Monthly Archives: May 2015

Course Review: HIST 108

Global History of Capitalism

“Historians don’t like numbers very much. For this reason, they have left the historical enquiry of capitalism to the economists for far too long.'”

Text: Capitalism by Paul Bowles

Prof: Dr.Daniel VIckers and Dr Sebastian Prange

Prange and Vickers are like opposites. Prange is a tall, young, European man, always dressed impeccably. He has a more global outlook, and his research is on Medieval India. Vickers is shorter and older and has this good ol’ fashioned Canadian vibe. He seems to be pretty focussed on his area of research, New England farming communities.  However, Vickers is a very entertaining Professor, and has a lot of unique insights that really make you think. Prange is more structured, and is quite a methodical instructor, covering all the key arguments and points. In my opinion, they were a good team for this course, balancing each-other out well.


Good luck getting an A+ in this course. Highest score was 87. Other than that, class wasn’t too hard to understand. Some readings were a bit long-winded, but were okay on the whole. The weekly seminar paper was achievable, since they were expected to be short. I would have preferred two weeks though, and written something slightly longer. The midterm was all about speed for me. I left only 10 minutes for the last of three essays, so I didn’t do very well. The final was significantly easier for me, since we had more time.

Key Concepts





Work Ethic


Division of Labour


 Hard Concepts

Historical Argument: Different from a normal essay. Very important to take a stance and argue that position, while considering evidence on either side. Stating key arguments and defining all terms in introduction is key. Also remember to summarize the discussion in each paragraph, to drive the point home.

Economic concepts: Depending on how much economics you know, some of the concepts might be new. For example, the process by which government debt was turned into shares in a company seemed kind of confusing initially, since I didn’t really understand how government debt worked.


Fun elective for me. Improved my argumentation a lot, I think. Don’t expect great grades, though. I could not recommend this course enough for a student in Commerce or Economics, because it gives a historical perspective to a lot of the things that are taken for granted in those fields.


Course Review: PHYS 109

Enriched Experimental Physics

“Try to be careful while handling the radioactive material'”

Text: (none)

Prof: Dr. Douglas Bonn

Dr. Doug Bonn is amongst the highest paid scientists at UBC. This might explain why he constantly has the appearance of being on another planet. He is probably thinking up the world’s next great physics experiment. That said, his explanations are generally clear and precise. Most of the time in this course, though, its just you and your lab partner and possibly a TA. So the quality of your lab partner probably has a far greater impact on how much you enjoy/learn then the professor, since the curriculum is the same across both sections.


I’m not the most precise person, so I find labs hard and stressful. The average for the course was 86% though, so its hard not to get an A. One has to work fast from the beginning to finish on time.

Key Concepts

Least-squares fit



 Hard Concepts

Coming up with improvements: The TA’s are a lot more demanding in this respect this term. Not sure I mastered coming up with improvements.

Two parameter fit: This is a pain. Lots of calculations on Excel for one ruddy number. Good to keep table organized to avoid making careless errors.

Handling oscilloscope: Though circuits were easy? Think again. Guessing and testing generally was the rule of thumb.

Observing resonance in a wire: Difficult to observe if a vibrating wire has achieved resonance. One way around this is to use theoretical values to approximate before observations.


Same as lab section for PHYS 107. Some cool experiments. Others are a pain. Probably learnt a lot of useful statistics on-the-fly. Not that enjoyable for me, though.


Course Review: PHYS 108

Enriched Physics II 

“Oh my God! Something is changing my magnetic flux!”

Text: David Halliday, Robert Resnick and Jearl Walker. Fundamentals of Physics 10th Edition Volume 2 (Chapters 21-44)

Prof: Dr Janis McKenna

Janis keeps things really straightforward. Further, she brings entertaining demo’s to class. She exploded lots of things and showed us how several devices work, ranging from a rail gun to an electric guitar. She is super-passionate about particle physics, and comes to the tutorials to help explain. Discussions on magnetic monopoles are always on the table. She also gave us guided tours of Triumf. Overall, a great prof for an enriched class in electromagnetism.


In comparison to PHYS 107, the professor and the textbook was a lot easier to understand. At the same time, electricity and magnetism is more abstract then mechanics. Further, you are expected to have grasped the basics of calculus by now, so the maths is harder. There was no scaling in this course yet the average was 75-78%, so if you keep up with the material you are okay. They through some tricky tutorial and homework questions at you once in a while, but rarely on exams or midterms. The midterms and exams were fairly conceptual-only a handful of plug-n-chug or mathematical questions. Most of the questions on the exam focused on applying (a) known physics concept/s in a possibly new environment. Thus, the cheat sheet was more of a security blanket than anything else.

Key Concepts

Maxwell’s Equations


Electric Fields


Magnetic Fields


Hard Concepts

Induced EMF: Never understood how an EMF can be circular, and not produce a voltage. Just learnt to accept magic.

Inductance: Tricky at first. Helpful to view as capacitance backwards.

Flux: Flux is mentioned in all of Maxwell’s Equations. Important to write flux through a loop as an area integral for some questions.

Integration: Sometimes its difficult to set-up the integral correctly, for a particular current or charge distribution. Important to make good use of trigonometry and right-hand rule. Also, check the answer.



Fun course. Not as much work as Phys 107. Recommend it to anyone who has a vague interest in Physics. Even if you don’t do well, Janis’s demo’s will make it worthwhile for sheer entertainment value.


Course Review: SCIE 113

First-Year Seminar in Science

“So we are now going to review your review of the reviewer” 

Text: (non-CPR version)

Prof: Dr John Sherman

Dr Sherman is a no-nonsense, but laid-back prof. I have a feeling he skimmed over a lot of material that is part of the curriculum of this course, so that we could focus on writing more. If you are not happy with your grade on your rough draft, keep revising and send it back to him. He is really helpful that way. The TA, Vivienne, was also really helpful and supportive.


This course was pretty chill. If you have difficulty writing, you might have to put slightly more work in. But the work-load is less then most writing classes. Most of the time you are either preparing for an in class writing, editing an in class writing, or giving feedback on another students writing. Every now and then there is some sort of discussion on the scientific method and research, but they require little, if at all, preparation. The term project can be a lot of work, so getting started and getting teacher feedback ASAP is important.

Key Concepts

Scientific arguments

Scientific Method

Hard Concepts

How to construct a research paper: Term project is quite hard, especially if you pick your on thesis. There are so many pitfalls. My advice is to get as much input and feedback from TA and prof.



Our class was special in that we did no CPR, but in class reviewing. All in all, good course to improve on writing skills. I found the philosophy of science components of this course superficial and distracting from the main goal of improving writing. I am pretty sure that the marks on this course are higher than those in other first year English options.