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General Suggestions

  1. Oct 25, 2005 #1
    I need just general help right now. I'm in physics, and I'm doing terrible in it. I'm reading the book, I work the examples out, then see how they were done. I've always got most of them right. I go to do the homework, and I'm stumped. My teacher doesn't work from the book because he wants you to think. I'm just not getting it. Will someone give me some suggestions on the best way to learn and study this subject. I've come to find that I think too hard. Sometimes it's something small and I just ask my bf, and he'll point out some common sense item to me, and suddenly it clicks a little bit better. I'm so used to memorization. My professor told me that's not going to work with this, and he's right. :grumpy:
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 26, 2005 #2

    Doc Al

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    Staff: Mentor

    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 21, 2017
  4. Oct 26, 2005 #3


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    Homework Helper

    I have very little to add to Doc's links, which are excellent. I wish I'd had those when I was studying physics. However, one thing I did notice was that there are really two approaches to any physics problem - the mathematical one and the physical one. Being a math major, I often found that I could manipulate the equations without too much trouble, but I sometimes had difficulty figuring out which equations to use. I finally realized that I was treating physics as though the equations were all there was to the subject, which is simply wrong. Physics is about studying the physical universe, which you have been doing since the day you were born. The equations are simply mathematical models of physical phenomena. While they are important, they are and properly should be secondary to the actual physics of the situation.

    Something I had to work for was an understanding of what the variables in the equations actually represented, and the physical processes that those equations were modelling. For instance, when you're talking about Hooke's Law (which I just was in another thread), the equation is F = -kx. It's a simple linear equation, and any first year algebra student can handle it without problem. The point is, though, that it's much more than that. It's a statement that the force exerted by a spring will change as you stretch or compress the spring. It says that if you stretch it to a certain distance, it will pull with a certain force. Double that distance, you'll double the force. The k is nothing more than a constant to turn a proportionality into an equation. It'll be determined by the actual nature of the spring - is it made of spring steel, or aluminum, or wet pasta? Stronger materials will give you a larger k - a greater force for a given extension. Wet pasta would have a very small k - it isn't going to pull particularly hard.

    I started having some success when I finally started getting a picture in my head of what the variables and definitions actually meant. When I started, for instance, being able to picture forces accelerating objects, to imagine what it would feel like to sit on all of those particles being hit by other particles, or to try to pull those innumerable carts up those endless inclined planes. In short, to be able to understand the actual physics rather than just looking at the pure math of the equations. Interestingly, as I did that, the equations began to make a great deal more sense. I ceased having to "look for an equation" to solve a problem. I was able to feel what the central issues were, and from that I knew what models I needed to use.

    I found it hard to do that, but I also found it rewarding. Others I know find it much easier. In any event, I'd suggest you try it. Make sure you understand the definitions, so that the difference between terms like (for instance) "velocity" and "acceleration" aren't things you have to think about. Once you get to the point where those concepts are real to you, I think you'll find the problems a good deal easier to solve. As a bonus, you'll start seeing those things in the world around you as well, which will enrich your perceptions of things in ways I can't begin to describe.

    And it's a lot of fun, too. :)
  5. Oct 26, 2005 #4
    thank you

    :rofl: I just wanted to tell you how much I appreciated your time. The study links are great. Your advice was also great. I think that I'm starting to get there. I almost bumped into someone the other day and the first thing I thought of was Newton's third law. LOL. It's just taking me so long to learn, and I'm used to things being easy for me. I'm not doing well in my course, but I'm still trying to work at my own pace so that I can try to understand it. Maybe in the end I can pull a C, and be better off in physics 2 !:redface:
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