Physics II: What to Expect
Here is some additional info about the class that should give you some
info on what to expect from this class, how to enjoy it and do well,
and help you decide whether or not this class is for you.
- This class is listed as an intermediate class. However, I don't
see it as being a huge step harder than Physics I. We'll be covering
some more abstract material than we did in Physics I, and you'll be
doing a semi-independent project instead of a final. These are the
things that make this more of an intermediate class than an intro
class. I expect the work load to be about the same as, or perhaps a
little less than Physics I. (Warning: Chapter E2 is quite complex
and difficult. Subsequent chapters are nowhere near as confusing.)
- You do not need to have taken Physics I here (or anywhere) to
take Physics II. However, I've found that to get a lot out of this
course, it's helpful for students to have some experience problem
solving using algebra. It's also helpful to have seen vectors and
trigonometry before, although if you've forgotten this stuff, that's
- Falling behind in this course is not a good idea. If you're
confused about something, it's very important that you seek help
sooner rather than later. There are many people around who can offer
help. However, we can't offer assistance if we don't know who needs
it when. You need to take responsibility to seek help if you need
it. On a related note ...
- I do not expect all of the homework assignments to be easy; I don't
expect you to be able to sit down and do them easily the first time.
Don't let yourself get frustrated -- I strongly suggest working with
others and seeking help if you need it.
- In many more traditional physics or math classes the textbook has
a ton of examples in them. The books we'll be using don't. The
result is that students sometimes find the homework to be challenging,
frustrating, and occasionally even annoying. However, I'm convinced
that this style of homework -- where there's not an example just like
the problem you're trying to do -- is much better pedagogically.
You'll learn a lot more this way.
- In labs, you won't always be following a strict recipe. Instead,
you'll be led through some exercises, demonstrate some physical
principles for yourself, and be asked to draw conclusions. I think
this lab set-up is better than the more standard "cookbook" approach.
However, it probably requires more active participation on the part of
- The exact syllabus for this is somewhat flexible; feedback is
encouraged, and will help make the class better.
- You should be aware that this course does not cover exactly the
same material that most Physics II courses do. This course is a
hybrid between a more standard Physics II course focusing on
electricity and magnetism, and a modern physics course covering
special relativity. I think this mix is a good compromise for COA
- The study of special relativity has a different feel to it than
many other areas of physics. It's more abstract, not mechanistic
(no springs and levers and such), and occasionally invites
philosophizing. In the past, I've found that about 2/3 of the
students really enjoy special relativity. However, there are some who
miss the more concrete, everyday-relevance of other areas of
- The texts that we use assume that the reader has had some
calculus. However, calculus is most definitely not a requirement for
this class. In the past, students with no calculus experience has
done just fine in Physics II.
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