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How hard is my Intermediate Mechanics class supposed to be?

  1. Sep 13, 2010 #1
    At my university, it's a junior-level class, and mine is being taught by the physics associate chair. It's very fast-paced, and he told us the first day of class he would give us the hardest homework problems in the book. Well, he does. Aside from this site and finding solutions online to help me work through the problems, I could only probably do a couple completely by myself with no outside help. He gives us ten every chapter. Also, I do not simply copy and paste any solutions I find or help I get. I make sure I understand the steps and reproduce it myself understanding what I'm doing. I don't know if this considered dishonest in turning in graded homework.

    This is a hard class. Will the rest of my classes be like this (Thermal Physics, EM 1 and 2, Intro. to Solid State, Intro. to Particle Physics)?
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 13, 2010 #2
    Approximately how many chapters do you (what book)? How are the other students handling it?
     
  4. Sep 13, 2010 #3
    https://www.amazon.com/Classical-Dynamics-Particles-Systems-Thornton/dp/0534408966

    I think the mid-term will cover chapters 1, 2, 3, and 5.

    One of my friends said it's homework you have to get help or tutoring on. I've heard other students lament the difficulty of the problems.
     
  5. Sep 13, 2010 #4
    Honestly, I wouldn't worry about it as it's in no way dishonest. Professors at universities actually encourage people to go out and look for other sources to complement their knowledge, and you're doing just that. If you can look up a book that isn't the required textbook for your class for clarification on concepts you either don't quite get or ones that you aren't introduced to as part of your studies, surely you can look up what anonymous people have posted on the internet. In this day and age I guess it's getting harder for professors to come up with examples that aren't answered somewhere more readily available than in the past, but that just means there's more information and that perhaps testing methods should be changed. Additionally, look at it from a perspective of someone studying in, say, mainland Europe. As far as I know, the final exam is what makes for the grade, and homework isn't worth scratch. And why would it be unreasonable for someone to expect the same leeway when looking for information (!) just because he's studying across the pond? Now don't get me wrong, I am strongly against cheating during exams and such, but there the rules are set quite rigidly and I don't believe you can liken these two situations. At the exam you are supposed to come up equipped with knowledge that you've gathered that far, and in my opinion you are doing just that, gathering knowledge. If they explicitly said you are not to use any outer resources then that would be a different story, and what you're doing would be considered cheating. That still wouldn't make their conduct just and right, and I don't think anyone would really blame you for going against it. Because, in the end, isn't university education actually aimed at learning as much as you can?
     
  6. Sep 13, 2010 #5
    Do you go to CSM? We have a notoriously difficult mechanics professor, and we use Thornton and Marrion as well (but it's a common book).

    Yes, it should be hard, and yes, you should suffer. The beginning of junior year is what separates the kiddies from the adults. You should learn to work in groups, and get help from the professor as much as you need to. Yes, it sucks, but it's also over in 4 short months, and it helps prepare your study and work habits for the rest of your physics career.

    Just work hard, keep your chin up, and take a day off every week so you don't burn out! :)
     
  7. Sep 14, 2010 #6

    Vanadium 50

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    You can only hope. With what college costs today, you really want to be getting your money's worth.
     
  8. Sep 14, 2010 #7
    Ten problems from that book does seem a little much. Maybe I'm just slow, but each problem from that book takes me about 2 hours. On the other hand, the class is critically important, along with E&M and quantum, because everything else in physics builds off of those.
     
  9. Sep 14, 2010 #8
    First, I'd hazard a guess that if the problems are that hard, other students will be looking for a way out. I bet you would be surprised if you knew how many students in the class had some type of solutions manual or knowledge from someone who took the class previously. Obviously you can't just copy solutions, but beyond that it's a gray area.

    You should try to work with other students on the homework. At worst, you will at least feel better knowing you're not the only one struggling. At best, you may learn a lot from each other.

    Most of the core physics classes (em, classical mechanics, qm, thermo/stat mech) have the potential to be pretty darn hard. Guess the JFK quote that goes here.

    All you can do is your best. Physics nearly broke me many times but in the end I won.
     
  10. Sep 14, 2010 #9
    Haha. That's a good way of putting it. My modern physics professor told us students at my university have complained that when they transferred to other schools for graduate work, they were behind in quantum mechanics. So, the physics department and he are making sure we get a good quantum mechanics background so that we'll be able to transfer anywhere just fine.

    They take me about the same. I've never had a class where all the problems were this involved. But then again I understand why. This is an actual classical mechanics class. The book isn't all that great in preparing you for the homework problems, but I guess that just means it requires us to work at an advanced level even at this level which is inherently advanced.

    Yeah, there are a few physics majors I study with for exams, but no so much for the homework right now. I go to school MWF and work all-day TTh and half-day on Friday.
     
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