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Mechanics Labs

  1. Oct 9, 2005 #1


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    What is the use of them? Today's research will not involve finding the velocity, acceleration, and position of a ball rolling down an inclined plane - and with such large experimental errors too. Furthermore, the labs at my school have a time limit of 3 hours so many students don't finish. Grr... I feel really frustrated at my freshman physics labs...
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  3. Oct 9, 2005 #2


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    There's more to learn than just the physics. General lab apparatus, experimental procedures, and just getting you used to the lab environment. For example could you imagine an engineering graduate saying he's never touched a real resistor before. Although I admit that some of the exercises were badly designed/planned. I feel your frustration there.
  4. Oct 9, 2005 #3


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    I'm astounded as to why some people can't finish the labs which makes me believe they do have a reason for being there. Some people can't even grasp introductory mechanics courses even though it is so simple, so the lab may be able to help them connect the lecture to the real world.
  5. Oct 9, 2005 #4
    True, however, the labs are important because they help students see the results of all the theory they have been learning in lecture. Also, as mentioned before, general lab procedures, equipment introductions, and lab safety are topics best learned early in ones academic career.
  6. Oct 9, 2005 #5
    It's important to see and work ur hands on it...It helps a lot.
  7. Oct 9, 2005 #6


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    Day 1 of an intro physics laboratory session:

    Lab Instructor: "The physics that is applied in your laboratory session is probably IRRELEVANT to your studies, your major, and maybe even the rest of your career. However, the SKILL that you acquire in (i) figuring out what to do (ii) how to do it in the most accurate manner (iii) how to analyze a set of data (iv) recognizing what is a "realistic result" versus nonsensical numbers, and most importantly (v) understanding what an "experiment" is and what it can and cannot do with regards to physics, are the reasons why we make you do this."

    You will learn in such a class to make meticulous notes of what is being done, what is being observed, etc. i.e. learn to keep a lab book. If you think this is "trivial" and unimportant, I welcome you to read Chap. 12 of my essay on So You Want To Be A Physicist. The reason why you actually can't just sit back and watch this is because a "skill" can't be taught, but can only be acquired, and acquired only by doing.

    So don't pay attention that much on the physics (assuming you already understand it since you're bored with it). But pay attention to the PEDAGOGY on why and how things are done, and practice on writing. The ability to communicate IN WRITTING and often in an oral presentation, are extremely important not just in physics, but in other fields.

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