1. Limited time only! Sign up for a free 30min personal tutor trial with Chegg Tutors
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Learning Electromagnetism before classical mechanics?

  1. Jun 27, 2014 #1
    Hi all,

    So basically I would like to know if it's possible. I'm a first year undergrad and I did classical mechanics first semester but I didn't do that well in it. So I'm not sure if I need to use my holidays to catch up with it before we do Electromagnetism during second semester. I would have preferred using my holidays to get some advance with electromagnetism but the fact i didn't do that great in classical mechanics is annoying. I'm not a physics major but I enjoyed physics enough to do it for my first year. However classical mechanics brought my hopes down. Well, I would like to know if I should learn classical mechanics again or just dive into electromagnetism, since i'm not going to second year physics anyways.

  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 27, 2014 #2
    I think you should go through Classical Mechanics again, there is not much overlap between Mechanics and Electromagnetism, but it is never a good idea to progress with big gaps in elementary knowledge. You can, simultaneously start reading into EM, but I think it would be better to catch up with Mechanics first.
  4. Jun 27, 2014 #3
    It is possible, as in my opinion there's a huge disconnect between the two. Of course some concepts are used in both (potential energy, force, and such), but there shouldn't be large difficulties learning E & M without the knowledge of mechanics. And since you have already taken mechanics thus to an extent understand its concepts, I recommend that you just study for E & M for your second semester.

    Are you an engineering major? If so, I believe first year physics will play a huge role in your further studies, so I recommend you master both topics.
  5. Jun 28, 2014 #4
    I had a horrible physics 1 course, professor taught us some basic projectile equations (actually it was just a lecture on resolving a vector into it's components) and then he stopped teaching from the curriculum. The rest of the semester was spent with his ramblings on quantum mechanics (he was BSing even that) and spaceX YouTube videos, I wouldn't be surprised if he was fired now.

    With that out of the way...I did great in physics 2 and outperformed most in a large class, I feel like I left with a good level of understanding. I took modern physics and missing intro mechanics did make modern physics difficult in some areas. When you get to relativistic momentum, energy, whatever else you will wish you had a good intro to mechanics. My major is EE and I'm ending my junior year. I picked up a lot of what I missed in intro to mechanics when I took a course on static equilibrium in structures.

    I may not be the best at solving incline plane problems, but I'm already involved in my schools research department doing a lot of fun stuff. I don't look back and wish that spent more time on intro mechanics.

    But then again it depends on what type of engineering I suppose, maybe I lucked out being EE
  6. Jun 28, 2014 #5
    Thanks. But I guess I'll try to focus more on Electromagnetism and simultaneously read classical mechanics.

    I'm a computer science major but I did physics since I loved it. I still do but I did bad at classical mechanics and I feel bad about myself. Maybe I didn't practice enough since all I did was trying to learn the physics. Well, what topics in classical mechanics do you think I should know(even if only a little part) which would help in electromagnetism.

    I feel you, I am doing modern physics too and the book I use is a mess. That's partly to be blamed for where I am today but well. All I want to do now is outperform most people in the class since I know I can do it. I'm majoring in computer science but I got some computer engineering modules next year. I don't know how much physics will be important for comp. engineering modules but I really wanted to do quantum mechanics as a module next year. However, the courseload I have is too much and I decided not to do it next year and focus on mastering my computer science and maths.

    @Everyone I would appreciate if you could point out the topics of classical that would help for electromagnetism and (some) waves.
  7. Jun 28, 2014 #6
    I recommend you master Newton's law of gravity. There's great similarity between Newton's gravity equation and Coulomb's law (obeys inverse square law), and thus if you know gravity from classical mechanics well, then Coulomb law should come easy to you. This includes gravitational potential energy (there exists a very similar concept in E & M).

    How I mastered classical mechanics was just solving large number of problems. I attempted to solve nearly all problems on my textbook, did mastering physics, and also got a book called Problems in General Physics by I. E. Irodov. This book I don't recommend unless you want to compete in an Olympiad or something (I could only solve very few). Other than that, I also went to websites of top universities to solve their quiz problems.

    Of course all of those are rather supplementary to thrive in classical mechanics, but solving a lot of problems really prepare you for the exams and such.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook