# High School physics is too easy

1. Aug 17, 2012

### XtremePhysX

High School physics is too easy :(

Why is it that the maths involved in High School physics very simple?
I really don't like the way physics is structured in High School, it is full of theory and very little mathematics is involved. We even study the history of AC and DC and have to write an essay about the conflict between Westinghouse and Edison LOL.
I think I'll start learning uni physics so what textbook do you guys think is good for university physics?

2. Aug 17, 2012

### azizlwl

3. Aug 17, 2012

### Ryan_m_b

Staff Emeritus
Re: High School physics is too easy :(

What's wrong with that

4. Aug 17, 2012

### XtremePhysX

Re: High School physics is too easy :(

I hate rote learning :(
Rote learning is for biologists !
I did biology as well, you literally just have to memorise the textbook, so I dropped it.
Now I do Maths, Physics, Chemsitry and English, even though chemistry involves a lot of rote learning it is much better than subjects like economics, history etc...

Last edited: Aug 17, 2012
5. Aug 17, 2012

### Ryan_m_b

Staff Emeritus
Re: High School physics is too easy :(

How is writing an essay rote learning? You have to research into the issue, develop understandings of the topic and construct either a review or argument. These are skills that are very useful, you wont get a good mark for just repeating the subject.
I'm a biologist and I contend this.
Your school was teaching/grading the subject incorrectly if all you did was memorise rather than understand.

6. Aug 17, 2012

### XtremePhysX

Re: High School physics is too easy :(

I assume all these subject are taught completely differently at university so excuse my lack of knowledge :)

7. Aug 17, 2012

### nicholls

Re: High School physics is too easy :(

While I agree that learning a little bit of physics history is useful (and interesting), and learning to write essays is useful, I would have to agree that in a high school physics classroom, these types of things should not be the focus.

One of the roles of high school is to make kids interested in pursuing fields, for example physics. Thus, the things they should teach and how they teach them, should be representative of what a future in physics would entail. Unfortunately, writing essays on the history of physics is not something which physicists do often (or at all).

The problem with doing this, is that it may turn kids away from pursuing physics who might otherwise be interested. When I was in high school, I cared a lot lot less about the history of electricity, what really motivated me to go to class were the discussions we had on quantum physics and relativity. Those were the things which really sparked my interest in the field and caused me to pursue it in post graduate education.

8. Aug 17, 2012

### Ryan_m_b

Staff Emeritus
Re: High School physics is too easy :(

Fair enough.
I don't think they are the focus but they are important for understanding why the field is as it is. Also studying the history of science and how it has affected the world is equally important than understanding the science itself, especially from the point of view of the vast majority who will never go into science but will have their lives affected by it.
Different things for different people of course but I can think of many examples where studying the history of a subject can be as inspiring or even more inspiring than the subject; especially amongst groups that are a minority in science e.g. women.

9. Aug 17, 2012

### WannabeNewton

Re: High School physics is too easy :(

Just because the math is simple doesn't mean the physics itself is easy. I can find countless mechanics problems that only use algebra but are quite difficult to figure out immediately. You just gotta find the right books to learn from. Advanced mathematics doesn't necessarily make the PHYSICS any harder or more challenging problems - wise.

10. Aug 17, 2012

### XtremePhysX

Re: High School physics is too easy :(

This is exactly what I'm trying to say.
I watch a lot of physics documentaries and I read about university level physics and maths on Wikipedia and other websites so I know what physics and maths actually are in university and I'll most likely pursue physics/maths.
I think the reason why they do not teach applications of mathematics in Physics is because Mathematics is not compulsory at high school so they assume that some students don't have the knowledge to do for example basic zeta functions and their uses in the areas of the Casimir effect and Bose–Einstein condensation. We study Bose–Einstein condensation but we never get deep into it, we just know that +0.5, -0.5 fermions combine due to the formation of a phonon which results in a 0, +1, -1 Boson which becomes a Bose–Einstein condensate when the metals temp is below Tc...
The maths involved is very very simple which I believe is not the case in university physics.
We do Motion, Electricity, Introduction to Quantum Mechanics, Quantum Mechanics and Quarks (they are named differently).
Have a look at these exams papers:
http://www.boardofstudies.nsw.edu.au/hsc_exams/hsc2011exams/pdf_doc/2011-hsc-exam-physics.pdf
http://www.boardofstudies.nsw.edu.au/hsc_exams/hsc2010exams/pdf_doc/2010-hsc-exam-physics.pdf
http://www.boardofstudies.nsw.edu.au/hsc_exams/hsc2009exams/pdf_doc/2009-hsc-physics.pdf
http://www.boardofstudies.nsw.edu.au/hsc_exams/hsc2008exams/pdf_doc/2008HSC-physics.pdf

11. Aug 17, 2012

### Staff: Mentor

Re: High School physics is too easy :(

There's not a heck of a lot of difference between introductory university physics textbooks. It's mainly a matter of style, and preferences are hard to predict if you've never used one. If you know some calculus, get a calculus-based book, e.g. Halliday/Resnick/Walker "Fundamentals of Physics." If you have some idea what university you'll end up going to, try to find out which book they use there.

12. Aug 17, 2012

### XtremePhysX

Re: High School physics is too easy :(

I'll look for it in the library, otherwise, I'll have to buy it, it costs around \$100.
Thanks for the help =)

13. Aug 17, 2012

### StatGuy2000

Re: High School physics is too easy :(

If you don't mind my asking, where exactly are you from? I'm curious as to whether your experience in high school physics class is typical of students in your area.

Years ago when I was in high school (in Canada for me), the physics classes I took consisted of basic high school algebra explaining the theory of physics combined with fairly simple experiments demonstrating basic physics principles (e.g. E&M, dynamics, etc.). As far as I can recall, the history of physics was discussed, but it was very far from the core curriculum (although there was a project requirement which consisted of a number of options, including teaching the class on a physics topic, writing an essay on a physics-based topic, developing a computer program demonstrating a physics principle using simulation, or conducting a class demonstration of a lab).

14. Aug 17, 2012

### XtremePhysX

Re: High School physics is too easy :(

I'm from Australia.
http://hsc.csu.edu.au/physics/
this website shows you exactly how the physics course is structured here.

15. Aug 17, 2012

### Staff: Mentor

Re: High School physics is too easy :(

16. Aug 17, 2012

### Norfonz

Re: High School physics is too easy :(

Part of physics is learning how to think; not necessarily in the mathematical sense, but in the physical sense! Keep your mind open, as the mathematics isn't necessarily the most difficult part of physical problems.

I can't answer your question on the textbook, though. I've only used the standard collegiate textbook "University Physics" by Freedman. I found it rather dry, though it is chock-full of good examples.

17. Aug 17, 2012

### zyj

Re: High School physics is too easy :(

A cheap older edition of HRW in good condition off of AbeBooks shouldn't cost you that much, though I admit I have no idea how much shipping to Australia costs. Not much actually changes between editions.

18. Aug 17, 2012

### thegreenlaser

Re: High School physics is too easy :(

Your ambition is good, but beware of the "what I'm learning is stupid" attitude. An attitude like that won't help you succeed. I've known enough people who think that way, and they usually regret it or don't make it far.

19. Aug 17, 2012

### chill_factor

Re: High School physics is too easy :(

There's plenty of algebra and trig based problems that are very challenging even for physics majors.

The skills I've used most is basic calculus. 80% of problems you will encounter in undergrad homework and tests can be handled by math from high school algebra up to multivariable calculus which is amazing when you think about it. Of the remaining 20%, 19% can be solved with differential equations or linear algebra.

That doesn't mean that everyone gets A's even if they know all the math. I've had upper division physics classes where there were zero calculations on the final yet the mean was extremely low because *physics itself* is hard, it is not just because of the math that makes it hard.

20. Aug 17, 2012

### chiro

Re: High School physics is too easy :(

Very interesting and definitely in many ways an unfortunate sign of the times.

21. Aug 18, 2012

### mikelepore

Re: High School physics is too easy :(

Regarding the state-controlled high school syllabus in New York, I agree with you.
The math involved in physics class tends to have this form:

Multiple choice: If you double the force applied to a mass, what happens to
the acceleration?
(1) You double it (2) You half it (3) You quadruple it (4) None of the above

The hardest problem ever encountered is calculating sin, cos, tan
when given the sides of a right triangle.

A lot of math is a prerequisite to take the class, but then it is not used.

22. Aug 18, 2012

### XtremePhysX

Re: High School physics is too easy :(

We just have to memorize formulae, we aren't even required to know the derivation.
For example, we are just required to substitute given values into $$\frac{1}{\lambda }=R\left ( \frac{1}{n_{f}^{2}}-\frac{1}{n_{i}^{2}} \right )$$ we are not required to know the derivation at all.
And that it probably the most complicated-looking equation in the Australian syllabus.

23. Aug 18, 2012

### nicholls

Re: High School physics is too easy :(

To be honest, that is a lot more complicated then the equations I had to know. I think all I learned was kinematics, and a little bit of gravity (potential, force).

I think you are receiving a pretty good physics education haha. I never learned how to derive things until university.

24. Aug 18, 2012

### Staff: Mentor

Re: High School physics is too easy :(

If memory serves me well, this one was actually guessed, not derived :tongue:

25. Aug 18, 2012

### XtremePhysX

Re: High School physics is too easy :(

Yes, that's Bohr's equation I think. I had a looks at Maxwell's Equations on Wikipedia the other day and they look really complicated, wish we studies those too :P
Quantum Mechanics is my favourite topic and luckily we spend 50% of the course on Quantum Mechanics, 25% on motion and %25 on Electricity.