Should I have studied E&M before learning Optics, Waves & Oscillations

In summary: I am pretty sure it would be better to learn it when the lecturer is doing the EMT lectures. But, I don't want to miss Optics as I won't have the opportunity to ask questions to the professor about Optics. But, to ask questions, I must know some stuff atleast about EMT and I don't.In summary, the coaching institute is not doing anything wrong by teaching Optics before Electricity and Magnetism. Thermodynamics is not a necessary prerequisite for understanding Undergraduate level Quantum Physics. The order of subjects is a matter of level of abstraction and some subjects may require a deeper understanding of underlying science at an advanced level.
  • #1
Slimy0233
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I was trying to learn physics from a coaching institute and they started optics before they started Electricity and Magnetism and the lecturer went on saying somethings which I didn't completely understand.

Is the coaching institute doing it wrong teaching me Optics before they taught me Electricity and Magnetism?

PS: Also, they are teaching me Thermodynamics now, is this a necessary prerequisite for understanding Undergraduate level Quantum Physics?

Edit: I am in sort of a pickle here. I mean, I can learn EMT by myself before they start EMT but I would have to relearn everything again and I am pretty sure it would be better to learn it when the lecturer is doing the EMT lectures. But, I don't want to miss Optics as I won't have the opportunity to ask questions to the professor about Optics. But, to ask questions, I must know some stuff atleast about EMT and I don't. :)
 
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  • #2
Slimy0233 said:
Is the coaching institute doing it wrong teaching me Optics before they taught me Electricity and Magnetism?
Nothing wrong here. Classical optics (ray tracing, mirrors, lenses, etc.) requires no particular knowledge of EM.

Slimy0233 said:
PS: Also, they are teaching me Thermodynamics now, is this a necessary prerequisite for understanding Undergraduate level Quantum Physics?
Not a prerequisite for QM at all.
 
  • #3
DrClaude said:
Nothing wrong here. Classical optics (ray tracing, mirrors, lenses, etc.) requires no particular knowledge of EM.
Interesting Dr, he told me thrice or four times, that I would learn more about the backdrop of the formulae and how they came to be when I study EMT.

Also, thank you for clearing the Thermodynamics part.
 
  • #4
Slimy0233 said:
Interesting Dr, he told me thrice or four times, that I would learn more about the backdrop of the formulae and how they came to be when I study EMT.
But that's not the same thing. You don't need EM to learn optics, but some "why" questions need EM to be answered.
 
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  • #5
You don't need to worry about the order of these particular subjects. It's a matter of level of abstraction.

Consider a familiar example: cooking involves changes in the chemistry of the food. But you don't need to learn chemistry in order to bake a cake. Knowing chemistry might help you solve some few types of problems in cooking, but most of the time you don't bother. You use the various rules developed from huge numbers of people in the kitchen rattling pans and pots.

Especially at the introductory level in a subject, you are unlikely to need the underlying science. When you are doing introductory ice skating lessons you probably don't need to know about the structure of ice and its behavior under force. You just lace on the skates and follow the instructions. When you are constructing a tree-fort, you don't need to know about the evolutionary biology of trees. And so on.

These are different levels of abstraction.

There are subjects that do have direct dependence and you should learn them in the correct order. For example, you should have a lot of calculus before you attempt many subjects in physics. You should learn thermodynamics before you start in on statistical mechanics. And there are lots of other examples.

When you start to get into the details and advanced versions of many subjects, it is often helpful to have the underlying science. So, when you start doing fiber-optic data cables, and you want to get the maximum data transmission through the minimum area cable, you do need to start worrying about E&M. And maybe even quantum mechanics in the extreme cases. That is, there is enough complicated stuff going on in fiber-optics that "ordinary" optics is not sufficient.

I am told, world class bobsled teams have been known to take their sleds to wind tunnels and do streamlining, even getting computer models of their sled and engineering design teams and such. That really is getting into advanced stuff. When you are just starting out sliding down a hill on an old inner tube, probably you don't need to worry about that.
 
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  • #6
Grelbr42 said:
You don't need to worry about the order of these particular subjects. It's a matter of level of abstraction.

Consider a familiar example: cooking involves changes in the chemistry of the food. But you don't need to learn chemistry in order to bake a cake. Knowing chemistry might help you solve some few types of problems in cooking, but most of the time you don't bother. You use the various rules developed from huge numbers of people in the kitchen rattling pans and pots.

Especially at the introductory level in a subject, you are unlikely to need the underlying science. When you are doing introductory ice skating lessons you probably don't need to know about the structure of ice and its behavior under force. You just lace on the skates and follow the instructions. When you are constructing a tree-fort, you don't need to know about the evolutionary biology of trees. And so on.

These are different levels of abstraction.

There are subjects that do have direct dependence and you should learn them in the correct order. For example, you should have a lot of calculus before you attempt many subjects in physics. You should learn thermodynamics before you start in on statistical mechanics. And there are lots of other examples.

When you start to get into the details and advanced versions of many subjects, it is often helpful to have the underlying science. So, when you start doing fiber-optic data cables, and you want to get the maximum data transmission through the minimum area cable, you do need to start worrying about E&M. And maybe even quantum mechanics in the extreme cases. That is, there is enough complicated stuff going on in fiber-optics that "ordinary" optics is not sufficient.

I am told, world class bobsled teams have been known to take their sleds to wind tunnels and do streamlining, even getting computer models of their sled and engineering design teams and such. That really is getting into advanced stuff. When you are just starting out sliding down a hill on an old inner tube, probably you don't need to worry about that.
thank you for that detailed explanation!!!
 
  • #7
I looked at two introductory physics textbooks from my closet. Both are from c. 2010. One of them does electricity and magnetism first, the other one does optics first. In both books, the only topic that requires the electromagnetic-wave picture of light is polarized light. The book that does optics first does not discuss polarized light until the section on electricity and magnetism, when it introduces electromagnetic waves.
 
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  • #8
jtbell said:
I looked at two introductory physics textbooks from my closet. Both are from c. 2010. One of them does electricity and magnetism first, the other one does optics first. In both books, the only topic that requires the electromagnetic-wave picture of light is polarized light. The book that does optics first does not discuss polarized light until the section on electricity and magnetism, when it introduces electromagnetic waves.
Thank you!
 

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