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New to Physics classes-overview

  1. Dec 12, 2003 #1
    I'm a junior in college about to take my first general calculus-based physics class and would like to know what's in store-as of philosophy,topics,mathematics,etc. By reading most of the threads on this forum I can tell many of you have went way beyond basic physics, so please describe what I need to already know before I begin. I'm guessing we will be talking about basic physical elements and forces, such as matter-motion-light-etc. Are there any good books that will give me a head-start in this class? Thanks. Dave W.
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  3. Dec 12, 2003 #2


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    The main resource will be your text. Initially should be seeing pretty basic concepts, measurement theory and practice, vectors etc. The Calculus you will need is pretty basic, more time will be spend on the physical meaning of the derivative then the math itself. If you have had a term of Calculus it should be pretty trivial.

    I believe (Varies from school to school of course) that the first term of Physics is spend in mechanics and dynamics, you should not seem any significant mention of light yet. By the end of the term (semester?) you should have a handle on liner and rotational motion as well as static forces.

    The key is to get the basics definitions down pat and do problems, lots of problems. The more problems you work out the better.
  4. Dec 12, 2003 #3
    Alright, thanks- I was hoping we would talk about the history of physics and the major theories involved in the first class. It seems to me that by starting off with these topics, students could get a broad sense of what physics is composed of, rather than starting with the basic elements of mathematic. But whatever they have in store for me, I'm sure it is the easiest approach to physics.
  5. Dec 12, 2003 #4


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    I am not sure where you are going to school but in most universties the first term of physics is considered a wash out class. There is little or NO fluff. I would expect to hit the ground running and be prepared for an obstacal course. The goal will be to learn Physics, not learn ABOUT physics.
  6. Dec 12, 2003 #5
    Yeah, we used little calculus, even though the course requires calculus 2. The main difference from high school physics is the speed, we're going two or perhaps three times faster and of-coarse more complex stuff.
  7. Dec 13, 2003 #6
    Hm, is this a general physics course, or a physics course for physics majors?

    If it's just a general course, it is probbaly going to be conceptual. If you are a physics major though, you are going to use a fair amount of calculus. I never did any history learning, I don't think you should expect that.
  8. Dec 13, 2003 #7
    Thanks for the replies all. I am a computer science major, with a minor in Biology and and second minor in Physics-Nanoscience(which I'm about to start). The Physics classes that I'm taking are general Applied Physics-which then I move on to Modern Physics and finally to Condensed Matter Physics and NanoTech. I'm mainly taking this second minor to be prepared for my NanoScience/Computer Technology Masters education. I would really like to take a history/philosophy of Physics or something along those lines, has anyone taken any classes on that? Maybe I will check my course catalog to see if they provide anything like that, but I'm guessing they won't.
  9. Dec 15, 2003 #8
    Actually, you can get history of physics when majoring, if you get lucky with your professor.

    I'm taking "Theoretical & Mathematical I" physics this semester, and every so often the prof starts explaining the historic context of Maxwell's, Lorentz',... work. He claims you can only appreciate a theory if you know how it came to be and who influenced it, and I tend to agree.
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