S1/W2 – Course 8.02 Feedback

Quick Feedback on the learning process as of week two of the first semester.

8.02 Physics II: Electromagnetism

I had actually started to delve into this class on time when semester 1 started (13 Sept), but I stopped after a frustrating first couple of hours and decided to wait for the book to arrive, and resumed during week 2.  According to the 8.02 syllabus, the course does not require students to buy a textbook.  It claims that the course is self-contained within the lecture notes.  The textbook Physics for Scientists and Engineers by Serway and Jewett is recommended only if you want a different perspective on the course topics.   Sounded great to me!  Save a few dollars.  And I didn’t have my iPad set up at the time so I printed out the lecture notes for the first couple of lecture sessions.  There were probably 20 pages or so of notes so I assumed that there would be sufficient content to ensure I would understand the topics and concepts without having to run too many supplemental Google searches.

Well, anyway, after the first night of trudging through the notes I would highly recommend buying Physics for Scientists and Engineers and using that as your primary guide through the topics listed in the class topics section of the 8.02 OCW course.  The lecture notes work as supplemental material to the topics, but as your primary/initial source of learning the topics they leave much to be desired.  They start off very general, giving some interesting, but fairly obvious background information about fields, and then delve straight into a few formulas and graphic representations without any walk-through examples.  I’m sure that the professors at MIT would demonstrate appropriate examples during the actual lecture or recitation sessions, but ain’t nobody got time for that when you’re self-learning a 14-week MIT Physics course in a month.  I need to quickly pick up concepts and, as if they were building blocks, understand where they fit in the grand scheme, and then finally walk through some practical examples of how to apply them.  And that is where Serway and Jewett come in!

So this week I started back over with sessions 1, 2, and 6 by going through topic 23 (Electric Fields) in the textbook.  The textbook has the perfect formula for the rapid acquisition of physics concepts.

Each subsection (23.1, 23.2, etc.) goes something like this:

  1. 1-2 paragraphs of background / tie-in to the previous concepts
  2. 2-5 paragraphs of the concept, with equations, key words, and a building up to the final derivation of the equation
  3. Diagrams illustrating each concept/equation
  4. Practical examples of the most highly encountered types of problems regarding each concept/equation
  5. Then at the end of all of the subsections, there is a summary of all equations, key words, and about 15 conceptual and 15 objective questions.
Class Topics | Physics II: Electricity and Magnetism | (c) MIT OCW

Class Topics | Physics II: Electricity and Magnetism | (c) MIT OCW

In sum, I can’t say enough about how valuable this text book is (as well as others like MV-Calculus).  I am really enjoying the concepts as well as the learning process.  My original plan was to simply follow each OCW course plan to a T, but as necessity breeds invention, and my necessity being that I must learn and be able to apply all of the 8.02 concepts in just 4 weeks, I have found an efficient and effective way to get there.

Warning, Political Segue: Now if only people really understood how much we need an alternative energy source like Nuclear Fusion Power, we could have it perfected within a year!  But until the coal runs out and people realize the inefficiencies of solar/wind, Fusion researchers will still be fighting an uphill battle of funding and support!

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