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Taking upper level classical mechanics early?

  1. Aug 31, 2010 #1
    I am currently in University Physics 1(calc-based intro to classical mechanics), and I talked with my adviser about taking Mechanics I(junior/senior level mechanics) course next semester. My adviser said it would probably be hard for me, but said he would let me "try it out." The reason I want to try this is because I want to try go graduate in 3 years opposed to 4, because I have already gotten all the general ed courses out of the way...and I've already been in community college for 3 years doing 3/4 full-time.

    As far as my math goes, I am in Calculus 3 right now, and plan on taking Ordinary Differential Equations next semester which is listed as a co-requisite for Mechanics I(although on the course website the teacher recommends we have already taken, or are enrolled in Partial Differential Equations). Since this course is only offered in the spring semester now, If I didn't take it this spring I would have to wait a whole year to take it, therefor messing up my sequence of aiming to graduate in 3 years.

    So assuming I can get into this course, what can I best do to prepare myself for it? I will apparently have the bare minimum math skills needed. Someone told me I should take linear algebra in the spring too because its used in Mechanics a lot? I'd just like to hear some opinions from people who have taken upper level classical mechanics. Thanks!
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  3. Aug 31, 2010 #2
    The advice I wish I was given is to get in the mindset that you are going to be doing REAL physics for the first time in your life. What do I mean by this? Basically that the problems are no longer going to be simple restatements of the examples from the text, but rather will test if you understand the underlying physics. The mathematics (although tedious, or even acrobatic, at times) won't be the hard part; the hard part will be knowing exactly how to set up (i.e. write down) the proper equation to even start the problem. When doing problem sets, don't go in thinking that you have some homework problems to bang out in an hour or two; go in thinking that you have a intellectual problem to solve by invoking the laws of physics as you know them,
  4. Aug 31, 2010 #3

    Vanadium 50

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    This may not be easy - I think your advisor is correct. The problem is not that you are missing one big chunk of something somewhere - it's that you are most likely missing a bunch of little pieces, where you won't know you are missing them until you need them.
  5. Aug 31, 2010 #4

    Vanadium 50

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    By the way, graduating early is not always a good thing. Why rush through college?
  6. Aug 31, 2010 #5
    Well graduating early is kind of a lost hope for me. I'm 21 years old in a freshman physics course, so as far as most kids go, I should be graduating THIS year.

    It really presents a problem. I have already taken all the general ed/humanities courses, so all I basically have left is math/physics/computational courses. If all the requirements I have left to meet were to span out over the next 4 years, I simply wouldn't have enough credit hours per semester, and therefor would not get any financial aid(which I need). The only way I can correct this is to really double major in mathematics, which is about 5-6 extra courses, or condense the physics sequence to 3 years opposed to 4. I hope that's kind of clear...I'll probably go talk to the professor that teaches mechanics and see what he says today.
  7. Aug 31, 2010 #6
    The standard physics curriculum at my university had you taking calc-based physics I (mechanics), physics II (E&M) and an overview course in "modern physics" to start. Typically these were supposed to be separated by a semester but I took physics I and II at the same time. The next semester I took modern physics and the first "real" classical mechanics course at the same time. Math-wise I was in the same spot you were when I first took classical mechanics.

    So as others have suggested, your first few days in the real classical mechanics may be a shock. Start the semester with good habits by starting the homework problems as soon as you get them so you're able to ask questions if you have them. Most importantly, don't be afraid to go see the professor if you're confused.
  8. Aug 31, 2010 #7

    Thanks for the good answer. I will be taking ODE's and Linear Algebra at the same time...is this a good idea? I heard there is some linear in classical mechanics.
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