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Classical Mechanics for an Engineer?

  • #1

Main Question or Discussion Point

I'm an aerospace engineering major. I'm wondering if, in the future (perhaps after graduation), a treatment of classical mechanics under Taylor's book would be useful to me. I will be taking classes on statics and dynamics, but after that, there doesn't seem to be any further treatment of kinematics, forces, energy and such in my program. Any guidance on this?
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
No opinions? I would be very appreciative of some insight!
 
  • #3
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At my school the mechanical engineers take a course called Classical Dynamics which is essentially Hamiltonian and Lagrangian Classical mechanics, yours probably has something similar, this is a grad course though.
 
  • #4
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I'm an aerospace engineering major. I'm wondering if, in the future (perhaps after graduation), a treatment of classical mechanics under Taylor's book would be useful to me. I will be taking classes on statics and dynamics, but after that, there doesn't seem to be any further treatment of kinematics, forces, energy and such in my program. Any guidance on this?
Even though the classes might not have the words 'forces', 'kinematics', etc in the descriptions, I would doubt very highly that you will get through the rest of your major without seeing these topics again. In fact, I suspect that you will see them used in nearly every course. Just a thought.
 
  • #5
cjl
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Even though the classes might not have the words 'forces', 'kinematics', etc in the descriptions, I would doubt very highly that you will get through the rest of your major without seeing these topics again. In fact, I suspect that you will see them used in nearly every course. Just a thought.
Absolutely agreed. As an aerospace engineering graduate student, I have to say, you'll see kinematics and related concepts used fairly frequently. It could be helpful (and interesting) to take a class mech class, as that will probably go into a more general treatment of classical mechanics than you would see in your future classes, but don't assume that you won't see forces or kinematics type concepts just because you don't have any classes specifically for mechanics.

Out of curiosity, which school are you going to for aerospace?
 
  • #6
Even though the classes might not have the words 'forces', 'kinematics', etc in the descriptions, I would doubt very highly that you will get through the rest of your major without seeing these topics again. In fact, I suspect that you will see them used in nearly every course. Just a thought.
Well, I realize this, but I would also imagine this is true in a traditional physics education. Why then the necessity for a classical mechanics class? I've no idea.

Absolutely agreed. As an aerospace engineering graduate student, I have to say, you'll see kinematics and related concepts used fairly frequently. It could be helpful (and interesting) to take a class mech class, as that will probably go into a more general treatment of classical mechanics than you would see in your future classes, but don't assume that you won't see forces or kinematics type concepts just because you don't have any classes specifically for mechanics.

Out of curiosity, which school are you going to for aerospace?
I'm not actually a grad student. I'm still in my sophomore year. But engineers never stop learning, and since I've already got my undergrad and grad programs planned out (for the most part), I figured I'd look a bit further into the future. None of the programs I've looked at for grad school (MIT, USC, etc) have classical mechanics as courses under their aerospace curriculum.

As for my school, I'm going to UT Austin at present.
 
  • #7
AlephZero
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Well, I realize this, but I would also imagine this is true in a traditional physics education. Why then the necessity for a classical mechanics class? I've no idea.
I guess this features in physics because of http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noether's_theorem and its consequences for "non-classical" physics.

On the other hand engineers don't tend to spend much time thinking about WHY there are conservation laws - they just use them.
 
  • #8
cjl
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I'm not actually a grad student. I'm still in my sophomore year.
It just occurred to me that I worded that sentence ambiguously - I assumed you were a sophomore (or similar), and I was speaking from my perspective as an aerospace engineering graduate student (I'm currently working on a masters in aerospace engineering, specializing in fluids and propulsion). Sorry for any confusion that statement caused...

But engineers never stop learning, and since I've already got my undergrad and grad programs planned out (for the most part), I figured I'd look a bit further into the future. None of the programs I've looked at for grad school (MIT, USC, etc) have classical mechanics as courses under their aerospace curriculum.

As for my school, I'm going to UT Austin at present.
After looking over your school's curriculum, it looks a lot like mine (University of Colorado at Boulder). You'll definitely use concepts from classical mechanics in courses such as your structural dynamics, aircraft dynamics, and spacecraft dynamics course, as well as potentially in mechatronics (my school does not require a mechatronics course, so I'm not as familiar with the subject). It's not as rigorous a treatment as a dedicated classical mechanics course, but honestly, you really don't need a full class mech course for what you will be doing. If you can fit it in your schedule though, it certainly can't hurt, and it could be interesting (I contemplated it a couple of times, but it never fit into my schedule).


On a slightly unrelated note, I like how your junior year aerodynamics courses are split up into incompressible (low speed) and compressible (high speed) - mine was just a single semester course combining the two, and I didn't see a thorough treatment of each individually until graduate school in the past year.
 
  • #9
Pyrrhus
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As Cornelius Lanczos puts it in his book "The Variational Principles of Mechanics". There are two ways to look at mechanics: Vectorial Mechanics (mostly what they teach you in engineering schools), and Variational Mechanics (Lagrangian and Hamiltonian Mechanics, it is taught in graduate programs of engineering I presume?).

Its Mathematics of Calculus of Variations are used even in Mathematical Economics, more specifically in Macroeconomics.
 

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