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What is the difference between Mechanics and Classical Mechanics?

  1. Feb 11, 2011 #1
    Sorry if this sounds like a dumb question, but at Georgia Tech, many engineering majors take a class in mechanics (required) and classical mechanics (not required, but it's an option). I just finished mechanics in my high school AP Physics class (which should be similar in content to a college mechanics class) and we didn't go over any quantum mechanics. I read that classical mechanics is basically all of mechanics minus quantum mechanics, so I am confused on exactly what (if theres any) the difference is between the two. Is classical mechanics just more in-depth?
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 12, 2011 #2
    Most engineering majors, in particular Mechanical Engineering majors have to take a course in vector mechanics, based on a book like Beer and Johnston or Riley and Sturges. Perhaps the first Mechanics subject is this, and the second Classical Mechanics course is more similar to the "Mechanics" a physicist learns, that is, the Newtonian, Lagrangian and Hamiltonian formalisms. The name "Classical Mechanics" certainly makes it seem this way...

    Alternatively, some universities may call the first term of freshman physics "Mechanics", as this is what it mostly covered there, Newtonian Mechanics.

    The only sure fire way to figure it out is to look at what's covered in each subject - try finding the course website online.
  4. Feb 12, 2011 #3

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    The standard calculus-based introductory physics classes are required classes in almost all undergraduate engineering curricula. These classes give a cursory overview of a lot of physics, ranging from Newtonian mechanics, thermodynamics, fluid mechanics, electricity & magnetism, and quantum mechanics. The coverage is broad and uses only freshman calculus.

    Junior physics majors typically take one or two classes called "classical mechanics" that looks at a small subset of the topics covered in the freshman physics class and uses mathematics beyond freshman calculus. First year physics graduate students typically take a class called "classical mechanics" that looks at more or less the same material class but once again uses mathematics beyond that expected of the typical undergraduate.

    The same thing happens with every other topic covered in those two introductory physics classes. If you major in physics will learn (relearn) Maxwell's equations multiple times, quantum mechanics multiple times, thermodynamics multiple times. Each iteration in a sense throws away what you learned before / builds upon what you learned before.
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