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Going to Cornell Next year and need some class advice (Physics Major)

  1. Jul 20, 2007 #1
    Yeah, so I don't know how difficult I should take classes.

    I have a 5 on Phys Mechanics and E&M AP tests, as well as a 4 on the BC Calc Test (5 AB Subscore). These can get me the highest possible placements.

    Do you think I should place into a 200 level class in Physics, or should I stick with Honors Mechanics and Special Relativity (which is a single course). I was looking at some Problem Sets in this course, and they looked pretty difficult, so I don't know.

    For Math, I can place into Calculus III (which I believe is multivariable Calc) or I can take Linear Algebra and possible a Diff Equations course, I'm not positive.

    So any advice would be great. Thank You.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 21, 2007 #2
    If you're questioning whether skipping the first year course is a good idea, you probably shouldn't skip it.

    At any rate, the freshman class will be a good social experience and you will meet the other physics majors that you will be studying with for the rest of your degree.
  4. Jul 21, 2007 #3
    special relativity is in an intro course? wow you're lucky. take the intro courses. the ap classes aren't nearly as rigorous as intro physics class is at a good school like cornell. i guess you're comfortable with integral and differential calculus and integration methods and series and sequences so you're skipping calc 1 and 2 ? i don't know if that's a good idea or bad idea because i never took the calc ap classes but again college classes>ap classes. calc 3 and linear algebra and diff eq are pretty much all on the same level so you can take them however you choose, even all 3 at the same time probably wouldn't be too bad of an idea.
  5. Jul 21, 2007 #4
    If you want a more solid foundation in calculus take an analysis class later on instead of retaking calc 1 and 2. Linear algebra should come before calc 3 if you want to understand what's going on.
  6. Jul 21, 2007 #5


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    Special relativity can be incorporated into many introductory courses since it needs no higher level maths-- the concepts are far harder to grasp than the mathematics. I had SR tagged onto the end of my intro mechanics course, since I guess they thought it was important enough for everyone to have a slight grasp of. However, it isn't until later on that many people are given a rigorous course in SR, utilising lagrangian/hamiltonian mechanics and introducing tensors, in a way to prepare for GR courses.
  7. Jul 21, 2007 #6
    Yeah the special relativity is just tacked on like cristo said. Otherwise it's a pretty standard mechanics course for freshman, just more demanding. I think I'll take that and linear algebra. I'm pretty comfortable with differential and integral calculus, not so much series, but I can learn that independently.
  8. Jul 21, 2007 #7


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    Going by this syllabus [in .ps format]
    http://www.lns.cornell.edu/~maxim/P116/Spring2005/handout1.ps [Broken]
    using Kleppner and Kolenkow isn't (for most places) standard at that level [unfortunately].
    It is, as you say, more demanding.

    (I didn't like parts of the KK chapters on special relativity at the end. You may wish to consult parts of Taylor and Wheeler http://www.eftaylor.com/download.html#special_relativity instead.
    For a different approach, you might like to consult some old class notes by Mermin at http://www.lassp.cornell.edu/~cew2/P209/P209_home.html [Broken] )
    Last edited by a moderator: May 3, 2017
  9. Jul 21, 2007 #8
    agree with you completely
  10. Jul 21, 2007 #9


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    Don't skip the intro courses. Even if you find them easy, they'll be nice refresher courses, in which you can get some easy A's or A-'s if you know them well enough. If you end up not knowing the material as well as you thought....well, your in the right class then. Also, as others said, you'll get to meet others in your year and socialize.
    Last edited: Jul 21, 2007
  11. Jul 21, 2007 #10
    i understand that it can be, im just saying it's cool that it is that way in his class. here the only special relativity stuff in the SR/GR senior class
  12. Jul 21, 2007 #11
    Thanks guys, I'm definitely taking the intro honors course..
  13. Jul 21, 2007 #12


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    Cool! Good luck to you in the future!
  14. Jul 22, 2007 #13
    i'd have loved to have taken the honors sequence at cornell. ah well.

    glad to hear you'll be doing the kleppner/purcell sequence. not a whole lot of schools provide that, afaik.
  15. Jul 22, 2007 #14
    I hate how High school sets some kids up to failwith AP classes. Not saying you will fail, but as a TA I can say I have seen so many kids get 5's on ap exams come to college, try and take the next class after tha exam's placement, take the 2nd class 2x, only having to go back and take the 1st one over again, then having to take that second class a 3rd time.

    I wish ya the best. But even at Cornell and you sounding very bright, id rather you take Mechanics and E & M again.
    Last edited: Jul 22, 2007
  16. Jul 22, 2007 #15
    Thanks, Llama, that's what I plan on doing.
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