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Are there any courses in the standard undergrad physics curriculum that tend to be more challenging than others?
Mathematical Methods can be daunting but it is not part of the standard undergrad physics curriculum. The standard courses (required, at least one course in each at the intermediate level, by all institutions offering a physics major) are Classical Mechanics, Electricity and Magnetism, Quantum Mechanics and Thermodynamics & Statistical Mechanics.I think methametical methods for physics is terrifying.
From that first sentence of the Panofsky and Phillips book, the assumption made for the expected audience would be someone who have taken a second year analysis and first year advanced linear algebra course (given the discussion of tensors and dimensions).At my university more than 40 years ago, it was Classical Electrodynamics I. As a second semester sophomore, we used Waves, (Berkeley Series). The first sentence in the book begins, "the world is full of things that move".
The next semester, first semester junior year, our professor chose Panofsky and Phillips, as the undergraduate electrodynamics textbook. Imagine when I had read (on the first page), "In general, an "n-th rank tensor field" requires the specification of d to the nth components, where d is the dimensionality of the space in which the field is defined"
Only 9 months went by, between the world is full of things that move, and the description of a tensor field in d dimensions. Did I wake up in the 25th century like Buck Rogers? What just happened, and what is the upside down triangle on page 2. Reading on, it gets even worse.
Now it is also interesting in that in our class for quantum, we used Messiah, Quantum Mechanics. This is a pretty difficult book for a first exposure to undergrad quantum. The next year in the class behind me, they used Landau and Lif Volume III. This is even more tough than Messiah for undergrad students.
I think in this day of Griffith textbooks for undergrad, the undergrads are less likely to have these trials.
I tend to think the move from introductory electrodynamics to junior level electrodynamics is a bit more of a transition than the first quantum mechanics course. I do think quantum 2 is typically harder than quantum 1, but I would have to go with electrodynamics as harder.
Stat mech wasn't too bad as long as the professor does not use Kittel. Kittel is not particularly hard but it does not tie in with what the student has been taught in Chemistry, very well. Kittel is just shock treatment.
A course is "difficult" when the impedances between the students and the course material areWhich makes me think -- was that book challenging because they were assuming a mathematical understanding and maturity that many physics undergraduate students do not have?
Same question for statistical mechanics for Kittel.
That depends on the professor to be honest, mechanics was harder than my E&M and quantum classes because of the professor (he taught Jackson for 10 years before before being asked to teach undergrad mechancis so he brought that with him, lol).Are there any courses in the standard undergrad physics curriculum that tend to be more challenging than others?