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US Physics System

  1. Sep 7, 2014 #1

    Rocket50

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    Gold Member

    Hello.

    I study in Canada, and the system here seems to be a little different than the US. Here, in our first year physics courses (mostly at universities like U of T, Waterloo, McGill etc), we cover Classical Mechanics and Electricity & Magnetism without any textbook. Then, in second year, using Morin and Griffiths respectively. We also cover Quantum Mechanics 1 using Griffiths. However, what I've heard is that in the US, you use those books in first year (at least for classical mechanics and electricity & magnetism). Can anyone here confirm if that is at least vaguely correct?

    I've also heard that Griffiths for QM is a third/fourth year book. However, at my school and most US schools, it is used in second year. So that's confusing me a little.

    Along with that, in the descriptions of Kleppner & Kolenkow, Morin and Purcell, they're listed as freshmen level books, yet we use them in second year. That's confusing as well.

    I did check out the course listings at several universities, but they don't have specific times (e.g. take this course in this year).

    Thanks.
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 7, 2014 #2
    First year students usually use Halliday and Resnick or Young and Friedman. Some colleges will use Kleppner and Purcell, respectively, for mechanics and electromagnetism, either as the standard textbooks for the first year or in an honors section of the course. Some colleges will use Morin too for the same purpose. Griffiths is the standard upper level undergraduate electromagnetism text.
     
  4. Sep 7, 2014 #3

    Rocket50

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    I'm not too sure what you mean by "upper level". Do you mean an honors class at a top university or third/fourth year?

    That's one of the confusions I had. I've read Purcell but not Griffiths (for EM of course) but have read around here that they are more or less the same level. I guess that's wrong.

    Thanks for your help.
     
  5. Sep 7, 2014 #4
    Griffiths is usually a third/fourth year textbook and used in standard sections for the course. I am not sure what they would use in an honors section, assuming they are offered.
     
  6. Sep 7, 2014 #5

    jtbell

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    In the US, "upper level" (or sometimes "upper division") means anything above the first-year intro physics level.

    As noted before, the first-year course usually uses something like Halliday/Resnick or Young/Freedman. There is sometimes also a one-semester "introductory modern physics" course which follows it, in the second year. These two are often combined into a single three-semester sequence.
     
  7. Sep 7, 2014 #6

    WannabeNewton

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    Purcell and Kleppner are first year books usually used in honors intro physics sequences. Morin isn't used as ubiquitously as the aforementioned books and I personally only know of one school that uses it for first year and that is Harvard. Griffiths is the standard textbook for the EM course following the Purcell course; at my university there is an honors version of intermediate EM and it uses Heald and Marion instead of Griffiths. The honors intermediate mechanics uses Goldstein.

    The US system works differently from the Canadian system as far as when a course is required to be taken. There is nothing set in stone. You can take the Griffiths based QM or the Heald and Marion based EM course your second or even first year if you like but a good amount of people will also be third year. I have never seen a fourth year in any of these classes when I took them. The Goldstein class is usually taken second year.
     
  8. Sep 7, 2014 #7

    Rocket50

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    As WannabeNewton said, I think my main confusion arises from the fact that here most courses have a designated year in which you take it. That's why I thought the two systems to be fairly different.

    So basically:
    First year > Halliday/Kleppner + Purcell
    Second year > Goldstein + Griffiths (EM) + maybe Griffiths (QM)

    Is that usually correct?

    Thanks to all of your for your help.
     
  9. Sep 7, 2014 #8

    WannabeNewton

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    Goldstein is used for the honors intermediate mechanics at my university. I don't know what the regular intermediate mechanics here uses, actually I don't even know if there is a regular course, but the usual books used in general in US universities for this level are Taylor and/or Thornton and Marion.
     
  10. Sep 7, 2014 #9

    Rocket50

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    I'm doing a specialist degree anyway, so I have to take honors courses.

    The reason I'm asking all this is because I want to start studying for my courses a little, and wanted to know the general textbooks used at this level in the US.

    Thanks.
     
  11. Sep 7, 2014 #10
    In the U.S. most schools use one of those giant University Physics/General Physics type books these days. However, some schools, mostly some of the very high-end schools or special honors sections at those (or rarely other) places use K&K and Purcell as the first year books. If they don't use those for the intro courses, those books don't seem to be used at all then for the most part.

    Second year is often something along the lines of a Modern Physics Intro class for third semester.
    After that it's usually some mix of an Intermediate/Advanced Classical Mechanics class, Griffiths type Intro E&M, Griffiths type intro to QM, an intermediate Intro to Thermo class, a modern optics class (often using Hecht I believe) and then maybe a couple extras, like a few of us took the grad General Relativity class for the first semester of the last year. The ordering of those can vary a bit, I forget exactly what happened in my case and it varies a bit anyway school to school and even person to person at the same school (although often people tend to stick to a similar schedule just to keep together). All of it varies a bit from school to school. And the level at a low tier state schools can be radically lower than at top 100 type schools over all four years and it can be considerably different and sometimes the top 3 or 4 undergrad physics departments and/or honor sections (if available and most schools don't have any honors physics sections) then step up just a bit above the typical level at most of the rest of the top 100 type schools.
     
    Last edited: Sep 7, 2014
  12. Sep 7, 2014 #11
    Goldstein is more often the intro mechanics course for grad school, but a few of the top top undergrad programs might use it and maybe a few more schools if they have large enough departments and special honors sections or something.

    Yes for first year. No for second year.

    Second year usually starts out with some sort of Intro to Modern Physics type class, although a few very advanced programs might skip that and go straight to Griffths QM and such.
     
  13. Sep 7, 2014 #12
    or Fowles&Cassidy. It's hard to say, the Intermediate/Advanced CM class tends to vary a lot and all sorts of texts seem to get used. It seems to me to it the most varied as to text used of all the classes. Like optics is often Hect and E&M often Griffiths and QM is often Griffiths or Shankar or Gasiorowicz (although already I've mentioned three even for that, so it's not like anything is standardized here even among the top 100 or so type schools).
     
  14. Sep 7, 2014 #13

    jtbell

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    You're in second year at Toronto. Shouldn't you be using whatever books they use there? :confused:
     
  15. Sep 7, 2014 #14

    Rocket50

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    I am supposed to, but I just wanted to know what the differences are. For example, here in our third year classical mechanics course we use Landau volume 1.
     
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