Best way to study Physics (calc-based Mechanics)?

Discussion in 'Community Discussion' started by U88, Oct 16, 2010.

  1. U88 macrumors member

    Joined:
    Jul 22, 2010
    #1
    So I'm taking part 1 of a 3-course series of Physics in college. It's for my major (meteorology), and I'm already worried about my performance in this class. I had a midterm last night and it went okay, but I don't feel like I had a firm grip on the material. The course is definitely a weed-out (if you don't know what that means, it's basically a GPA killer designed to filter through students who aren't dedicated).

    So far, we have covered mostly kinematics (vectors), acceleration, 1 dimensional motion (and a little bit of 2 and 3 dimensions), relative motion, and Newton's Laws. The Laws were most difficult I think, because we had to draw free-body diagrams labeling all the forces being acted upon an object, as well as solve for unknown N forces using vague trig my professor barely went over. Now we're just moving right along to friction and calculating tension. It just seems like so much in so little time! I started class on September 29.

    So I am reading the book, asking questions to my tutorial and lab TAs, and am going to office hours starting this week to get help with my homework. We are expected to meet many deadlines each week, such as online pretests (non-graded participation material for stuff we are going to learn the following week), prelabs (graded material in preparation for our weekly lab), the lab itself, a postlab (what we learned in the lab), tutorial homework (not that bad, done on paper), and lecture homework (this is the most difficult). I use WebAssign for all my homework except the lab and tutorial homework.

    I need some motivation from you guys... what should I do to actually succeed in such an intimidating class (and series overall?)
     
  2. sammich macrumors 601

    sammich

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    #2
    I'm currently studying engineering at university and it isn't an easy road. You just have to keep at it and do all the work they give you. If you're not getting it you'll have to find help, or do additional exercises. Unfortunately, like you said, you need to work hard in the course or not do well. Unless you're fortunate to just 'know' engineering concepts easily, then only practice will help.
     
  3. miles01110 macrumors Core

    miles01110

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    Jul 24, 2006
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    The Ivory Tower (I'm not coming down)
    #3
    There is nothing hard about mechanics at this level. If you think Physics I is hard, you are going to really dislike E&M later on.

    What exactly is eluding you about the material? 75% of Physics I mechanics problems are geometry problems. You almost always end up resolving the various forces into their x and y components and then add then to get the resultant vector(s). For free-fall and things of that nature, it's just a matter of picking which formula to use for that particular situation. Sometimes for problems involving projectiles you have to break the problem up into parts, but it's still mostly plugging and chugging.

    I'd recommend investing in a book with solved problems like Schaum's 3000 Solved Problems in Physics. It's an inexpensive book that some people find very helpful.

    What book is your class using? It's probably awful (Young and Freedman, Giancoli), halfway decent (Serway, Halliday/Resnick), or atrocious (Hewitt). What book you have makes a big difference.

    As far as doing the work- make friends in your class and talk out the problems with them. There are probably others that are in a similar situation.
     
  4. jav6454 macrumors P6

    jav6454

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    #4
    Practice, do the homework they gve you. Surprsingly, tests are based off the homework.
     
  5. Rodimus Prime macrumors G4

    Rodimus Prime

    Joined:
    Oct 9, 2006
    #5
    To added to this make sure you understand why the answers in the homework are the way they are. You can memorize the basic steps in how to do a problem but if the teacher throws you a loop and it is an odd set up you become screwed because you will not know where to start.
    Yes it is a weed out course but at the same time if you can not cut it in the weed out classes you are not going to cut it in your major class either.

    yes some weed out class all you can do is grit your teeth and push threw but as it stands those students who can not pass tue weed out I have watch struggle big time in the major's classes as well.
     
  6. wywern209 macrumors 65832

    wywern209

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    Sep 7, 2008
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    do you rly want to know?
    #6
    This is what I am learning right now. Save for the calc based things, i am learning all of the mechanics and stuff. Just hold on for a bit more. It will start to make sense. all the relationships and stuff.
     
  7. Rodimus Prime macrumors G4

    Rodimus Prime

    Joined:
    Oct 9, 2006
    #7
    That I can agree with. There is a clicking point in Phys 1 at which it all just makes sense. Until you reach that point it is a struggle.

    In Physic 1 once I made that click point everything was easy except for galactic and planet gravity stuff. That was always a shot in the dark for me.

    In physic 1 my test average was about 75. That was a mid B when it was curved. I needed on my finally like a 45 to get a B.

    Now Physic 2. That never made sense to me and I just kind of gritted my teeth to get threw it with a B.
     
  8. jav6454 macrumors P6

    jav6454

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    #8
    My major's weed out course was circuits... thing was easy... KCL, KVL, Ohm's, Power, Differential circuits... all that easy. Half the class didn't make it though....
     
  9. Rodimus Prime macrumors G4

    Rodimus Prime

    Joined:
    Oct 9, 2006
    #9
    EE major?
    That is Physic II stuff. Do not have a clue how all that stuff works.

    I am just glad that in my new degree I am earning (Computer Science) I am already done with any Weed out classes from my first major. And I plan on going for a masters later on in either Computer Engineering or Computer Science and I will be skipping even more weed out classes :-D

    Either way weed out classes in Engineering Majors are
    Physics, Cal II, and something related directly to the major. ME is dynamics, CE is Statics, EE circuits, dont know about CS (already jump over it)
     
  10. jav6454 macrumors P6

    jav6454

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    #10
    Yup, EE here.

    Actually, in Physics all you see is Ohm's Law, Ampere's, and some basic (like really basic) circuit design.

    Circuits I and II deal with Kirchoff's laws (KCL, KVL) and much more detail in a circuit analysis. Such as what happens when you flip a switch at time 0 (differential equations plays in here). What happens when you have an ideal or non-ideal Op Amp. Or the best of them all, analyze an AC circuit.

    I think/thought the Weed out course for ME's is Thermodynamics. For me, I've perceived Calc I, and Calc II as weed outs for all engineerings. You have no idea how much I still hate Sequences and Series....
     
  11. Rodimus Prime macrumors G4

    Rodimus Prime

    Joined:
    Oct 9, 2006
    #11
    Thermo might be it. Not really sure. I was a CE major and changed to Construction Engineering Technology. My room mate was a EE major. Had some friend who were ME but I never had their weed out down as well.

    Cal II just wipes out engineering majors. Yes it was hard but I got an A in it but I remember between 2 classes their were around 70-80 and by the end we were down to about 30. Rest of them dropped. Nasty Nasty class.

    Right now I am in digital circuits on my 2nd degree and honestly loving it thinking it is a breeze but I have not really gotten into having to deal with clock timings yets and as much as I would like to do Computer Engineering I can not get them to wave my Cal based Physic II requirement for it. I have trig base Physic II. They beleive they can get it waved for CS because of my other course I had in my degree but it will not fly for CompE or at least they do not think it will.

    I am avoiding having to take phys II over mixed with my math skills are rusty as hell so that class would be a true beat down for me. Other wise looking at the courses I need for the most part I would be avoiding what I would consider very heavy math. Nothing beyond Cal I stuff.
     
  12. jav6454 macrumors P6

    jav6454

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    #12
    Digital circuits? That is an easy class. AND, OR, NOT, NAND, XOR, NOR gates..... easy. Timing can be a problem if you are not used to doing stuff in the time dependencies. That uses lots of Differential equations due to the inputs and what not.

    However, in Digital Logic (as I call it), timing errors appear in the nanosecond scale, but on the real breadboard, you can barely see it.
     
  13. Rodimus Prime macrumors G4

    Rodimus Prime

    Joined:
    Oct 9, 2006
    #13
    yep. It is funny as hell seeing people struggle in figuring out equations. It does not click the them. We got into K-maps a few weeks ago and I will just whip threw them and get my equations and so much of the class is scratching their head.
    I find out this week how much the class really has shunk as we are having our mid term. Test days are great for finding out who is left.
     
  14. jav6454 macrumors P6

    jav6454

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    #14
    K-Maps are easy to get, but I'd rather do Veitch maps. They are basically the same thing, but V-Maps are much faster to setup and derive an equation from.

    I also did my midterm this past Monday. I know I screwed up the last question (worth 20%). Question gave you 4 inputs and 2 outputs. You had to build a NAND only circuit for that. I thought it was 2 NAND circuits; so much for me reading instructions
     
  15. A Mac Gamer macrumors member

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    Apr 13, 2004
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    US
    #15
    The best way I found out how to get a subject down was working problems, problems, problems. Sucks, but that is the only way I could get a really good grasp of learning what to do and how to apply equations.

    So do your homework, and if your not sure on the subject after doing it, read your examples and notes again.. and do more problems. If you are still struggling, you can go to your professor, TA, or an on campus tutoring place.

    Good luck, and speaking from past experience in math and physics courses, if you put the time in, you will do alright.
     
  16. Tomorrow macrumors 604

    Tomorrow

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    #16
    To feel really comfortable in Physics I, it helps to feel really comfortable in differential and integral calculus.

    So many of the equations of motion are functions of time, and being able to understand how integrating and differentiating those equations to move back and forth between position, velocity, and acceleration makes a big difference.
     
  17. cherry su macrumors 65816

    cherry su

    Joined:
    Feb 28, 2008
    #17
    Do lots and lots of problems until you're comfortable with using the tools. Make sure you don't start memorizing the answers to the problems, though.
     

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