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Didn't learn simple harmonic motion in physics 1, will this hurt me?

  1. Nov 8, 2009 #1
    I took calc-based physics 1 last semester, but since it was at a community college, I don't think we went as far as the 4 year universities went. We skipped over simple harmonic motion.

    Will this hurt me later on, when I go to mid-level and upper-level physics courses at the 4-year university I'm transferring to? Or, will they re-teach the material at that time?

    Should I try to teach myself the material to prepare?

  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 8, 2009 #2


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    Oh...yikes. Sorry to hear that, Jack.

    I don't want to sound inflammatory, but you may be the victim of educational malpractice. Yes you really, really, really need SHO...it comes up over and over again in advanced courses.

    Somehow, you need to get this information into your foundation. Some people are pretty good at self-teaching; can you do that, you think?

    I need to be frank here...if the instructor was so basically incompetent the he/she skipped over this fundamental concept, I wonder how well the rest of the class was taught.

    Perhaps you should consider re-taking the class at a different institution...? Just a suggestion. I wish the best for you.
  4. Nov 8, 2009 #3


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    All there is in SHM for an introductory mechanics class is the analysis of two differential equations: undamped and damped oscillations. I suppose three if you want to consider one with a driving force, but I'm not sure how many courses do that. At any rate, it's very easy to pick up on your own, seeing as the material is in any physics or differential equations book. Definitely worth teaching yourself.

    I echo lisab's concerns though about the quality of the rest of the class if you didn't go over SHM...
  5. Nov 8, 2009 #4


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    Definitely teach yourself the material if possible. If you're concerned about whether your background is sufficient, you can always sign up for a more advanced course and the introductory course, and then drop one later in the semester
  6. Nov 9, 2009 #5
    I'd be quicker to blame the rest of the class than the instructor. Even at the snail's pace he was going, over half the class had dropped by the final, and I was the only A. At least one student I know of actually changed majors altogether because of his difficulties. He went from Engineering to Russian as a major.

    Class started out with 21 people, only 10 took the final.

    If the class were bigger, he could have left more people behind, and pressed forward with the material, but once the class started approaching single digits, I can't blame him for slowing down. It'd look bad if only 3 people took the final.

    Ah, the joys of community college.

    Thanks for the responses, I'm pretty sure I can teach myself the material; I'll probably do that this winter.

    On a slightly different note: I have the same professor for Physics 2 right now, and the class seems to be moving slightly faster... up to what topic should be covered in Physics 2? Today, we start magnetism, we just finished R-C circuits. Should we get to electromagnetic radiation? We're using the Young and Freedman book, just starting chapter 27, if that helps any.
  7. Nov 9, 2009 #6
    Young and Freedman was my undergraduate bible.. I don't know what is in each of the US physics modules (they seem standardised which is strange to me), but SHM is crucial. So many things oscillate you'll not believe... go through it in that textbook, do all the examples and you should get a good grasp of it.
  8. Nov 9, 2009 #7
    I'm taking mechanics at community college right now, using the same book (Young and Freedman) and it looks like the same thing is going to happen to me. Because of the weak class, we are moving very slow. The teacher said since we are behind, he will skip 1 or 2 labs and catch up. Periodic motion is the very last chapter we have to cover.
    Did you do chapters 1-12 and skipped 13 then?
  9. Nov 10, 2009 #8
    I transferred from a community college as well and I had to make up for some gaps in my physics education too...especially in modern physics. I made up for these gaps by studying the appropriate chapters in a modern physics textbook and doing lots of practice problems. This prepartion proved to be more than adequate and now I am in my senior year at a university with a 4.0 GPA so don't worry if you have to cover the material on your own. If you're a good physics student, you should have no problem handling this...although it does require a certain amount of dedication.

    My advice is that before transferring to a university, make sure you cover every chapter in Young and Freedman, whether on your own or in class.
  10. Nov 10, 2009 #9


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    hate to be blunt, but have you looked at the harmonic motion chapters? Its really not that bad if you have basic trig. If you got an A in the class I'd just go back, read those chapters till you understand it (a day or two?) do a couple problems and wait for the next time for it to appear. Trust me, its going to show up again and again and again, and while you should know it, everything you learn in physics 1 and 2 is going to be repeated in 300-400 level classes in greater detail and you can always pick it up there. You should just make sure you're exposed to it prior so it's not completely new.
  11. Nov 10, 2009 #10
    i don't know if there's a difference between the General Physics Course and the Physics for Engineers course BUT im a Mechanical Engineering major and i found the Physics for Engineers course OF NO USEE whatsoever. The Physics that i have to know and must know is given to me separately in Engineering Statics, Dynamics, Fluids, Thermodynamics courses etc. Also we deviate alot from the Physics I course, we actually use better methods to solving problems, especially in Electrical Circuit problems.

    I don't think it's that a big deal because any Physics I topic is a general idea and it's not something you can't pick up in a book later on.
  12. Nov 10, 2009 #11
    Our university (a state flagship institution) does things a bit strangely for engineering students... "Mechanics" and "Statics" part is taught in a two-term sequence by the engineering department, then the students transfer to the physics department for two terms ... E&M and "Oscillations, waves and modern physics." Therefore we cover oscillations (including SHM) at the beginning of THAT term (although it comes up a bit in the EM course with LCR circuits).

    So it's possible your institution is delaying the material to a later course.... if you plan to finish your sequence there. Otherwise, it's not too hard to learn from the text, as others state.
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