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  1. Aug 16, 2014 #1
    Hey, everyone! I'm wanting to start doing the online MIT physics course, but I'm having a difficult time deciding which section to go for. I'm wanting a very thorough understanding of Physics, as I would eventually like to have a PhD in the topic. My community college isn't thorough at all, so I'm taking the initiative to find a better source of education.

    Here are the choices (linking to the syllabus):



    8.01 has every lecture video online, as well as solutions to problems. My only concern is that, because it isn't as rigorous as 8.012, I'll be missing out on information. As I said earlier, I'm looking for as thorough of an understanding as I can get. Do you all think sacrificing solutions and videos is worth the additional rigor, or should Lewin's course provide me with sufficient information and understanding?

    Also, if you know of any other (potentially better) sources of free education in physics and mathematics, please don't hesitate to share!

    Thanks so much!
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 16, 2014 #2


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    Gold Member

    You'll be better off with 8.01 because it has video lectures. With 8.012, you might be gaining a little from the rigor, but you are losing a lot by not having lectures. If you want, you could read from the 8.012 text, Kleppner and Kolenkow, which I've heard is very good (haven't read it myself).

    Also check out edx.org, which is a free online course site run by MIT. It has 8.01 (and lots of other courses) on there, but with a format that is better suited to learning independently. Here's the link to the course:

  4. Aug 16, 2014 #3


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    Staff: Mentor

    Physics is a rather broad subject, which basically encompasses knowledge of matter and energy, and the numerous interactions over many orders of magnitude of scale, e.g., from 1E-15 m to 1E26 m, and ranges of energy from 0 to 1e21 eV.

    A good introduction to basic physics is found at Hyperphysics.

    The major subject areas are outlined graphically.

    What is one's mathematical and science background?

    One could browse the sites of physics departments at various state and private universities, and search for the syllabi of undergraduate physics programs. Or look at the table of contents of most introductory physics textbooks to get an idea of where one should start one's study.
  5. Aug 16, 2014 #4
    Thank you both for the replies. I'm currently reading the text and am really enjoying the manner in which it is written. I'm a bit of an autodidact, so learning solely from textbooks isn't much of an issue for me. That being said, I think I will make use of the 8.01 lecture videos as needed.

    I've taken Calculus I (and will also be doing the MIT calculus course). I live in rural North Carolina, so my formal education was lackluster in the fields of science and math. Because of that, I've always taken it upon myself to educate myself in my free time. I understand Physics relatively well (classical mechanics, that is), and have a broad understanding of modern physics (relativity, quantum mechanics, and particle physics). Though, this "understanding" of the latter fields is lacking in terms of mathematics. I write for the website From Quarks to Quasars, so I at least have a sufficient conceptual understanding of different ideas in Physics.

    My goal for right now is to solidify this understanding in an efficient manner. Introductory courses aren't exactly what I'm looking for, nor do I feel they are what I need as of right now.

    Thank you both again for the quick replies!
  6. Aug 16, 2014 #5


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    It would help when asking for assistance to know where one is academically. We can discern one's ability without such information.

    If one has a good understanding of the basics, then one can move readily into classical mechanics, EM and modern physics.

    It's one thing to write about subatomic physics and discoveries at LHC, or other programs, but it is quite another matter to solve problems or write accurately about the various interactions of subatomic particles, and likewise the phenomena studied under QM, relatively, astrophysics, condensed matter physics, and so on.
  7. Aug 16, 2014 #6
    I'm currently at my local community college, which is not necessarily the best institution for science and mathematics. I'm simply knocking out my general education courses before transferring.

    I agree with your last paragraph. I tend to write articles about the interactions and physical phenomena. I'm familiar with the mathematics of special relativity, but not much else in the way of modern physics.
  8. Aug 16, 2014 #7
    What about a mix of both? Watch the 8.01 lectures and do a few of those problems but also read and follow and try some of the work for 8.12 (the book for this one (and I think the next where they use Purcell, or maybe Berkeley does that and not MIT??) seems much nicer than the books for all the regular level physics classes at most schools). Anyway, since you are doing it yourself, you can try to make it the best of both world and see how it goes too. If 8.12 is too much now, you can just continue with 8.10 alone.

    (EDIT: I took a VERY brief, few second peak at a few the early 8.01 lectures that you linked to. It seems like he is maybe gets bogged down using an awful lot of numerically solved examples with full on sig figs for a typical lecture outside of lab. I guess he really is a heavy experimentalist at heart perhaps. I'd need to look into it more though. I probably shouldn't say anything after a few second peak here and there.)
    Last edited: Aug 16, 2014
  9. Aug 16, 2014 #8
    Doing a bit of both is my plan for now, Porcupine. I'm planning on reading from the 8.012 text and getting whatever reinforcement I can from the 8.01 lectures as needed. The 8.012 text is fantastic thus far. I'm loving the level of rigor involved.

    Also, I agree with your sentiments about his lectures. He does seem very involved with the experiments (which is great!), and that isn't really what I'm looking for in lectures.

    Thanks, everyone!
  10. Aug 17, 2014 #9
    Isn't it thorough enough to provide you with a stepping stone to MIT or equivalent? Surely there must be some path from CC to PhD without you having to cobble together a self education programme?

    Spin a coin, or better - go and do something more useful!

    I think you should be thinking about your current course, rather than trying to hack an alternative physics education out of MIT's freebies. Get straight As in that, then you can *go* to MIT, or somewhere as good.

    What set texts do you have for CC this year? Why not make an early start on those? Or go through last year's work, making sure you know it all.
  11. Aug 17, 2014 #10
    Sure, my CC could be considered a sufficient stepping stone, but if I have the means to do well in this course while also getting a more thorough understanding of my course material via online sources, why would I not?
  12. Aug 18, 2014 #11
    I can't see this as the best way to get a more thorough understanding of your current course material. The hard MIT course would probably be too rigorous, at your current level, the lectures on the less rigorous course are likely to be time wasting (aren't one set of lectures enough, i.e., your current CC lectures?)

    I guess if you're some kind of genius and know that you are going to get grades that will take you to MIT, then fair enough. But, if not, a better use of time would be to do every problem in your CC set course texts, and every past exam paper, and every Schaum problem at this level. That is, *really* make sure you can ace your current course, not read ahead into more advanced material. That is - learn to walk before you learn to run, if you try to run at this stage you may just fall over.
  13. Aug 18, 2014 #12
    OTOH, if the goal is to transfer to a four year and not end up having to spend 4 years at the four year and perhaps be able to at least skip some of the first year and you want to be deeply grounded, I actually would advise supplementing your classes this way (at some point in time at least- of course simply focusing on the current class inside out and then going over it with 8.012 say next summer, perhaps that is even better). If you transfer to a good school, CC phs1 and 2 might well leave you far less prepared than everyone else in the program you transfers to so you might end up then having to either just deal with starting from a position of being behind (and being best off spending the first summer before or after transfer going over extra like this anyway) or taking phys1 and 2 and some of the math classes from scratch again.

    It's hard to say, I'm not quite 100% sure what the goal is (transfer to a four year to finish off?? to what sort of school? eventually hoped for grad school aim? etc. etc. just going through CC and wanting soak up the most you can the two years for fun before being done with it all?).
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