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Hardcore Electrodynamics Class

  1. Oct 1, 2009 #1
    I'm just kind of curious how our school's E&M-I class compares to others because it seems like we are learning things at an advanced level (very fun though it can be intense).

    We started the year off with Special Relativity then went into Vectors; nothing weird yet. Then instead of doing things like gradients, curls, and divergence(s) we learned the ins and outs of tensors (not as in depth as a math class on it I guess but pretty in depth considering we spent basically a 1/4 of the semester learning all math and no physics).

    The required textbook is technically Ohanian's Classical Electrodynamics and the professor recommended us to get Laundau (Vol2) and Feynman Lectures. Since I was interested anyway I got the supplemental books. Much to my surprise our lecture notes are closer to the Landau book then to our actual required book.

    This isn't a complaint or anything; far from it actually. This class has been a blast so far but i'm just wondering how this fits into the scheme of things. Is it unusual for a first class in E&M to be taught using Tensors? and if so why? It is sort of harder to do then if we just used standard vector calculus but it seems efficient in the long run as far as getting set up for theoretical physics in grad school.
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 1, 2009 #2


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    I think an introduction course that is at the level of Landau is pretty rare. Are you serious about this being a first class? I don't think I wouldn't have understood anything from Landau if hadn't seen the basics first (electrostatics, magnetic fields, maxwell equations in vector calculus form, etc.).
    At our university we have an introduction course (half semester) at the level of University Physics (Freedman), very basic, in year 1. Then there is a second course (1 semester) using Griffiths in year 2. Finally, in year 3 there is a course called Classical Field Theory, using Landau Vol. 2. It was a very exciting course, I found the covariant formulation of EM really beautiful. So I guess you are lucky :)
  4. Oct 6, 2009 #3
    Sorry it took me so long to get back to you. Yeah I Swear. I mean we haven't done any E&M yet. As of last class we just derived Maxwell's Equations and I think we will be studying the actual physics now. When I said 1st course I meant 1st course in EM outside of Freshman year (sorry for the confusion). We used the same book you did for freshman and normally for the class I'm in now the professor would use Griffiths but last minute switched to Ohanian's book (with the Landau Supplement). It's not the professor's fault for this change but I think another professor was supposed to teach it and he chose the Ohanian book or something like that.

    We learned all about the tensor stuff (covariant, contravariant) how the del operator changes and stuff like that. So I'm guessing the vector calc formulation comes out of like a special case of the tensor formulations but I think this way isn't bad that we're learning it in. Mostly due to the fact that you can see the excitement the professor has for the subject. It's easily my favorite class (albeit challenging). Before his class the highest math I had was Multivariable Calc and Linear Algebra but I learned the tensors much faster because I could see how amazing the formulations were for the physics (talk about Motivation!). I haven't felt such motivation for physics since I first learned about Relativity on the Discovery/History channel back in 10th grade and never thought i'd be able to comprehend all the tensor math they were talking about. ^_^ You can see I've acquired my professor's enthusiasm. Must be contagious!
  5. Oct 7, 2009 #4


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    I'm in the second half of the second year and we just started introductory electricity and magnetism. Our book is the one of Resnick-Halliday for a part of the course and Purcell's book for most of it. In this introductory course I'll see the 4 Maxwell's equations and the laboratory part of the course consists of a lot of things to do with the osciloscope.
    So far I haven't touched tensors.

    Next semester (3rd year) I'll start the formal EM course, which is one year long. The book is the one of Jackson and the suggested ones are a lot, including Landau's one.

    I must precise that here the bachelor degree is 5 years lengthy.
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