Preparing for Physics I: Mechanics

  • #1
Hello. I am currently an undergrad in CS. Next semester (fall) I will be taking a calculus-based physics course, that is, classical mechanics, otherwise known as "Physics I: Mechanics", if I am correct on that, (don't yell at me).

I have no prior knowledge of physics other than having taken algebra-based physics back in high school, so I'm a little nervous about what should I expect or how to prepare. However, I'm very confident with my math, having taken two semesters of calculus. I have a full summer coming up, and if some of you would like to share your "wisdom", please do so. How should I prepare for this course, if at all?
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
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No prep needed. If you want to be one of the cool kids, start reading Feynman's Lectures on Physics. Free to read here. So long as you find it fascinating, keep reading -- you really can't go wrong.
 
  • #3
You should read the prerequisites - generally there is nothing required beyond calculus, which you have. Now, if you want to prepare over the summer for this course, I would suggest going through the material of the course with the textbook used by the course or the Feynman Lectures or Halliday/Resnick or Kleppner & Kolenkow (all of which are standard classical mechanics books requiring nothing more than calculus).
 
  • #4
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Usually the calculus in such a course is limited to derivative and integrals of polynomials. Also, an understanding that velocity is the derivative of position, acceleration is the derivative of velocity and that velocity is the anti-derivative of acceleration and position is the anti-derivative of velocity. Trig will be needed. You will be drawing diagrams of physical situations and using trig to find lengths given angles and other lengths. Vectors and how they work, add, etc will be done.

If you want a heads up, get your text book now and go over the topics you will be covering. Also, you can attempt some of the easier problems.
 
  • #5
symbolipoint
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Know basic Trigonometry, and have strong intermediate-level Algebra skills. Calculus for the first semester of your physics is mostly needed for understanding. The second semester of your physics for electricity & magnetism is the one you will use Calculus heavily.
 
  • #6
Are parametric equations and conics ever used? I remember that we have never covered that in single-variable and went to introduction of several variables due to lack of time.
 
  • #7
symbolipoint
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Physics 1: Mechanics will use equations for parabolas, circles, and a few for ellipses. Physics 2 & 3 will use conic sections much more heavily.

Be careful about any such condition, "we have never covered that... lack of time". If something was not covered but the course is a prerequisite to a consecutive course, YOU MUST COVER WHAT WAS MISSED YOURSELF! The professor of that consecutive course will not care that something in the prereq was not covered, expecting that it were covered, and will proceed with instruction as if the missed topic were covered in your previous course.
 

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