How to think about physics? / How to approach a difficult problem?

In summary, the best way to improve your problem solving skills in physics is to practice and make mistakes, always asking questions and trying to understand the underlying principles behind the equations and concepts you are using. This will help you develop a deeper understanding of the subject and become a better problem solver in physics.
  • #1
azukibean
18
0
How I currently approach a difficult problem:
-draw a diagram
-list out all the given variables and "solve-for" variable
--use variables to match to a formula ("oh they didn't give the time, I should use the formula V^2-V0^2 = 2*a*(S-S0)," or "I have a, t, and V0, and assuming S0 is 0, I can use S = a/2*t^2 + V0*t +S0)
--if I have two unknown variables, I think whether or not I could relate one of those variables in terms of the other

You obviously have a different mindset for maths than for analyzing literature. How to I become better at thinking about physics?
Sometimes how things relate don't jump out at me. And are there better ways to approach a problem?

++++
ex:

Homework Statement


A student drops her textbook from the top of a roof. It passed a distance of 1.4 m in .02 s (from the top of a window to the bottom). Find the distance from the top of the window to the top of the roof.

Homework Equations


1. v = a*t + v0
2. S - S0 = Vbar*t
3. S = a/2*t^2 + V0*t + S0
4. V^2-V0^2 = 2*a*(S-S0)

The Attempt at a Solution


Thought process:
"I have S, t, and a. I should find the velocity. I use equation 3 and make sure whatever I put in is consistent/makes sense. (-1.4 = (-5)(.02)^2 + 0t + S0 is not consistent, because I plugged in the initial velocity at the time 0 s, right before she dropped the book)
If I have the time, I could find the distance. If V = -69.9 and a = -10 it took... 6.99 s. I have most of the variables for E3. I plug it in, and I find the top of the window is -244.3. The total distance is then 244.3."
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As you can see, I employ a method of "find the easily found unknown" hoping it will lead to the wanted unknown. I think that's a trait of my maths mindset.
So how do I get better at thinking about physics? TIA. Hopefully this isn't a weird question.
 
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  • #2
Your approach is the same approach I was taught in high-school level physics. It was termed the GRASP method (Given; Required; Assess; Solve; Paraphrase). I think this is a very useful method while one is being introduced to problem solving, a skill which is developed by completing more and more physics problems.

In general, for high school level physics this approach will be "all you need". The vast majority of problems you will face are simple enough that this approach works surprisingly well. As you encounter more and more advanced problems you might find this approach becomes less useful - or maybe it will retain its utility.

To answer your question, however - you get better at (thinking about) physics by doing physics. You have to do physics and you have to make mistakes and learn from the mistakes you make and always ask "why" what you did was wrong. Sometimes you might just make a math error, forgetting a negative sign here or there, but sometimes you'll discover some kind of more subtle physical property of a system by making mistakes or overlooking something simple.
 

1. How can I improve my problem-solving skills in physics?

In order to improve your problem-solving skills in physics, it is important to first understand the underlying concepts and principles. This can be achieved by thoroughly studying and reviewing the material, practicing with various types of problems, and seeking help from a teacher or tutor if needed. Additionally, developing a systematic approach to solving problems, such as breaking them down into smaller, more manageable steps, can also greatly improve your problem-solving abilities.

2. What is the best way to approach a difficult physics problem?

When faced with a difficult physics problem, it is important to remain calm and not get overwhelmed. Start by carefully reading and understanding the problem, identifying what is given and what is being asked. Next, use your knowledge of relevant concepts and equations to devise a plan for solving the problem. If you get stuck, try approaching the problem from a different angle or breaking it down into smaller parts. It can also be helpful to discuss the problem with others or seek guidance from a teacher.

3. How can I develop a deeper understanding of physics?

Developing a deeper understanding of physics requires active engagement with the material. This can include participating in class discussions, asking questions, and working through practice problems. Additionally, seeking out real-world applications of the concepts being studied can help solidify your understanding. It can also be beneficial to make connections between different concepts and see how they relate to each other.

4. Should I memorize equations in physics?

While it is important to have a basic understanding of key equations in physics, it is not necessary to memorize every single one. Instead, focus on understanding the underlying concepts and principles, and how they can be applied to solve problems. This will not only help with retention of information, but also allow for a deeper understanding and more effective problem-solving skills.

5. How can I stay motivated when studying physics?

Staying motivated while studying physics can be challenging, but there are some strategies that can help. Firstly, try to find the aspects of physics that interest you the most and focus on those. Additionally, setting achievable goals and rewarding yourself for reaching them can help keep you motivated. It can also be helpful to join a study group or find a study partner to keep yourself accountable and motivated. Lastly, don't be too hard on yourself and remember that it's okay to take breaks when needed.

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