Course: PHY304
Instructor: Waseem Bakr
S 2018

Description of Course Goals and Curriculum

The course is taught essentially from Griffiths, the textbook, so problems tend to be somewhat standard, which is not to say easy. There are, fortunately, a limited number of concepts that are/can be tested, which makes it easier to study. These are by and large well-defined. One key thing which I found easy to understand was differential equations and boundary conditions (speherical, cuboidal, cylindrical); if you can get that down you're ahead of a few people, and it doesn't require too much *real* work, just thinking about what you're doing when you do a Diff. Eq. problem and deriving it from scratch. Polarisability/polarisation and the D/H-fields, linear dielectrics, charge densities was more difficult. The two methods for solving the "real" problems basically boil down to Diff. Eqs. or this "other method"(which you learn in Chapters 4 and 6), using different quantities. I never quite understood this properly, nowhere near as well, so found it difficult to decide whether to use DEs or the "other" method. The EM momentum, relativity, dipoles, EM waves problems are a bit more limited in what can be asked, especially relativity, and to a lesser extent EM momentum, although dipoles can throw some curveballs, but in a non-predictable way. EM waves is only really examinable as a simple problem. Really knowing which approach to use really would've helped; on the midterms where you run out of time, I scored below the median both times; when I had more time to think and try things out on the final I scored 97, with the median 79. I didn't really understand anything more or better on the final, or do anything different  

Learning From Classroom Instruction

Bakr is a bit obsessive compulsive, starting lectures at the stroke of 10:00, and follows the textbook rigidly. This tempts people to not go to lecture and just read the textbook, but ultimately Bakr puts stuff from lecture on the test, so going to lecture provides a very nice summary for later review. Psets and following what's happening in lecture will get you to understand the concepts pretty well, supplementing with the textbook. Bakr doesn't do a great job of teaching that difference between the 2 approaches I mentioned before, which is the hard part. Spending time and going to office hours to specifically ask him might help.

Learning For and From Assignments

Go to lecture, do psets. I often had to go to office hours, where Bakr can treat you like you're stupid, but that was largely sufficient to mostly learn it. I think more focussed reading of the textbook would've helped with learning the fundamental differences between the 2 approaches. Drill different problems.

External Resources

I didn't use anything, and perhaps regret it. Something which focusses on the DEs/"other" method difference would be good. And try and do extra problems, in addition to psets, when you have time (who does though...?).

What Students Should Know About This Course For Purposes Of Course Selection

The DEs stuff from previous PHY courses plus what you learn in 304 is good enough - I don't think MAE 305 is necessary, as the DEs stuff wasn't the hard part, at least for me. Go over psets before exams, and lecture notes if you can't solve the problems cold. That will help you, once you have decided which approach to use, to solve the problem. You can't run through the approaches on MTs, although that's more feasible on the final, so that's the key thing to learn. Part of that comes from the same fundamental understanding you get from doing psets and lecture notes/textbook and really knowing it, but I think the only way to really get it is to drill (different) problems until you can do it. That's not as doable in Junior Spring with JP, so maybe taking it Sophomore Spring is a good idea.
Advanced Electromagnetism

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