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"General physics" vs. "Classical physics"

  1. May 7, 2015 #1
    Dear fellows,
    I wonder about what is the difference between general physics (i.e. Halliday and the like) and the classical mechanics/electromagnetic theory/etc sequence (i.e. Fowles, Purcell, etc). Someone told me that it is only about the mathematics required, but in that case, is general physics needed at all? I mean, a book like Halliday seems to avoid slightly more complicated maths (if you can say that integrals are complicated at all) like the plague.

    Actually, I'm only complaining because I'm an undergraduate student (major in physics) and the General physics course is so annoying. It makes me think that physics is only about cumbersome text-problems that involve cars or other ridicule stuff. What is worst, with so little mathematical insight that you think perhaps you are just a chimp...

    On the other hand, I came across Fowles' book on analytical mechanics and, suddenly, many things started to make sense. For example, circular motion using only algebra is so difficult, but when you look through the glass of vector calculus it become so easy. And, what is most important, so beautiful.

    So, can someone give me some insight here please? Thanks in advance!
  2. jcsd
  3. May 7, 2015 #2


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    A lot about can depend on how the program is set up at your university. Unfortunately the reality is that most students who take first-year physics take it because it's a requirement for medical school or the program they've signed up for an have little interest in the "beauty" of problems in classical mechanics. Some schools will even have seperate first-year classes for physical science majors (ie. a calculus-based physics), and everyone else (algebra-based). Other schools will lump everyone into the same course and more often than not, end up teaching to the lowest common denominator. If that's the case for you, just get through it. Things will get more interesting in your second year.
  4. May 10, 2015 #3
    Dear Choppy,
    thanks for your answer. I think you are right: just look forward and be cool, although in my case we are talking about third year.
    Best regards!
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