Physics Lab Sucks

Discussion in 'Community' started by themadchemist, Jun 2, 2004.

  1. themadchemist macrumors 68030


    Jan 31, 2003
    Chi Town
    I'm just about to make-up a physics lab and I just wanted to let all of you know that physics labs suck. Thoughts?
  2. dopefiend macrumors 6502

    May 6, 2004


  3. krimson macrumors 65816


    Oct 29, 2003
    Democratic People's Republic of Kalifornia
    i always liked Lab time, i learn better with hands-on over sitting in a lecture hall.
    in chem lab, i made a jar full of potassium nitrate. :)
  4. Sun Baked macrumors G5

    Sun Baked

    May 19, 2002
    The basic first year physics lab sucks, but if you stick with physics and take some of the more advanced labs that let you play with some of the toys it's much more fun.

    Based on your username, you'd probably enjoy playing with the radioactive samples. ;)
  5. King Cobra macrumors 603

    Mar 2, 2002
    I don't like Physics labs (or nearly any Science labs), only because they require lab reports. Overall, they don't suck. I mean, since H.S., I've done probably over 250 pages of lab reporting total... Sometimes labs ask for a little out of a lot. For instance, the labs that require 90 trials of velocity/acceleration of something down a track is overdoing it. I usually don't learn a lot coming out of lab...probably because the lab directions are never explained clearly. I never know what I'm supposed to be doing when I walk into lab, no matter how many times I read the directions. That prob. explains why the other thing that worries me about labs is: I must be one of the slowest lab doers in the class.
  6. Frohickey macrumors 6502a

    Feb 27, 2003
    Ah... lab classes. How could so much work be only worth one unit?

    I remember having to write up lab reports using Microsoft Word, and using the Symbol Editor to put in formulas and stuff. That is a pain in the *ss.

    Making Potassium Nitrate, that would have to be chemistry lab. If you said that you ground up some charcoal and sulfur, and loaded that into a big tube, and put a 1kg weight on top of it, then that would be physics lab. :eek: :D
  7. Doctor Q Administrator

    Doctor Q

    Staff Member

    Sep 19, 2002
    Los Angeles
    I remember the proper way to do a science experiment. First, set up the equipment. Second, wonder why it doesn't look as nice as in the book. Third, do the experiment and write down your data. Fourth, plot the data and see that it looks totally random and doesn't follow the curve that the book said you would see. Fifth, draw a curve that matches the one in the book, even though it passes through none of your data points, thereby confirming the scientific law that you set out to "test", even though you already know it to be true and your experiment actually showed that the law isn't true. Finally, call the huge discrepency "experimental error".
  8. kevin49093 macrumors regular

    Feb 27, 2002
    The best science class I ever took was a lab class in college. Everyday we were given a problem and some equipment. With that we had to design a lab and come up with formulas on our own. Very frustrating at times for some of the students, but a great way to actually learn!
  9. Abstract macrumors Penryn


    Dec 27, 2002
    Location Location Location
    Hehe, soooo highschool. ;)

    I measured the speed of light to be 3.08 * 10^8 m/s. That's pretty darned close considering I was using a laser, mirrors, and my eyes to judge. ;)
  10. krimson macrumors 65816


    Oct 29, 2003
    Democratic People's Republic of Kalifornia
    Yup, that was Chem lab... but i dont think i had enought to lift a 1kg weight.. although, i dont see how putting a weight on top of a tube of blackpowder would be physics...

    maybe instead, we could use the force of the professors boot kicking my rear all the way to the deans office.
  11. Durandal7 macrumors 68040

    Feb 24, 2001
    Tell the instructor that you couldn't set up the lab because you unfortunately were unable to generate enough energy to probe the Planck length.
  12. Rend It macrumors 6502

    Oct 27, 2003
    United States
    The problem with introductory Physics labs is that they are usually structured under the assumption that you want or need to learn the scientific method (e.g., numerous trials, painstakingly recording every tidbit of data, etc.). That's fine for up-and-coming Physics and Chemistry majors, but what about students in the fine arts? Even engineering students will usually express disdain for the anal-retentive approach.

    I say there should always be two labs (and two lectures, for that matter). One is the lab this thread refers to, designed for Science and perhaps engineering majors. The other should be based soley on concepts and visualization. In other words, you'll remember the lab 5 years down the road, not because you had to write a 15-page report detailing the standard deviation of your measurements, but because you developed an intuition about what was being demonstrated, and the phenomena's greater significance in Nature. Non-science majors would have a much deeper respect (not to mention understanding), if more universities followed such an approach. This idea applies to Chem labs equally well.

    A portion of the Physics community is starting to realize this, and there have been efforts to steer introductory Physics courses in the direction of concept-oriented pedagogy. Eric Mazur at Harvard has been particularly successful.
  13. Kwyjibo macrumors 68040


    Nov 5, 2002
    my university has a course kind of similar to what you describe; physics for non scientists. I might take that class in the future but it is a blow off science ....
  14. ecche macrumors regular

    Dec 14, 2003
    a very kiwi place
    Suck it does NOT, my young yedi friend! Suck it does when you must work for the dark force (McDonald's) because you hadn't had the chance to go to physic's lab.

    May the force be with you!
  15. MacFan26 macrumors 65816


    Jan 8, 2003
    San Francisco, California
    Exactly, haha. All of my high school physics and 1st year college chem lab was just like that. "The slight difference in air pressure could have changed our results entirely." lol, glad I don't have to take that anymore.
  16. MongoTheGeek macrumors 68040


    Sep 13, 2003
    Its not so much where you are as when you are.
    I was never precise enough for labs. I did great in the classes but not so well in the labs. (except for the one lab where it was find what's in the bottle) everyone was given a sample and a series of tests to determine what was in the bottle. Add this, add that, filter the precipitate yada yada yada. I looked at the bottle and said had lead and chromium. I just knew. I had to go through all 30 steps though because chromium was the last thing to test out.

    I had so much fun though watching the Czerska twins though...
  17. jxyama macrumors 68040


    Apr 3, 2003
    as a physics major/phd that went through all that (including teaching it), i must say, physics labs in introductory classes at a univ. is pretty awful. the experiments are very much cookie cutter variety and are pretty much taught because it's traditional to do so.

    you kind of learn to do lab reports and such for the sake of the class, not necessarily to learn physics, or scientific method, for that matter...

    it doesn't help that intro physics class serves as a weed-out class for pre-meds and engineers. the emphasis is on making it easy and painless for the instructors to generate a perfectly gaussian grade distribution.

    not sure what the alternative would be, but it's pretty awful as it stands...

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