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Intro Physics Should I blame the book for my inability to learn physics?

  1. Jan 28, 2016 #1
    It's called Fundamentals of Physics, by David Halliday and Robert Resnick. Can anyone tell me if this is a good book to learn from or not? I felt that it didn't go over the concepts thorougly enough, and I had to figure out the concepts all on my own. But I couldn't, so I dropped the class and left the course on the backburner until another semester. It wasn't entirely the book's fault, though. I also had a professor who glossed over the concepts much too quickly, and didn't give me much time to copy down the notes and learn from them at the same time. It was a fast-paced course; I was wondering if other introductory physics courses are like this. If they are, then I'm scared that I won't be able to be an engineering major, if a lower division course is kicking my butt. I don't know if I should blame the book or not. Because in my opinion, that's a childish thing to do. What do you think? Maybe I should start self-studying physics so that I'm able to take it? Or perhaps this is the pace of many engineering courses and that I'm not cut out for this field?
     
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  3. Jan 28, 2016 #2

    Drakkith

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    How much time did you put into self-study and homework? Did you do all of your homework problems? Did you do any extra? You will NOT learn physics by by going over notes, no matter how much time you have to study them. My own experience in both math and physics is that you essentially teach yourself. Even the best instructors can only assist you in learning.
     
  4. Jan 28, 2016 #3

    WIN

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    fast or slow is a personal evaluation... what does your coursemates think? Did you discuss your problems and seek help from them? Study groups? i'm studying engineering and in my 6th semester now soon to be final semester. Throughout my education background i studied in english and for my bachelor in engineering i come over to germany (after 2 years of german language course which is 2hrs daily on weekdays) and start my bachelor in fully german language alongside with the other local students. Despite the language level difference and their technical background, i still able to do well and sometimes better than the local students. I did struggle in the beginning of the course but who says engineering gonna be smooth and easy. If you encounter problem then find a way to solve it. In class work as a team, if you cant manage note down all the main points furing the lecture then ask help from your coursemates. Learn ways to take note faster and take the important points only. Concepts and Fundamental? If you know the name of the concept or fundament then there's literature, library and at least google about it to learn it more. Uni doesnt spoon every info but just to lead you in the right direction but you have to explore and work out the way. Morever engineering course supposed to help you grow and allow you to find ways to solve your problem. Fit for the course or not, its up to you to decide whether to face and work it or or just run from it.
     
  5. Jan 28, 2016 #4

    SteamKing

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    There are many other books on the fundamentals of physics, and if you find the assigned text unsatisfactory for some reason, there is nothing which prevents you from looking at additional texts or other sources of information to try to remedy one textbook's gaps in explanation.

    By being at member at PF, you are also using a great tool in the internet where you can search for information on just about any topic, no matter how arcane or obscure it might be. The old excuse, "I searched the internet for X, and I didn't find anything" is hardly ever true anymore.
     
  6. Jan 28, 2016 #5

    Mark44

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    The year-long course in Engineering Physics I took back in the early 70s used "Physics: Parts I and II", by H & R. I don't know anything about the book you mentioned, but countless students of physics have used one or another physics textbook by these authors over the years. Not counting the index and supplementary problems, my book runs to over 1200 pages, a lot of material to cover in a year.

    Most schools that offer courses in Engineering Physics usually have prerequisites of calculus. If you haven't had the first quarter/semester of calculus by the start of the course, you're going to have some difficulty understanding what's going on in the develpment of equations of motion when an object is acclerated.
     
  7. Jan 28, 2016 #6
    I must admit that I haven't put much time into self-studying. I only looked at the problems that were assigned to me, and couldn't find any clues in the textbook I mentioned. In hindsight, I should have tackled other problems to see if I got it or not. My deal with the assigned problems were that some of them did not have any answers at the back of the book. What I should have done, was look for similar problems that did have the answers, and then work through them. I come to realize that I'm mostly to blame. I disliked the instructor for the course, and apparently couldn't understand the material from the book, when I haven't been trying hard enough.

    I'm not a big fan of study groups. My mantra is that if I can't learn engineering by myself, I cannot expect to succeed in the field.

    Yeah, I've been thinking of getting University Physics with Modern Physics by Young, but I worry that my current text is not to blame, but myself, for slacking off so much. I can only blame myself for trying to learn only from this book instead of looking to other sources.

    I've taken Calculus I, and I'm taking II right now.
     
  8. Jan 28, 2016 #7

    Drakkith

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    I don't want to make it sound like this is entirely your fault. In fact I think trying to place blame and fault are pointless. There absolutely are poor quality books and bad teachers out there that make learning difficult, but you also have the ability to go out and find more information, better books, get extra help, etc. I'd recommend trying the course once more and seeing how it goes.

    Learning the material is different from applying the concepts. Once you understand the material, you may be just fine at applying the concepts to build and design things on your own. Also remember that engineers rarely work alone on a project (as far as I know at least). Handicapping yourself by not even attempting to study with others is doing you no good. I can almost guarantee you that having someone to bounce ideas off of will be beneficial.

    Also, I don't know if your school has a tutoring or learning center like mine does, but you could always try that route. I'm a tutor at my college's learning center and I know for a fact that students who come to us have, on average, about a 10%-15% higher score on their exams compared to the students that don't come to us (the college keeps track of this info).
     
  9. Jan 28, 2016 #8
    Well, it's too late, now; I've already dropped the course. I would have to make up a week's worth of homework and catch up on a week's lecture, if I were lucky enough to re-enter with the professor's approval.

    I will consider both options.
     
  10. Jan 28, 2016 #9

    Drakkith

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    Oh. I was under the impression that this happened a while ago, and not recently. Still, you can always try again in a semester or two.
     
  11. Jan 28, 2016 #10
    No, I'm sorry for not making this clear. I suppose I could try again next semester, or something.
     
  12. Jan 28, 2016 #11

    Drakkith

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    Absolutely. And now that you know you were having some trouble, you can either start studying early to get a head start, or you can try to figure out what went wrong and how to fix it before taking the class again.
     
  13. Jan 29, 2016 #12

    WIN

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    I'm not a study group guy myself either but sometimes when you can't find the way its better to seek help or clues from other who are in the same course with you. Being a solo player if you are capable of but if not then play as a team.

    what i want to emphasize to you here is mindset. I trust that you already see the root of the problem and know how to tackle it. Good luck.
     
  14. Jan 29, 2016 #13

    micromass

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    Try to find out what went wrong and how to fix it. Here is some stuff you could do:
    - Self-study the material so you`re already comfortable with it next year.
    - Form study groups
    - Prepare the material before the lecture (= reading the chapter and doing some easy problems)
    - Make exercises outside of the assigned homework.
    - Go to office hours.
    - Read from different sources.
    - Make mindmaps, ask yourself theoretical and practical questions as much as you can, make a summary, etc.
     
  15. Jan 29, 2016 #14
    OMG.Now I'm afraid to buy this book as I need to take Engineering Physics.
     
  16. Jan 29, 2016 #15
    Wait, I will be using
    Physics for Scientists & Engineers (Loose Pgs)(w/MastPhys) Edition: 3rd.

    My college uses the other one. Likely I'm taking it at utica college this fall
     
  17. Jan 29, 2016 #16
    It is difficult to blame the book on why you cannot learn physics. Resnick and Halliday was written more than 50 years ago, and has been used by thousands of physics students in their introductory course. I heard once that more copies of RH were sold than any other college textbook, except (Economic ?) by Samuelson. Not sure this is true, but RH has definitely sold tens (maybe hundred) of thousands of copies.
    You said the professor glossed over concepts. He probably was not teaching more than 50 years ago nor has he had as many students as have been touched by Resnick and Halliday. Still the most important answer is not who to blame, but how to get on the right track.
    Physics is probably not the only technical course related to engineering that you are currently taking. You can assess for yourself if the difficulty you are having is isolated to physics or is in all your pre-engineering coursework.
    Drakkith seems to be giving good thoughts concerning a learning center. If you can afford a private tutor that can be helpful too.

    I can commiserate about the professor glossing over concepts but I can tell the following story. Once I enrolled in a course on probability theory that developed the theory axiomatically, from the bottom up, especially in the first 3 chapters of the textbook. I was looking forward to that development. The first day of class, the professor told us, that he was sure all of us were more interested in the applications, so he would start with chapter 4.

    The professor in introductory physics has a lot of material to present by the end of the semester. You may find that a complete understanding of "energy" or "angular momentum" or even "vector" may have to wait until subsequent classes. These concepts are clarified in junior / senior and even grad courses. If you are too much a details person, this can slow you up inordinately. Usually the problems show whether you really have a good understanding of the concepts.
     
  18. Jan 29, 2016 #17

    Student100

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    I used Fundamentals of Physics by H&R&K when I took introductory mechanics back in community college years ago. It's on the same level as Serway (maybe a bit better in the problem department) and suffers from the "lots of pictures and colorful glossy pages" problem. Other than that, there isn't anything broken with the book OP, or the other poster worried. You can learn physics from it at the target level, although the Physics books are better and probably the best book at the general science/engineering level (my opinion of course).

    I notice you're saying you didn't have time to take notes/learn concepts. If you were simply reading the book and lecture notes you're never going to learn the concepts. You need to do problems, lots of problems. If you can't get started out of the gate at all, pick up a copy of the students solution manual and learn some of the heuristics from it. treating those problems covered in-depth like examples. After you get the hang of how they're solving those types of problems, do some of the problems that aren't covered in manual that you can check in the back of the book. After you've solved problems, ask yourself what the significance of what you used to solve the problem was, what it means, how it applies to other situations, etc. Question every step. This is how you're going to start learning physics; as no one has ever learned physics by just reading about it.
     
  19. Jan 29, 2016 #18

    Student100

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    That's Knights book, same level as FoP/the others. Either way, they're all extortionately expensive. You might as well pay 20 extra dollars and get the hardback, as I imagine you might want to keep it as a reference for your engineering classes.
     
  20. Jan 30, 2016 #19
    Yes, definitely I will get the hardcover. I only need two engineering physics classes! Is the book good on describing good details? I'm taking chemistry at the moment, and the book were using is Chemistry: The Central Science (13th Edition. I love this book it forces you to read and I hope it does the same with the physics book. I'm debating on taking genearl chemistry 2.
     
  21. Jan 30, 2016 #20

    Student100

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    The book is adequate for the target audience, but realize it's not possible to learn physics solely by reading. See above.
     
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