Course Review: PHYS 107

Enriched Physics I 

“In the same way that Calculus was invented for Mechanics, most of Mathematics was invented by physicists”

Text: Matter and Interactions Vol 1, Modern Mechanics 3rd Edition by Chabay and Sherwood

Prof: Dr. Ian Affleck

Google Ian Affleck. He’s got stuff named after him. Physics stuff. He’s a bad-ass.

Dr. Affleck was actually a lot humbler in person then you would expect. He doesn’t talk to his students as if he is an all-knowing-master. The in-class discussions are pretty useful, as are the tutorial discussions. The I-clickers come pretty fast though, so watch out! I lost many participation marks, overly engrossed in a discussion. Quite often during the lectures, there were large chunks of time when I had no clue what the prof was talking about, and neither did my neighbours. Dr. Affleck would sense that he had lost half the class at some point and would ask, optimistically, “Any questions?”. When no-one raised their hand because they could not sensibly articulate their wide-ranging confusion about what was going on, Dr. Affleck would continue, with renewed confidence. At the same time though, when I did my readings thoroughly and did the homework, I noticed that Dr. Affleck boiled down the concepts mentioned in the textbook to a simplicity and tangibility that was really rewarding when I got it, that is.


Difficulty

Not knowing what’s going on happened a lot to me in this class.  The readings are quite challenging and the lectures can be pretty out there. However, thanks to generous scaling, innovative grading and a final exam that focussed a lot more on high-school Physics, one can do quite well in this course. Some of the key concepts in this course are from high-school Physics, just generalized.


Key Concepts

Momentum Principle

Energy Principle

Angular Momentum Principle


Hard Concepts

Entropy: Though I didn’t include it in the key concepts, this is a fundamental concept within Physics and can it take a while to get your head around it

Angular momentum esp. gyroscopes: Angular momentum meets vector calculus for some crazy, yet rewarding Physics

Energy Quantization: Quantum physics can get pretty funky when there are multiple types of energies being quantized. Esp. with a ball-and-spring model of matter.

Collisions: Can involve some tricky geometry and hairy systems of equations

Relativity: Particles may suddenly start travelling at relativistic speeds rendering multiple carefully derived formulae useless. Intuition also fails you.  One has to use first principles.

 


Lab with Doug Bond and Joss Ives

Not so much Physics as a Statistics course. Not too much pre-lab but some experiments can be pretty repetitive. They attempted to prevent us from collaborating with our lab partners on lab notebooks and spreadsheets but it didn’t really prevent copying.

I suppose I will eventually be grateful for what I learned during those 3-hour chunks, but at this stage my memories are of frustration with Excel and a mercilessly fast learning and implementing speed. The statistical tools you learn are not rigorously proved, in stark contrast to the more theoretical physics class, which could peeve some, but I infer the lab is intentionally meant to be more “hands on”.


 Conclusion

Really rewarding course. Could change the way you see the mechanical processes in nature.

2 thoughts on “Course Review: PHYS 107

  1. Samantha

    Wow, this review matches up with my experience of the course so far remarkably! Thank you so much for writing this!

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