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First Year Physics

  1. Sep 8, 2007 #1
    Hi, if anyone remembers I was the guy considering re-doing first year due to only a primitive knowledge of calc and physics thanks to easy level courses in first year. Anyway, because I won't be able to make changes to my schedule soon I really want to make sure I'm on the right track.

    I was looking at the "non-introductory" texts while at school for first year physics and they all seemed to employ a lot of calculus. In my introductory physics course, using Cutnell's physics, we never ever touched calculus. There were very few derivations, and all were algebra based. However, more or less, all the material covered was the same but us going into a little less detail.

    I've taken calculus and everything minus the proofs. I just need to know, will only algebra based physics in first year really kill me in second year physics (all advanced level)? Or should I just re-do the first year this time the calc-based level. Also, I feel I missed out on a lot of the derivations in general mechanics and stuff, and need to know if will they be repeated in upper courses such as advanced mechanics. I want a complete knowledge of something as fundamental as mechanics, and that would really suck if from here on its assumed I know.

    Thanks for your time.
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 8, 2007 #2


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    Staff: Mentor

    Does your school even allow students who have had only the algebra-based intro course to start taking intermediate/upper level courses? At most schools (in the USA at least), the calculus-based intro course is prerequisite for higher-level courses.
  4. Sep 8, 2007 #3
    Not unless you score really high. I got 92% so I'm allowed. I take it calc-based is that important?
  5. Sep 8, 2007 #4
    yes calc-based physics is very important. Try to take at least mechanics and E&M that are calc-based before taking upper-div physics courses. These classes are important as they will cover tougher problems, test how well you know your calculus, show you how to actually derive alot of the equations you had to memorize in algebra-based physics, and expose you to more labwork
  6. Sep 8, 2007 #5
    I only missed out on first year. By upper-div do you mean second-year? Because I'm currently enrolled in thermo, e&m, and waves which are all year two. Advanced mechanics comes in 3rd year. So I'm wondering if I should redo the whole year-one physics which has calc, or will these derivations be repeated in second year courses?

    Im not stupid, I know calc is heavily used in physics. I have a good background in calc, I just haven't applied any of it to physics yet. What I'm getting at is I missed out the first year calc survey course. So I'm doing 2nd year physics w/ only strong algebra roots. I am hoping that derivations will be repeated in their proper context. If however they only show up in first year, I would have to take the first year course at the appropriate level.

    Please advise.
  7. Sep 8, 2007 #6


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    Staff: Mentor

    Do you have one of the physics professors assigned to you as an academic advisor yet? Courses do vary from one university to another, so you really should talk to someone who is familiar with the setup at your university. Where I teach, when a student officially declares a major, he arranges for someone in that department to be his academic advisor from that point on. If you haven't done that yet, or if that's not the system at your university, you should at least talk to the instructors in the courses that you're thinking of taking, and ask them if they think your background might cause problems.
  8. Sep 8, 2007 #7
    upper-div physics comes after the basic calc-based physics. It is usually taken late-2nd year/early 3rd-year. Yes, I would redo the year-one physics which has calc since the physics courses afterwards will assume that you have knowledge of them. Derivations will probably be repeated, but they will be difficult to understand if you didnt learn them in 1st year physics

    Hope my advice helps
  9. Sep 9, 2007 #8
    I took HL physics for my IB diploma and passed with 6/7 and I have NEVER done a single calculus problem even in math class.
  10. Sep 9, 2007 #9
    I've borrwed a copy of Halliday's physics and this calc stuff is not so bad. I mean, in a sense all it really is a formula rewritten in integral form.

    So instead of saying W = Fxcosr they go W=∫Fdx

    The kinematic derivations are kind of funny too. And the rest of the text is filled with linear algebra basics. The dot product commutes...

    Seriously, if this is all I'm missing chances are I'll move on lol.
  11. Sep 9, 2007 #10
    Due to freshman year confusion I took both algebra and calculus based physics. They were nearly the same difficulty. Instead of learning general integral based formulas, you learn many algebraic formulas for specific cases.
  12. Sep 9, 2007 #11
    know why the notion of calculus used in physics, i.e rate of change and summing area under the curve then you might be able to understand upper-lv classes.
  13. Sep 10, 2007 #12
    this is something u learn in highschool math...
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