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Courses Why do we learn about circuits in a general physics course?

  1. Jan 3, 2009 #1
    it's a question i've been wondering for a little while: why do we learn about resistors and capacitors, etc in a general physics course? all the other coursework is about things that happen naturally in nature: mechanics, gravity, lenses, magnetism; but then we devote several chapters to man-made circuits which look like they belong in an electrical engineering course. so why do we learn it?
     
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  3. Jan 3, 2009 #2

    Vanadium 50

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    I think you're going to have a hard time consistently drawing the distinction between "natural", like a pulley, and "artificial", like lightning.
     
  4. Jan 3, 2009 #3
    This question has been on my mind. When we get to junior level EM , we don't even talk about capicators, resistors, and inductors in detailed like we cover them in freshman EM.
     
  5. Jan 3, 2009 #4

    Choppy

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    Are you really asking why you need to understand how basic electronics work?

    In order to do just about any experimental work it is essential to know exactly what your intruments are telling you. And just about every lab out there uses some kind of electronics. I don't think you need to be an electrical engineer to be a good experimentalist, but I think you would be hard-pressed to find anyone working in a lab who would say they don't need to understand the basics of electronics.

    In my job (medical physics) for example I need to understand how an ion chamber collects charge and an electrometer then integrates the resulting current so I can accurately determine radiation dosages. I need to understand pulse forming networks, leakage currents, and high and low pass filters. All of this requires a basic foundation in electronics.

    Another way to look at it migh be that in a general physics course, you study precisely how basic tools work: levers, pulleys, lenses, spings, pumps, etc. and basic electronics is a natural extention of this.
     
  6. Jan 3, 2009 #5

    G01

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    I'll second this answer and add:

    Also remember that the introductory physics courses and many universities are also introductory courses for most engineering majors. For example, at my university, an electrical engineering major will see basic circuits in his/her intro physics class first. Then, after this introduction, he/she will take the more advanced circuits courses in their major.

    The main point is that basic circuit knowledge is important for many different disciplines, physics included. Thus, it makes sense to offer a basic introduction to circuits in the introductory courses, does it not?
     
  7. Jan 3, 2009 #6
    hey my physics professor has a the Art of Electronics textbook on his shelf , but his research is nuclear physics
     
  8. Jan 3, 2009 #7

    Redbelly98

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    One thing I like about circuits is: the idea of potential energy is actually useful for understanding a common everyday phenomenon.
     
  9. Jan 3, 2009 #8

    G01

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    Good point RB.

    Circuits are good examples showing how the concepts learned in class can describe useful systems, including devices we use everyday.
     
  10. Jan 3, 2009 #9
    lenses are man-made, and there's a lot of pulleys in mechanics - also man made.

    As many have said above, a basic understanding of electronics is necessary to be a physicist in the same way that basic measuring techniques / programming skills are despite their not being strictly "natural (?)" physics either.
     
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2009
  11. Jan 5, 2009 #10
    An entirely more constructive comment than that made by Vanadium...

    I wondering the OP's question myself but then just came to the conclusion that it's awesome to learn electronics stuff anyways...so why not?
     
  12. Jan 6, 2009 #11

    Vanadium 50

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    I agree it was helpful. (But I still think drawing the line the way the OP suggested will be difficult)
     
  13. Jan 6, 2009 #12
    Here's an example of a "fundamental" reason to teach circuits in intro physics: The argument for the necessity of displacement current comes from an analysis of capacitors.
     
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