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Differences in approaching Physics

  1. Nov 6, 2003 #1
    The long irratation of my physics teacher for his confusious and mad way of approaching physics lead me to post this with my long cogitating thought of what is the difference between approaching classical physics with calculus and normal algebraic mathematics?

    My teacher, a graduate of Columbia who is very talented in both mathematics and physics, except one thing, English grammer.

    His tests are sometimes hard to read and most of the time hard to understand. The only way to understand is to memorize examples he randomly spits out after having a drink of cofee in class.

    I have a very hard time understanding the mechanical problems on his tests, a lot of equations. However, in my Calculus text book, I have found things much easier. Velocity, Acceleration, displacement can be found easily with just 1 model from them.

    So, is Physics better designed for Calculus rather than normal algebraic equations?(because of many variables).

    Please share your thoughts, thanks.
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 6, 2003 #2


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    People (like me) who have taken both an algebraic intro to physics (meaning mostly mechanics) and a calculus version, have found the calculus version much clearer. Things where the algebraic manipulation to get the answer becomes the be-all and end-all of the lesson are compared to the same thing where the math is 2 or three lines, a derivative and some simple collection of terms. What you learn in the algebra course is a lot of algebraic tricks. What you learn in the calculus version is the physics.
  4. Nov 6, 2003 #3
    But many problems are given to be solved in normal algebraic equations...I don't see how you can use calculus in those questions. And I haven't taken Physics for Calculus yet so I don't know what are some problems in calculus terms.
  5. Nov 7, 2003 #4


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    The basic equations of physics are differential equations. So you need Calculus to do physics. If you want a feel for how physics was without calculus, read Galileo in e.g. "On the Shoulders of Giants". Newton (and Liebniz) invented calculus in order to be able to progress in physics.
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