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Studying How to truly UNDERSTAND physics and not just memorising?

  1. Mar 11, 2016 #1
    First of all, I am not new here in the forum. What I mean with this is that I have previously posted several threads in the past (about calculus and physics). Even though most of your answers you give to the threads help me a lot for my assignments and exams (which I really appreciate, thanks :D) my main issue is about how to learn and not memorise things. I explain you:

    I consider myself to be a good student. I always do my homework, study for the exams and passing the courses (or at least avoid failing them). I am in 4th semester in Engineering School studying Mechatronics; however I don't see any progress in my learning. With this I mean is that even though I am passing my subjects I don't learn (or I don't feel I am truly learning).

    Take as an example the course of Fluid Mechanics. I am taking this course and I feel I am going good having passed the exams with 100 (because the teacher allowed us to use sheets with the formulas and taking out our notebooks to check the notes of what we have written in class) and I have the feeling I'm not learning the physics behind the course. I can memorise the fact that the formula to calculate the vorticity of a fluid:

    [itex]\omega = \nabla \times \mathbf{v}[/itex]

    And if in a test they give me the velocity of the fluid and I know what the del operator equals to the thing I proceed to do is to plot in the equation, do the math and get the problem correct; but what does the vorticity of a fluid actually mean? How to appreciate that phenomenon in a real life situation? What's the physics behind the concept?

    Or for example in an exam they could ask me to calculate the center of pressure of a body, doing exactly the same thing; having the data, plotting, doing the math and getting the right answer, but I don't know exactly what center of pressure exactly means?

    And Fluid Mechanics is not the only subject in which this happens, it also happens in other courses I have taken or that I'm taking like Strength of Materials, Materials Science, Waves, Thermodynamics and so on; and I find this way too frustrating because as a future engineer if I were asked to find the solution to a problem or to design something new I would not be able to do so because I don't have the proper bases (just memorising formulas and facts) and this makes the physics courses look so boring!

    I don't know what to do, because I'm eager to understand how the world works from the perspective of physics to find solutions to it.

  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 11, 2016 #2
    Memorization and understanding are not mutually exclusive.

    That equation you posted means this fluid has a position varying velocity vector which is also rotating; del cross a vector means that the vector field is rotating in general.

    The equations map to physical phenomena in the real world, so you have to extrapolate what they mean to the physical phenomena you're trying to engineer and calculate with the physics you're using.
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