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Does my school suck?

  1. Jun 1, 2005 #1

    quasar987

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    So far I'm very displeased with pretty much everything about the physics program I'm in. The services are poor and so is the quality of the teaching and their interest in the students.

    But there's also something else, and I wonder if this is normal or is it just my school that's like that?? It concerns the way the program is built. It seems that the physics class always make use of math that we haven't leanred yet. For exemple, we got Mechanics and THEN Calculus 2 (treating differential equations, vector calculus, Green, Stokes, Gauss thm, etc.) which is stupid because those of us who had made the necessary study on our own on these subjects in order to understadn the mechanics class, already knew everything taught in that class. Then we got the wave class which makes use of Fourier stuff, which we haven't studied. And next session it's gonna be QM, where I bet you anything there's gonna be plenty of unknown math tricks and thm involved. :mad:

    rant is over. the question remains: is it like that in your school too? (or the school you went to at the time)
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 1, 2005 #2
    At ASU we are required to take Calc 1 (differentiation and basics of integratioin) before we enroll in Physics I, and need ot tkae Calc II (integration techniques, series, etc) while enrolled in Phy 1.

    I didnt encounter any Diff Eq's that we actually had to solve in either class, and the other theorems were only mentioned in E&M, but we never had to use them to solve problems.
     
  4. Jun 1, 2005 #3

    mathwonk

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    maybe your school sucks. and maybe not so waht you are saying it sucks for you, thats al that matters to you.

    hence:\

    1) either find a better school for you,

    or 2) figure out how to adapt your learning style to your school.

    i.e. if they assume things you do not know, find out how to get up on those thigns, by tutoring, office help from the rpof ot the assistant, or a help book.

    or find a student who knows the material and get help. i.e. quit making excuses and atack the problem.
     
  5. Jun 1, 2005 #4

    cronxeh

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    I dont think Calc 2 has Green's and Stoke's theorems in which case it is supposed to be a multivariable calculus (or vector analysis aka Calculus 3) .

    In essence Mechanics only requires some basic differential equations - and the objective is not to be able to derive those formulas (although you should be able through other means) but to understand how and where they are used as well as the theorem behind it.

    For Physics 2 (Electricity & Magnetism) on undergrad level you dont need multivariable calculus. The idea of flux integrals and etc are dealt with special cases where you dont even need to compute such integral. So the only prerequisite for Physics 2 would be Calculus 2
     
  6. Jun 1, 2005 #5

    quasar987

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    Nobody's answering the question.

    Is the situation (frustration) I described familiar to you? I.e. is this something common for physics programs in universities or is it just mine that's like that?

    I'll look for another school for my "post undergraduate" studies, mathwonk, count on it.
     
  7. Jun 1, 2005 #6

    mathwonk

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    sorry: yes the situation is very familiar but it cannot be attacked by placing blame. I felt comnpletely screwed by my school for the first 2 years and managed to flunk out, feeling it was their fault all the while. but i still paid the price, so what did it matter whose fault it was? when i got back i began to deal with it and then graduated.

    you can't let the bastards grind you down as they say. you need to ask for more help, because there are mroe ways in college to fall through the cracks. but there are people there who are willing to help if you ask them.
     
  8. Jun 1, 2005 #7

    JamesU

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    uuummm.....
     
  9. Jun 2, 2005 #8
    I thought I answered your question adequately? :confused:
     
  10. Jun 2, 2005 #9

    robphy

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    The first statement I quoted is generally true, in my experience... but I think that's the nature of the subject... and the nature of the standard curriculum. You can try to learn all the math you need before your start the physics course [or before you reach the particular topic]... but that might not be practical. I remember taking vector calculus during the summer after my first year and not really understanding it then. It was only after taking E&M in the fall did all of that math begin to make sense.

    So, to answer your question: I think that this is the general situation.

    [There are attempts at new curricula:
    There is an interesting lower-level curriculum at U. Puget Sound ( http://www.math.ups.edu/~martinj/calcphys/calcphys.html ) where the calculus and physics are integrated.

    There is an interesting upper-level curriculum at Oregon State ( http://www.physics.oregonstate.edu/paradigms/index.html ) where the mathematics is reviewed with the associated physics paradigm. ]


    hmm... reading your post again...
    ...by the way, when you say "Mechanics THEN Calculus 2", do you mean introductory mechanics (Serway, Halliday-Resnick) or intermediate mechanics (Marion, Symon)?
     
  11. Jun 2, 2005 #10
    I had a really terrible experience with this problem of not knowing enough math for physics in high school. They taught us Gauss's Theorem and other stuff in E&M and the derivation of complicated formulae in 11th grade while we were introduced to calculus only in 12th grade. I remember developing a fear of physics in 11th grade because I could not understand integration and differentiation. Fortunately, when I came to the 12th grade I realized that it wasn't my fault.
    Here in India, especially the region I am in, there does not seem to be any communication between the guys who frame the math and physics syllabus.
    -Sunayana.
     
  12. Jun 2, 2005 #11
    I had the same experience also. I too believed my school sucked because of that but then I quickly learned it was just the physics department that did.
     
  13. Jun 2, 2005 #12

    quasar987

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    Symon for mechanics, Griffiths for E&M, French for waves, etc.
     
  14. Jun 2, 2005 #13

    robphy

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    Quasar987,
    if you are taking Symon without having some vector calculus and some introduction to differential equations, then [in my opinion] I would say that something is wrong.

    Without some background in vector calculus, it's hard to really appreciate conservative fields. Without some background in differential equations, it is difficult to develop the central force problem and the Lagrange Equations.

    What courses (math and physics) preceded this Symon course? What courses (math and physics) are concurrent with this Symon course?
     
  15. Jun 2, 2005 #14

    Galileo

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    I have had similar experiences here, but you have to realize how difficult it is to compile a program that is satisfactory for everyone.
    Physics simply needs a lot of math. You could go learn analysis I through IV, D.E's and whatnot, but that would take up a good amount of time, while essentially the physics students have come to learn physics and not mathematics. Filling the first semester with maths and the second with maths and physics is not the answer in my point of view. I think many people who begin physics will quit in the first year if they found out it is all about math.
    I'm sure that already the freshman courses include special relativity, basic classical mechanics, experimental physics and other stuff which aren't too mathematically difficult, but you cannot prevent some mathematical facts being used in a physics course before it has been treated in a math course.

    For a physicist, Gauss' law is intuitively clear and pleasing and surely you can get through the course without ever knowing its proof. It's no shame to accept certain theorems and methods and get used to them by solving problems with it. You'll have a head start when it is introduced in math class. And if it really bothers you (I admit I had the same sentiment), you remember in the back of the head that afterwards you can go back and do it the right way.

    :biggrin: :biggrin: Postcount 1000 people!! :biggrin: :biggrin:
     
  16. Jun 2, 2005 #15

    mathwonk

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    mathematics used in physics does not need to be understood at the level of a math course. it is sufficient to know how to plug and chug, with some intuition. indeed physics is a better place to get this intuition than math class.

    one of the primary "mathematical" tools of physics, feynman integrals, are still said to be insufficiently grounded for mathematical rigor. the advantage of physics is that when you are using the tools in a way that is proeprly motivated by the physical phenomena, then the answers are going to be right whether they are mathematically proved or not.

    thats why phyics is a source for learning new mathematical truths.

    when i was a freshman physics student i worked one homework, in which it was very tempting to just write some plausible looking but nonsensical integral and plunk out the answer.

    but i was very puzzled as to what this integral really "meant". so i thought about it and gave a rigorous explanation, of how i was using the symbols.

    the grader said i was the first person in "over a hundred papers" to explain myself. but everyone else presumably got the right answer anyway.

    eventually i decided i did not have the laissez faire mentality about math to do physics successfully, and became merely a math major, where everything is adequately defined and explained.

    so physics and math complement each other wonderfully well, and not only is it unnecessary to know all the math, a la a mathematics course, to do physics, it is also insufficient.

    so jmust ahng in there and keep using one to enhance the other. eventually you may understand both better than any practitioner of just one of them.
     
  17. Jun 2, 2005 #16

    quasar987

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    Thx for the replies everyone... it's encouraging.
     
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