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Trouble with Physics

  1. Apr 7, 2008 #1
    So I'm an ME student interested in heat and mass transfer who did great in University Physics I last semester.

    Momentum, Energy, Heat, Inertia, Force, Fluids, Work.. loved it all, did supplemental problems for the fun of it, and tutored several classmates.

    This semester in University Physics II we're doing circuits, electric fields, magnetic fields, electromagnetic fields, Gaussian surfaces, waves, and optics.

    I enjoyed the basic circuits and look forward to optics as an interesting way to finish the course but the rest of it is killing me.

    I'm not getting poor grades but I just can't seem to wrap my head around the conceptual ideas well enough to feel like I've mastered the material. I've realized that I just don't care. I'm sure electromagnetism is great stuff, but I am just completely uninterested.

    I'm pretty sure I'm still going to get an 'A' in the course but I'm not doing it the right way. This is the first class that I've really just studied to the test and I'm not very happy with the fact that six weeks after a test I scored an 'A' on I can't answer 75% of the questions.

    How bad is not mastering this material going to come back and bite me as an ME?

    Anyone have any experienced advice for dealing with burnout?

    I think mostly I just needed to vent but I'll give a big "thank you" in advance to anyone willing to give me some advice.
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 7, 2008 #2
    Read "Einstein: His Life and Universe", it's a biography but it talks alot about Einstein's contributions and research within the field and will definitely further your interests in Physics II.
  4. Apr 7, 2008 #3
    Most working MEs that I've known had to know basic electrical circuits but not much E&M except at a quite practical level. It's common for students to not understand a subject very well and, later, when they need to use it for something to find it pretty easy to pick up by review. So, my advice is: lighten up.
  5. Apr 7, 2008 #4
    My suggestions is to not give up. I often get confused by new material when it is presented to me for the first time, but I keep thinking about it and trying many practice problems. After a while, it all comes together.
  6. Apr 7, 2008 #5
    Hit up some new resources that may explain things in way more coherent to you than your book
  7. Apr 7, 2008 #6
    To add to that, I love this website:

    It might not give you a very indepth explanation, but it is very nicely organized and connects most of the ideas together.
  8. Apr 7, 2008 #7


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    It's difficult to feel really 'at home' with e-mag unless you really understand the maths - enough to understand maxwell's equations directly.
    A lot of intro calculus courses don't really go deep enough into it to really get their meaning.
  9. Apr 8, 2008 #8
    If you are doing well enough to earn an "A" then that is good enough. Sometimes it was years later when the light finally went on for me and I really understood the essence of material studied much earlier.
  10. Apr 8, 2008 #9
    I'll have up to Cal III and Linear Algebra when I take University Physics II in the fall. Will that be beneficial for me?
  11. Apr 10, 2008 #10
    That is an extremely common experience to have with e&m. The problem with learning the subject for the very first time is that it appears to be more abstract than mechanics. Of course we are surrounded by e&m in every day phenomena, but the standard textbook treatment fails to make the connection meaningful for many students, and not enough time is spent in labs to properly build intuition based upon observations.

    That also is probably why circuits and optics clicked with you-- it was very easy to make the connection with theory and reality in those cases. Students need to learn by first considering the most concrete and gradually becoming more abstract. The traditional approach to teaching e&m is all wrong imo.
  12. Apr 12, 2008 #11
    assuming cal 3 involves divergence and strokes theorems, it is enough to study E&M, but most intro courses will not use these devices fully (or at all). Most intro books ive looked over don't even give the Differential form of Gauss' law.
  13. Apr 12, 2008 #12
    Yes. Those are a few of the last topics (Divergence and Stokes Theorems) we'll cover in a couple weeks.
  14. Apr 14, 2008 #13

    Andy Resnick

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    Recognizing that you are heading down that road is great. It's normal to have those feelings- I still do. I'll work on a paper until I am so sick of it I don't care if it gets rejected or not.

    Frankly, it's unfortunate the drinking age is 21 in the US- not that it ever stopped us- but a night out of stupidity with friends going through the same crappy experience does wonders. Am I in trouble now? :)
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