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Getting up to speed - self-study/online/or in-person?

  1. Oct 19, 2007 #1
    Getting up to speed -- self-study/online/or in-person?

    At Berkeley, 15 years ago, I took mechanics 7a (one semester of Physics for Scientists and Engineers - Giancoli textbook) and second semester calculus (1b). I gave up physics/math at that point.

    Now I'm interested in studying physics again, just for my own edification. No intention of going to grad school, but I'd like to have an understanding of physics at the level of someone who's completed an undergraduate degree in physics.

    I live near UC Berkeley. For the next few years, it will be difficult for me to take in-person classes during the school year, but one summer course per year is probably doable. Online classes are probably doable during the year.

    I'm trying to decide what to take this summer at Berkeley. I am debating between Math 53 (multivariable calculus) and Physics 7b (E&M). I see several possible ways of doing it:

    1. Review single variable calculus and self-study multivariable calculus over the Winter/Spring in preparation for 7b in the summer
    2. Review single variable calculus in the winter, take an online course in multivariable calculus in the spring (at netmath.uiuc.edu, unless someone knows someplace better) and take 7b in the summer
    3. Review single variable calculus in the Winter/Spring and take Math 53 over the summer

    I'm probably stronger in physics than math (I got an "A" in 7a long ago, but switched math 1b to p/np because I wasn't getting an A (probably would have gotten a B in the course).

    In the end, I am not training to be a physicist, or to teach physics, I just want to understand it.
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 19, 2007 #2
    you can definitely study the calc sequence on your own.
  4. Oct 20, 2007 #3
    I agree with this. Get a book like Stewart that seems to be great for physicists/engineers and you would do fine. Also, in light of another active thread, it may be a good idea to take classes with lab components (such as the fundamental physics classes) during the summer, if that is the only time you can attend a class. Online courses may be fine for theory classes, however.
  5. Oct 20, 2007 #4
    stewart is balls. calculus by spivak and then calculus by apostol
  6. Oct 20, 2007 #5
    Spivak and Apostol are certainly great books. But, for someone that is going back to school after 15 years that had problems with calculus before, they may be a bit much. I also do not see the problem with Stewart for someone who wants to do undergraduate physics.
  7. Oct 20, 2007 #6
    Spivak is actually not a bad book to self study from, in my opinion.
  8. Oct 20, 2007 #7
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