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Concerns about thermodynamics

  1. Oct 14, 2012 #1
    I am taking a course in thermodynamics for my physics undergrad. The professor does not explain concepts, he only derives equations during the lecture and introduces words without defining them.

    He does not assign homework and now we have an exam this week. If I read the textbook (which is his lecture notes), I am able to follow the math and see what is happening step by step, but I don't really understand anything. We never solved a problem in class.

    This is my first upper level physics course and I'm kind of scared. Is this what to expect from now on? Next semester I will take mathematical physics and QM.
    Last edited: Oct 14, 2012
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 14, 2012 #2

    Vanadium 50

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    You shouldn't let him get away with this. As soon as he introduces a word you do not understand, your hand should be in the air.
  4. Oct 14, 2012 #3


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    Sounds like you just have a bad teacher. I wouldn't expect this to be the norm, but I am not at your school and I don't know the teachers. Ask around the other classes and see. If things are that dismal in many classes you may want to consider changing schools unless that would be a horrible painful process.
  5. Oct 14, 2012 #4


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    An advanced undergraduate physics class where there is no assigned HW? I have never seen that before.
  6. Oct 14, 2012 #5
    Atleast if the class is curved then no one understands, then you won't get an F.
  7. Oct 14, 2012 #6


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    Note that I'm not the OP. At my university we're not assigned homework in the sense that you must do it and then give it to the professor. Instead, the professor gives exercises to do and one is entirely free to solve them, be it entirely or partly. They are not graded; only a final exam worth 100% of the grade is, and one can expect the final exam to be either at the level of the given exercises or higher. So if you don't solve them you're basically chanceless for the final exam.
    With respect to the OP, since the lecture notes are mostly taken from a particular textbook, I'm sure it would be a great idea to solve the problems in that textbook. What textbook is it by the way?
  8. Oct 15, 2012 #7
    I think I might have been a little unfair in my OP... it's a physics course, not engineering, so there are no numerical problems to solve or "real world" applications to talk about.

    There are no textbooks, just his lecture notes. However he said we could use them on the exam, so that's great.

    Any recommendations for books? Thermodynamics by Enrico Fermi?

    We are going to learn about Statistical Mechanics next. Any recommendations for that?
  9. Oct 15, 2012 #8
    That is exactly what my professor is like in classical mechanics, except for assigned homework. Walks in, derives the equations, and we never solve problems. The closest we've gone to solve a problem was him solving the example in the book. I rarely attend his lectures, or most of my classes nowadays. I don't see what the point is of showing us what is in the books? This type of environment does not suit others like me who prefer to independently learn and hope to get further insights from the lectures. Typically, the institutions of education is not a "one-size fits all."
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