Is an introductory physics course necessary?

In summary, an introductory physics course might not be necessary for someone who is self-learning, but it is required at some universities. It is also recommended that someone take an intro course if they want to be a physicist at a certain level.
  • #1
ultrasmart
30
0
Is an introductory physics course necessary??

I'm learning physics in my spare time, however, I hope to be professional in physics, so I took a look at many universities physics curricula and found that students must take an introductory general physics course at some universities, and at other universities students never take such a course.

I've read the mechanics part of Tipler's Physics for scientists and engineers. And I don't know if I should continue reading it or ignore the rest of it and begin reading a CM text such as Taylor's and an E&M text such as Purcell's.

So what should I do?

Is reading an introductory physics textbook necessary for me and so I have to reread Tipler's completely??

Or

Should I ignore introductory physics and begin reading a CM textbook such as Taylor's?

For maths, I've read a textbook that covers Calc I & II and Differential Equations.
 
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  • #2


What schools skip intro physics? The only times I ever hear of something like that are when the students all come in so advance an intro sequence is not necessary.
 
  • #3


Second that - you'd could talk to the dean or some adviser at the level you want to enter college at, but they will certainly expect you to be able to prove that you are ready for that level.

In NZ, it is sometimes possible to sit the final exam for the level you want to skip (the year before you want to enroll.)
 
  • #4


Jorriss said:
What schools skip intro physics? The only times I ever hear of something like that are when the students all come in so advance an intro sequence is not necessary.

Most classical mechanics texts (such as Taylor's or Kleppner's) don't require knowledge of physics that's further than high school physics before reading it.
 
  • #5


Simon Bridge said:
Second that - you'd could talk to the dean or some adviser at the level you want to enter college at, but they will certainly expect you to be able to prove that you are ready for that level.

In NZ, it is sometimes possible to sit the final exam for the level you want to skip (the year before you want to enroll.)

What college?! I'm self-learner, I've said above: I'm learning physics in my spare time.
 
  • #6


ultrasmart said:
Most classical mechanics texts (such as Taylor's or Kleppner's) don't require knowledge of physics that's further than high school physics before reading it.
Well, sure, but if you really nailed HS physics then you may not need an intro sequence.

And Taylor would be a terrible choice for an intro course UNLESS everyone already HS physics.
 
  • #7


What's the point of the class, if one has already taken regular high school physics, though? One already has a broad (albeit perhaps vague) idea of the various physics topics. Why not just jump straight into proper intro mechanics and E&M texts?

I suppose that's why the Berkeley Physics Series and MIT Introductory Physics (A.P French) books exist. But then those were "honors" courses. At MIT, I'm not sure if the books were used for 8.01, or 8.012. (I don't go there; I just spent some time on OCW)

Edit: I was replying to another thread, and had clicked on this one a while back. It's only after I posted that the other replies "appeared."
 
  • #8


Mépris said:
What's the point of the class, if one has already taken regular high school physics, though? One already has a broad (albeit perhaps vague) idea of the various physics topics. Why not just jump straight into proper intro mechanics and E&M texts?

I suppose that's why the Berkeley Physics Series and MIT Introductory Physics (A.P French) books exist. But then those were "honors" courses. At MIT, I'm not sure if the books were used for 8.01, or 8.012. (I don't go there; I just spent some time on OCW)

Edit: I was replying to another thread, and had clicked on this one a while back. It's only after I posted that the other replies "appeared."

So do you mean that a person who has taken high school physics can go through CM text safely without reading a a general introductory text?
 
  • #9


ultrasmart said:
So do you mean that a person who has taken high school physics can go through CM text safely without reading a a general introductory text?
There's a good chance. If your course was calculus based and you covered the big topics (kinematic equations, Newtons laws, work-kinetic energy theorem, etc, etc) and you feel comfortable with all that, then sure, it shouldn't be a problem.

Also, an intro sequence means many different things at different universities. I've come to know a few people who took their intro courses at Caltech and they are effectively advanced undergraduate.
 
  • #10


Jorriss said:
There's a good chance. If your course was calculus based and you covered the big topics (kinematic equations, Newtons laws, work-kinetic energy theorem, etc, etc) and you feel comfortable with all that, then sure, it shouldn't be a problem.

Thanks a lot..

Your answers are very helpful ^_^.. My HS course was algebra-based :(. So according to your advice I have to go through an introductory physics calc-based text.
 
  • #11


ultrasmart said:
Thanks a lot..

Your answers are very helpful ^_^.. My HS course was algebra-based :(. So according to your advice I have to go through an introductory physics calc-based text.
Let me put it another way when you go through a calculus based intro physics book, is it boring and familiar? or challenging & unfamiliar?

You can always just pick up a copy of Taylor and get going with an intro book by your side and if it's too difficult, then use the intro book and if not, then great.
 
  • #12


Jorriss said:
Let me put it another way when you go through a calculus based intro physics book, is it boring and familiar? or challenging & unfamiliar?

You can always just pick up a copy of Taylor and get going with an intro book by your side and if it's too difficult, then use the intro book and if not, then great.

I know that the topics that are covered in the introductory text such as Tipler's are more advanced than algebra based HS course, so, I certainly find it boring and unfamiliar.

But I thought that the topics that covered in a general introductory text are again covered in more advanced textbooks (such as Taylor and Purcell) so eliminating the need to read an introductory physics text by reading more specific texts on CM and E&M.
 
  • #13


ultrasmart said:
What college?! I'm self-learner, I've said above: I'm learning physics in my spare time.

That's inconsistent with your plan to become a professional physicist. It would be like someone who self-studied and owned a set of steak knives wanting to be a surgeon.
 
  • #14


Vanadium 50 said:
It would be like someone who self-studied and owned a set of steak knives wanting to be a surgeon.

LOL! That's right..

I said that just to tell the readers of my question that I'm really interested in physics and I want to learn it seriously.. and certainly not aiming to be really professional just by reading in spare time!

I'm sorry for using the word "professional", it was misleading.
 
  • #15


ultrasmart said:
What college?! I'm self-learner, I've said above: I'm learning physics in my spare time.
I took a look at many universities physics curricula and found that students must take an introductory general physics course at some universities, and at other universities students never take such a course.
Those ones.

Intro physics in year one is usually about making sure that everyone is on the same page. However...
But I thought that the topics that covered in a general introductory text are again covered in more advanced textbooks (such as Taylor and Purcell) so eliminating the need to read an introductory physics text by reading more specific texts on CM and E&M.
... that's a bit like saying that counting is covered in more advanced courses too so there's no need to learn it at primary school.

The intro courses make sure you are familiar with the concepts that are used in the later courses. Universities that insist on the intro course will go over less of the material or just spend less time on it in the advanced courses ... because they assume you've already passed an exam or something ... that way they can spend the time in advanced courses doing, you know, advanced stuff.
 
  • #16


Simon Bridge said:
Those ones.

I took a look at their websites JUST TO KNOW THE COURSES THEY TEACH NOT TO ENROLL :cry: !
 
  • #17


You seem to have the strange idea that you have to read a complete book from cover to cover.

Why not get an Intro to Physics book, and just read the relevant parts if you get stuck reading something more advanced?

The way universities organize their courses is irrelevant, if you aren't planning to go to one.
 
  • #18


ultrasmart said:
Most classical mechanics texts (such as Taylor's or Kleppner's) don't require knowledge of physics that's further than high school physics before reading it.

They do require some mathematical and physics problem-solving "maturity".

ultrasmart said:
I know that the topics that are covered in the introductory text such as Tipler's are more advanced than algebra based HS course, so, I certainly find it boring and unfamiliar.

But I thought that the topics that covered in a general introductory text are again covered in more advanced textbooks (such as Taylor and Purcell) so eliminating the need to read an introductory physics text by reading more specific texts on CM and E&M.

Certain topics (but not all) are often revisited in more detail in more advanced textbooks.

Intro texts give a broad brush picture of physics and some of its methods.
Intermediate and advanced texts revisit some topics with sequentially finer brushes, which require more advanced techniques and more attention to detail, occasionally stepping back to see the whole field with a keener sense of vision.
However, without an intro text, one might not appreciate what is being seen.

There is a spectrum of textbook choices.
Purcell's EM is actually an advanced-intro text in some places, an intermediate text in others.
Taylor's CM is probably too advanced to be an intro text. Kleppner is probably the mechanics analog of Purcell [although there is a Mechanics text in the "Berkeley Physics Course"].

Some more-modern, more-enlightening intro texts:
Thomas Moore's Six Ideas that Shaped Physics
Chabay and Sherwood's Matter and Interactions

My $0.02.
 
  • #19


ultrasmart said:
I'm learning physics in my spare time, however, I hope to be professional in physics, so I took a look at many universities physics curricula and found that students must take an introductory general physics course at some universities, and at other universities students never take such a course.

I've read the mechanics part of Tipler's Physics for scientists and engineers. And I don't know if I should continue reading it or ignore the rest of it and begin reading a CM text such as Taylor's and an E&M text such as Purcell's.

So what should I do?

Is reading an introductory physics textbook necessary for me and so I have to reread Tipler's completely??

Or

Should I ignore introductory physics and begin reading a CM textbook such as Taylor's?

For maths, I've read a textbook that covers Calc I & II and Differential Equations.
One would normally study with an introductory text to cover some basic concepts in mechanics and EM, and perhaps some introductory material on relativity and QM toward the end of the text/course. It is usually assumed that univeristy students are concurrently studying calculus if they haven't had prior experience. Classical mechanics and EM texts assume that one has had exposure to an introductory physics course/text. Most texts have some statement on prerequisites in a preface or introductory section.

The idea of a course is that one does 'homework' problems, that is, one solves problems from the text or from sets assigned by the professor. That homework is graded so that the teacher monitors the progress of the student, and the student gets feedback from the teacher regarding the student's mastery of the subject.

Courses and curricula are reviewed by faculty in order to assure that the program ensure to some extent that the students will be able master the subject over a 4 year period - assuming the appropriate skill and effort.

One should probably study Tipler's or Serway's text and work the problems do demonstrate to oneself that one can solve the most difficult problems, then tackle more advanced texts on classical mechanics, thermodynamics, and EM, as well as relativity and QM, and other special topics.

To be at a 'professional' level, one has to go well beyond undergraduate level!
 
Last edited:
  • #20


Thank you very much guys, your replies were so helpful and I see that (according to your advice) one should read a general intro textbook :approve:.

Is Tipler's good and I should continue reading it or there are better texts?

What is the best and most concise (concise but covers all the intro material) intro text?

What about Crowell's Simple Nature, does it cover all the intro course?
 
  • #21


ultrasmart said:
Thank you very much guys, your replies were so helpful and I see that (according to your advice) one should read a general intro textbook :approve:.

Is Tipler's good and I should continue reading it or there are better texts?

What is the best and most concise (concise but covers all the intro material) intro text?

What about Crowell's Simple Nature, does it cover all the intro course?
Browse the forum on Math and Science Textbooks.
https://www.physicsforums.com/forumdisplay.php?f=21

The Introductory Physics books are identified. Tipler and Mosca is pretty good. Look at the table of contents for that book, since that covers most of the basics.

Also look at Introductory Calculus books since one needs Calculus for most of physics.
 

Related to Is an introductory physics course necessary?

1. What is an introductory physics course?

An introductory physics course is a foundational course that covers the basic principles and laws of physics, including topics such as motion, energy, forces, and electricity. It is usually taken by students in their first or second year of college as a prerequisite for more advanced physics courses.

2. Why is an introductory physics course necessary?

An introductory physics course is necessary because it provides students with a fundamental understanding of the laws and principles that govern the physical world. This knowledge is essential for students pursuing careers in fields such as engineering, medicine, and research, as well as for those who simply want to have a deeper understanding of the world around them.

3. Can I skip the introductory physics course?

It is not recommended to skip the introductory physics course, as it lays the groundwork for more advanced courses in physics. Even if you have some prior knowledge of physics, taking the introductory course will help solidify your understanding and prepare you for more challenging material.

4. What topics are covered in an introductory physics course?

An introductory physics course typically covers topics such as motion, forces, energy, thermodynamics, waves, electricity, and magnetism. It may also introduce students to basic concepts in quantum mechanics and relativity.

5. Do I need a strong math background for an introductory physics course?

While a strong math background is not necessary for an introductory physics course, it is helpful. Physics involves mathematical equations and calculations, so having a basic understanding of algebra and trigonometry will make the course easier to understand. However, most introductory physics courses will review necessary math concepts as they are needed.

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