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Going straight into grad classical mechanics?

  1. Aug 17, 2015 #1
    I have a degree in Electrical Engineering and I want to learn classical mechanics in my free time. I originally planned to just learn out of a textbook, but I saw the university near me has a graduate course in classical mechanics this semester, and I am considering enrolling in the course.

    Unfortunately, I haven't taken the undergraduate classical mechanics courses. I am only a year out of college, and I took a lot of math heavy courses (antennas, polymer physics, semiconductor fundamentals etc), so I still feel comfortable with vector calculus and differential equations, but I still don't know if this class is appropriate for me. Has anyone ever gone straight into graduate level CM, or have any advice on whether or not it is reasonable?
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 17, 2015 #2


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    Sounds like a question for the course instructor. After all, this is the person who will waive the prerequisite.

    Generally speaking if you're not sure whether you already have a solid enough background in a subject to skip the prerequisite, you probably don't.
  4. Aug 17, 2015 #3
    I already asked the instructor, and she said I could enroll and try. The course doesn't list any prerequisites at all, and has the same description as the undergraduate sequence of classical mechanics, for which I do have the prerequisites. I guess I'm wondering how different the graduate course will be from the undergraduate one.
  5. Aug 17, 2015 #4
    The difference is significant. Do you have any linear algebra/matrix theory? it will help. You should be OK with Electrodynamic apps with your EE degree. I think it will be a challenge. If one didn't have UG classical mechanics I doubt they would be permitted to take the graduate level course in a physics program.
  6. Aug 17, 2015 #5
    I say go for it. If I understand, you're not taking a semester load of other classes, right? Are you working? I think a motivated mature student would be able to do this. But be prepared to spend a lot of your "free" time catching up. Focus focus...
  7. Aug 17, 2015 #6


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    Do you know anything about Lagrangian/Hamiltonian mechanics? Have you looked at the graduate text that they will be using and see if you even understand the topics?

  8. Aug 17, 2015 #7


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    A mistake by omission!
  9. Aug 18, 2015 #8
    I went back and looked at my UG mech text and G mech text to compare the the material covered.

    The G book does not discuss statics, energy, work or equilibrium as such and jumps into dynamics in chapter two after a short review of notation while the UG text spends the first five chapter on this material.

    The Lagrangian in the UG book is covered in Ch 13 (of 15) while in the G book it is introduced in Ch 7 (of 17) .

    Angular momentum in the UG text is introduced Ch 8 (0f 15) while in the G text it is introduced in Ch 2. of (17)

    Hamilton's equation is introduced in Ch 13 (of 15) in the UG text but is introduced in Ch 10 (of 17) In the G text.

    The graduate text was designed to prepare one for classical field theory, quantum mechanic and relativity. It introduces generalized coordinates early which dissociates one from an intuitive feeling of how forces act. The UG text defers generalized coordinate notation so one can develop a feeling for how the forces are acting. If the course is just for self enrichment then what harm can be done , but if you intend to use it as a jumping off point for more advanced studies then you will have to work much harder at it. You need to do the problems to assure that you do understand the concepts and they can be bears.

    Good Luck.
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