Importance of learning Physics II in the long run?

  1. I'm currently taking Calculus-based Physics II, an introductory to electromagnetism. While I'm working hard to understand the material as deeply and intuitively as possible, I wonder how much of the material will be useful later on? I am seeing a bunch of concepts such as electric potential V, potential energy U, electric flux, capacitance etc. but how much of what I am being introduced to will help in my understanding of future classes such as electrodynamics or quantum mechanics? How useful is it to learn everything introduced as intuitively as possible?
  2. jcsd
  3. Pengwuino

    Pengwuino 6,949
    Gold Member

    You should be trying to understand them as much as humanly possible. Is that a good enough response? Aka they're important.
  4. So in other words, I will need pretty much most of these concepts for later classes?

    I'm doing pretty much half the problems in the chapter, I was just hoping it would be to good use in later classes.
  5. Pengwuino

    Pengwuino 6,949
    Gold Member

    Yes, a large portion of electrodynamics is finding potentials. It turns out that it is extremely difficult to find electric fields directly from Coulomb's Law for more than the most basic charge configurations. Potentials are much easier to work with. Electric flux is important along with capacitance as well, so learn the material.

    Don't worry if you don't develop a fantastic intuition during this class. You will see this material again.
  6. Hm, we just started a very small portion of capacitance; I would have thought that it would be useless for future classes and only helpful for engineering applications. Thanks for the insight. ^.^
  7. vanhees71

    vanhees71 4,343
    Science Advisor
    2014 Award

    There are different levels of understanding physics, and each one is important. Particularly to get also physics intuition is mandatory; particularly if you become a theorist. It is not very helpful to just do formally complicated calculations without any feeling for what's going on in the problem from a healthy physical intuition, because without it you can get easily lost in some complicated formalism with nonsensical or even plain wrong results, because either you have made physically unjustified assumptions or even made a mistake in your calculation. Then you need physical intuition to critically judge such results and perhaps be able to figure out mistakes!

    Electromagnetism is very important not only from a practical point of view but also from a conceptional one since it's the most simple example of a relativistic field theory, and relativistic (quantum) field theory is the most fundamental model for a large part of nature (particles, matter, etc.).
  8. Thanks for the insight, any type of perspective is really appreciated. I've been getting more and more interested lately as I've been getting a feel of what it will be like being a physicist. I kind of imagine myself being a physicist as I try to solve a problem, so it motivates me to get as much of a conceptual understanding as possible; and actually.. its a lot of fun!

    And yes, I'm planning on doing theory at the moment, only time can tell.
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