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Studying Should I expect myself to "know everything"?

  1. Nov 14, 2016 #1
    I'm not sure how to put this into words but...here goes.

    After going through chapters and chapters of introductory mechanics, I think I can say that I at least some of the basics down. However, when I introduce myself to extremely novel problems, I get stunned at their complexity and have to resort to asking professors and consulting their "solution manuals".

    My question is:
    Is this normal? Or should one be able to sweep aside novel problems with some degree of ease if one understands the fundamentals (i.e I'm far off from understanding the fundamental bits of mechanics).

    I know it might be a silly line of inquiry but I'm hoping to get insight from the more experienced to set up realistic targets for my work.
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 14, 2016 #2


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    One of the most important techniques for solving "complex" problems is to make them less complex by breaking them down into parts. This is not always easy of course and it can be particularly challenging if you lack experience. No one knows "everthing" and some folks are better than others in figuring out how to get started on problems.

    How about you give a specific example of a problem that you experienced this with so we get a feel for just where you are?
  4. Nov 14, 2016 #3


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    Yes, but see below.
    I think it depends on how "novel" these problems are. When they are variations on the problems that you have been practicing with in class or in the book, I think you should be able to do them without consulting solution manuals. When they are slightly more difficult, I still believe you should be able to do them on your own, but it may require more time and effort. This is fine.

    Yet, I am convinced that it is almost always possible to think of a new problem, using only concepts that were discussed in the course, and such that even the lecturer may have a hard time providing a solution. At least in my field (applied mathematics) this is the case.

    So, no, you should not expect yourself to know everything, in the sense that you defined it.
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