Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Is Magnetism one of the hardest topics in Physics?

  1. Feb 28, 2012 #1
    I've been working out of Edward Purcell and I was doing fine till I reached the chapter on magnetism today. I found it to be quite difficult and had to stop my studying because I just wasn't getting it. Is Magnetism generally regarded as one of the harder topics in physics? Tomorrow I will try again to study.
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 28, 2012 #2
    Magnetism is very similar to electricity, but I think the mathematics is slightly more demanding. What do you find difficult? Is it conceptually tough to digest? Are the mathematics slowing you down?

    In the case of a conceptual roadblock, pick up a freshman level physics textbook and read through the sections on magnetism - they're usually very good for conceptualizing physics.

    If it's the mathematics, then refer back to your vector calculus textbook.
  4. Feb 28, 2012 #3
    It's the conceptual part I believe. I can do vector calc pretty well.
  5. Feb 28, 2012 #4
    For me, yes. Magnetism is pretty confusing.
  6. Feb 28, 2012 #5


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    Magnetism is a piece of cake compared to Quantum Field Theory.
  7. Feb 28, 2012 #6
    Good to know Captain.
  8. Feb 28, 2012 #7
    Just in algebra based physics, magnetism was so hard because of the conceptual ideas..
  9. Feb 28, 2012 #8
    I think intwo's advice is very good.
  10. Feb 28, 2012 #9


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    I found it tough, also.
  11. Feb 28, 2012 #10
    Yeah, it can get pretty confusing at times.

    I recommend going over your introductory physics textbook. If you don't have one, then you can pick up a copy of Physics (4th edition) by Resnick, Halliday, and Krane for a few dollars on sites like Amazon.com and Abebooks.com. There are two volumes in the set. Magnetism is in the second volume, but you might want to also buy the first volume for continuity.
  12. Feb 28, 2012 #11
    Purcell IS an introductory textbook. Personally, I find it to be easier to read than the algebra based intro books, but its really just preference.

    To the original poster, stick with it. Magnetism isn't necessarily the hardest topic in physics, but it can be far from intuitive and I think everyone has topics they struggle with (different people find different things unintuitive). I still struggle with radiation (which was the topic I found hardest), and I have a phd. I recommend working problems and trying to get an intuition for the math. Once the math is truly second-nature you'll find it easier to build intuition.
  13. Feb 28, 2012 #12
    I understand that it's an introductory textbook, but it's generally used as an honors textbook or for students who have had a previous experience with physics. The textbook I recommended is a typical calculus-based introductory textbook. It's conceptually rich but it doesn't skimp on the mathematics. Skimming through the chapters on magnetism could be beneficial, especially if xdrgnh has not had experience with magnetism before.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook