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Physics Grad Programs that don't require Jackson's Electrodynamics

  1. Jul 26, 2010 #1

    Simfish

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    How many grad programs in physics don't require Jackson's Electrodynamics? Which ones among them, in particular?
     
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  3. Jul 26, 2010 #2

    nicksauce

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    Don't want to sound like a dick, but if this is a deciding factor for you in choosing a grad school, you probably shouldn't go to grad school.
     
  4. Jul 26, 2010 #3

    Simfish

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    It's not completely a deciding factor, but rather, something that I do take in consideration (especially since I'm deciding whether I should go only for astrophysics only or if I should include some physics as well).

    There are plenty of physics PhD students who really wish they didn't have to go through all that masochism (and believe that it didn't make them any better off). Many of those who want to do condensed matter research (as opposed to theoretical physics) don't necessarily need to go through all that.
     
  5. Jul 26, 2010 #4

    Pengwuino

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    While it is true that Jackson isn't necessarily a must have graduate experience.... can you really call yourself a physicist without having gone through it? :P
     
  6. Jul 26, 2010 #5

    eri

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    What book to use is up to the professor teaching the course, and there's no guarantee that they won't change their mind or their professor. But I know friends who took graduate E&M at Clemson and their professor hasn't used Jackson in a few years. They also don't require the physics GRE since they didn't see much correlation between PGRE scores and finishing a PhD. But they have a high drop out rate because it's 'easy' to get in but not easy to stay in.

    I would call Jackson a right of passage for graduate physics students, one horrible experience that binds us all together. And I wouldn't do it again.
     
  7. Jul 27, 2010 #6

    Vanadium 50

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    I'm afraid I agree with Nicksauce.

    Jackson may be "boot camp for physicists", but that doesn't mean that it isn't a valuable thing. Yes, I know you say a bunch of students told you it didn't make them any better off. But are students really the best judges of what they will or will not need later in their careers?

    Jackson is important for a number of reasons:

    1. Electromagnetism is the prototype for all the field theories that we have developed, and it is important to understand it in depth - i.e. to be able to solve problems other than those with trivial symmetries.

    2. It is important as a physicist to learn how to do hard problems - problems that take hours and sometimes days. You get these in real life. Jackson is not a unique source of these problems, of course, but it's a very good source.

    3. The problems require both physical and mathematical intuition (which is why they are such good problems). Students deficient in one or both learn this quickly and have the time to develop it before it is too late.

    Finally, your position of wanting to learn the bare minimum is very unusual among successful scientists. Most want to learn as much as they can.
     
  8. Jul 27, 2010 #7
    So do I. You are going to use techniques similar to those you find in Jackson in basically everything. Now if there is a new textbook that covers the same material in a better way, that's different, but I really don't see how you can get through any field of physics (including astrophysics and condensed matter) without mastering the material in Jackson.

    And the hard problems that you find in Jackson are pretty typical of the types of problems that you will come across in physics Ph.D. work.
     
  9. Jul 27, 2010 #8
    That's not been my experience. The whole point of getting a Ph.D. is precisely to go through that sort of masochism, and if you are not willing to go through that sort of masochism (and enjoy it!!!), you really, really seriously need to reevaluate whether or not you want to go through graduate school, because unless you are an major intellectual masochist, there is a very serious chance that you are not going to survive the process.

    What would be interesting is to look at the number of physics Ph.D.'s that think that Jackson is unnecessary. I don't think it's unnecessary.
     
  10. Jul 27, 2010 #9

    nicksauce

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    As an Astronomy grad student, I'm expected to work 70-80 hours a week for the next 4-5 years. I'd expect it to be similar for a Physics program. If you can't go through the masochism of one measly E&M course, are you going to be able to go through the masochism of working essentially two full-time jobs for the next 5 years?
     
  11. Jul 27, 2010 #10

    ZapperZ

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    I did my Ph.D in condensed matter physics, AND, I was an experimentalist as well. So I could easily use the argument that Jackson wasn't really necessary. However, as has been mentioned in this thread, the whole learning process isn't JUST a matter of being able to master the subject. If it is, then we won't force students who want to be theorists to take any lab courses.

    One's ability to work through a tough problem IS part of the evaluation of receiving a Ph.D. Furthermore, the skill, not to mention the mathematics, that one has to employ, is invaluable no matter what area one majors in. And thirdly, what if you can't find a job in condensed matter physics, but yet, people in accelerator physics are eagerly looking for a condensed matter physicists to hire to work on many of the materials-related accelerator issues? Accelerator physics is predominantly E&M, and in fact, Jackson's text is actively used and referred to! You had just closed a door of opportunity for refusing to do such advanced level E&M.

    BTW, we're not just talking about Jackson's text here. This really is an issue on whether you need to take graduate level E&M at the level of Jackson and the classic Landau/Lifschitz text. If your school doesn't use Jackson, it will just Landau/Lifschitz. The pain is the same either way.

    Those "graduate students" that you got that poor advice from have no idea what will be facing them when they actually have to look for a job.

    Zz.
     
  12. Jul 27, 2010 #11
    And as a post-post-post-grad, I work about 60 hours a week working on problems like those in Jackson, and then spend at least 10 hours a week thinking about math and physics outside of work, and I'll probably do it for the rest of my life.

    Since I'm an intellectual masochist, my regret is that there aren't enough hours in a day to work on this sort of stuff. There are things like eating and sleeping that get in the way of thinking about math and physics.

    It's quite worse than that. Once you get a physics Ph.D., you'll get pegged as a mathematical masochist that enjoys crunching math problems, and so the jobs you get offered will likely involve doing the sort of work that you did in grad school. Now this is great if you *are* a mathematical masochist, but it can be total hell if you aren't.
     
  13. Jul 27, 2010 #12
    Pardon my ignorance, but what exactly is "Jackson's Electrodynamics"? A book?
     
  14. Jul 27, 2010 #13
    Well, I guess Amazon says yes.
     
  15. Jul 27, 2010 #14

    Pengwuino

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    It's a fairly standard graduate level electrodynamics textbook by J.D. Jackson.

    One thing about Jacksons' text that I like is the fact that it is nearly perfect as far as I can tell. After using it for a year, we were hard pressed to find actual errors in the text that weren't pointed out on the 1.5 page errata you can find online. Many of those errors were typos as well that you can naturally pick on as well. The bad thing with some texts is that you'll find errors and poorly worded problems missing information or poorly motivated arguments in the text. Not so with Jackson!

    Of course, when you see things like "it can easily be shown" , it can mean 3 pages of derivations... but it is still showable!
     
  16. Jul 27, 2010 #15
    Yeah I just looked it up on Amazon and was skimming through the first pages of the book. I was surprised that I was able to read through 1.1 of the book. I gave up by 1.2 tho.
     
  17. Jul 27, 2010 #16
    I agree. Utterly.
     
  18. Jul 27, 2010 #17
     
  19. Jul 28, 2010 #18
    Chapter 1 mostly deals with the things one learns in undergrad. Everyone should be able to 'read' through that. I put read in quotes because reading is different from comprehending. Certain parts require you to work out some, without which you cannot comprehend just by reading.
     
  20. Jul 28, 2010 #19
    Well to be honest I have only one year of undergrad under my belt, just saying. I tried reading through 1.3 but I got lost in the amount of equations with several symbols I dont really know the meaning of.
     
  21. Jul 28, 2010 #20

    cristo

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    This question is somewhat offtopic, but is this really true: are you actually expected to work 70-80 hours a week? I'm a grad student across the pond, and it's hard to think of a week where I work more than about 50 hours (and I'm not just being lazy.. that's pretty much standard for all the students I know!)
     
  22. Jul 28, 2010 #21
    What's so special about this book? We used David Griffith's book Introduction to Electrodynamics.
     
  23. Jul 28, 2010 #22

    Vanadium 50

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    In grad school? :bugeye:
     
  24. Jul 28, 2010 #23

    ZapperZ

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    That is an undergraduate E&M text. We are talking about graduate level E&M. What you learn in undergraduate E&M, the Jackson text covers that in just the Intro and Chapter 1!

    Zz.
     
  25. Jul 28, 2010 #24
    The whole book up to special relativity in one chapter? We covered the whole book in our second semester of the second year.

    I forgot the grad part of the topic. :)

    I've looked through the table of contents and I don't see many topics that aren't discussed in intro to electrodynamics by Griffiths. The only things that aren't in that book are according to my first reading:
    10 Scattering and diffraction
    12 Dynamics of particles
    13 Collisions
    15 Brehmstrahlung
     
    Last edited: Jul 28, 2010
  26. Jul 28, 2010 #25

    ZapperZ

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    In Griffiths, did you try to find the solution to the Poisson equation for a disk of charge off-axis, i.e. not along the symmetry axis? Or look at the waveguide problem being tackled. Is that anything similar to what you did in Griffiths? What about using Green's function with the appropriate Dirichlet or Neuman boundary conditions?

    Yes, you MAY think you're solving an electrostatic problem that looked familiar, but LOOK AGAIN! All the simplified situations that you are accustomed to in undergraduate E&M are no longer adopted! As stated earlier, these are now closer to what you have to deal with in real life! In fact, if you go into accelerator physics, the first thing you'll find out is that, you NEED Jackson's book to survive!

    Zz.
     
    Last edited: Jul 28, 2010
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