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Is calculus based physics harder than physical chemistry?

  1. Apr 3, 2008 #1
    Is calculus based physics harder than physical chemistry???

    Just curious. I've taken p-chem I (basically calc-based derivations of the laws of thermodynamics, chemical equilibrium, phase transitions, colligative properties, and electrochemical principals) and was wondering if this was harder than calc based physics (I've only taken gen. premed physics).

    Thanks for the input.
     
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  3. Apr 3, 2008 #2

    Hootenanny

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    What makes you think those derivations are not in the realm of physics?
     
  4. Apr 3, 2008 #3

    Andy Resnick

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    When I took o-chem (I never took p-chem), I was struck by how differently the same concepts are treated in chemistry vs. physics- the molecular bond, for example. Further, it was very difficult "translating" between the two.

    So- the material you mention should not be harder or easier, but the language and conceptual foundations used will be different and that can be a source of confusion. If you can successfully navigate both a thermo class in physics and the p-chem class, you will likely have a very profound understanding of the topics.

    I don't think colligative properties and electrochemical potentials are done much in physics courses.
     
  5. Apr 3, 2008 #4

    lisab

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    I was a chemistry/physics double major. I got my BS in physics but came up a couple classes short of getting my chemistry degree - ran out of money and patience!

    So I had a year of P-chem, as well as all the upper division physics. My experience: the upper division physics classes were a lot tougher, especially electricity and magnetism.

    But P-chem was a great preparation for Statistical Mechanics.
     
  6. Apr 3, 2008 #5

    Moonbear

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    p-chem is a pretty difficult course that a lot of students struggled through (myself included). Of course, there is MORE content in a general physics course than just thermodynamics and such.

    One thing you should be aware of to avoid confusion between courses taught in chemistry vs physics is chemists and physicists have a nasty habit of changing sign conventions between the two disciplines. This always drove me bonkers. If you know it ahead of time, you're less likely to be confused by it.
     
  7. Apr 3, 2008 #6

    Hootenanny

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    Of course Physicists chose the correct sign convention, Chemists just got confused :wink:

    * Runs, very quickly, and hides *
     
  8. Apr 3, 2008 #7

    symbolipoint

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    ...to answer the question of the topic title: NO. but this is debatable.
     
  9. Apr 3, 2008 #8
    I think it's one of the many questions that can be answered by: it depends. I took a physical chemistry course and, while I did well in it, I could not stand doing chemistry-type problems. I found the course more difficult simply because it was harder for me to motivate myself to do the homework. Following that, I did take thermodynamics and statistical mechanics courses in the physics department. While some of the material is similar, the perspectives are much different, in my opinion. You are also comparing a (generally) upper level chemistry course with freshman-level physics courses, so...
     
  10. Apr 3, 2008 #9
    Yeah, I'd say that P-chem is definitely harder than "calculus-based physics" for this reason. But if you compare P-chem to an upper-division Physics course, the difference is probably pretty small.
     
  11. Apr 4, 2008 #10
    Is there a real difference between p-chem and thermodynamics/statistical mechanics? If I take p-chem, would there be any reason to take thermo in the physics dept? (I'm a chemistry major). Also the second semester of p-chem is Quantum Chemistry. How closely is this related to Quantum Mechanics or Modern Physics?
     
  12. Apr 4, 2008 #11

    lisab

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    When I took my P-chem text to the Physics department head to show him what I had already studied, he gave me credit for the lower-division physics thermo class. The P-chem was far more in-depth.

    In my experience, P-chem was a bit harder than the sophomore-level Modern Physics that I took. But it was less rigorous than the upper-division Quantum Mechanics offered from the physics department.
     
  13. Apr 4, 2008 #12

    symbolipoint

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    Physical Chemistry would give some focus on reaction rates and mechanism which would be lacking in Physics Thermodynamics/Statistical Mechanics. P-chem may also include some topics about Electrochemistry which would likely not be included in the Physics Therm.-Statist.Mech. course. These statements are made assuming that Thermodynamics and Statistical Mechanics are studied beyond the fundamental Engineering Physics courses required on all the Physical Science & Engineering majors. The statements could also be varyingly wrong depending on program.
     
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