2-10 hours of time to get acquainted with its basic functionality.
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