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Physics I and II at the same time?

  1. Sep 24, 2008 #1
    Right now I am in general physics (trig based) to fit the requirements in order to get into the calculus based physics, however I really want to get the full calc based physics I and 2 done by next fall. One of the TAs has recomended taking both at the same time. Although my physics class now is not that difficult I still have to put in a good amount of time in order to master the material.

    My question for you

    Is this crazy?

    I know this largly depends on the student but any advice is helpful.
    Last edited: Sep 24, 2008
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 24, 2008 #2
    Yes and no. To do physics II (assuming that is the E&M quarter and circuits) you need to know the first half of physics I, ie. what work, energy, and forces are. The rotational stuff, which comprises the second half of physics I, is not used too much in E&M unless you do some wild magnetic applications. If this is your first physics course, I would not suggest it. It can be done if you worked with physics before, but it is a route I still don't reccommend unless it is absolutely neccessary. I.e you said you need this for next fall, so is it neccessary to do both simultaneously? If it does open doors, and you will be redoing the calc sequence as of next term, sure you can pull it off. But if this is your first time drawing free body diagrams and vectors definately dont.
  4. Sep 24, 2008 #3
    Unfortunatly it is a bit necessary and I would take it in the summer but I want to take organic chemistry over the summer.

    How high should your math skills be for E and M generally be?

    I have finished calc I and doing my own review of calculus II that will hopefully prep me, I will be taking the real Calc 2 next semester also.
  5. Sep 24, 2008 #4
    Well, if you are doing non-calc physics II then you definately have more math than you need. Its all algebra and vectors. The important thing is knowing how to work with vectors, which you learn in physics I (first half).

    Calc based physics only requires basic differentiation and integrals. If you've done calc I, I dont know why you arent in the calc-based physics. Unless they don't teach integrals in calc I... In any case, calc based physics requires very little calculus so I would get in that instead of this algebra/trig version. I've done both and they are essentially the same in terms of difficulty, except that the calc one is more useful for upper years.
  6. Sep 24, 2008 #5
    It all depends on how challenging the physics teacher is. My physics teacher was an electrical engineer with a masters in education. Our Physics I problems started with exercises from our text, and then we started doing problems from handouts that were copies from Statics texts. Many of our problems were done in 3-Space, so everyone got a crash course in basic multivariable calculus. We were allowed to use Mathematica if we needed it, as most people were taking Calculus I concurrently. It was a real challenge, and I spent last summer re-reading all the chapters for Newtonian Mechanics to better grasp them.

    Physics II was horrendous. While everyone was taking Calculus II concurrently, we were reading about flux integrals - which I should finally reach in Multivariate Calculus this semester in a couple months. As a plus, Multivariate is going quite easy now thanks to my Physics classes. I look forward to re-reading the sections of the Physics text on E&M after this semester is over. Oh, and Linear Algebra came in real handy for solving multiple loop circuits. Others did it the horrendously long way by substitution/elimination.

    Ideally, I think people should have Multi/Diff-Eq finished before taking Physics, but obviously this would tack an extra year or two onto Engineering and Physics degrees. Then again, not everyone gets hammered like we did.
  7. Sep 24, 2008 #6


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    Staff: Mentor

    The OP is asking specifically about a physics course that does not use calculus. The math level should be the same for both semesters. The biggest difficulty with taking both semesters at the same time (apart from the logistical issues of two sets of laboratories, two sets of homework problems, etc.) is that in order to understand electric potential (voltage) and circuit theory, you need to understand the concepts of work and energy. Some topics and exercises will assume stuff that you're supposed to have learned during the first semester. For example, you might have to calculate the path of an electron in a uniform electric field, which involves not only electric force and electric field, but also kinematics from the first semester.

    Also, at most schools, the first semester is a prerequisite for the second semester, so you'd probably have to get special permission from the second semester instructor, or even from the physics department, in order to do this.
  8. Sep 24, 2008 #7
    jtbell I think you are mistaken. I believe he is asking whether or not taking both Physics I and II (calculus based) during one semester is a smart idea.
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