SliceNDice

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Hey everyone. I am trying to decide whether to take calc-based physics or non-calc based physics. My physics major dad says I will find the calc based course much more interesting and enriching while the non-calc one would be frustrating for me. I took AP calc BC in my senior year of high school and got a 5 but I'm now a junior and my calc skills would be pretty rusty. I know that general physics at my school is relatively easy. I want to take interesting classes and I know physics without calculus is almost an oxymoron, but I don't want to kill the ever-important gpa. Advice?
 

gyngyn

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It doesn't matter to medical schools. The distinction may be of importance to you depending on your major.
 
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SliceNDice

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I'm majoring in bio with a neuroscience concentration...so I don't think it matters in that regard
 
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Honestly the calculus in that physics class is taking derivatives and integrating. If you got a 5 on calculus BC it should be pretty straightforward(the math at least).

Well, the physics at my school was like that at least( I go to an engineering school)
 

Aerus

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Inb4Agent B.
 

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Talk to upperclassmen to gauge how difficult calc-based physics is. Sometimes there are professors who are notorious for making the class insanely difficult. Sometimes the class is made to be very difficult regardless of the professor. And sometimes it's completely manageable.

Personally, I took calc-based physics and it was by far my favorite pre-req. It was a class required for engineers, so there was a nice curve. The calculus is extremely basic, you will have no trouble with it. At most you will have to brush up on basic derivatives and integrals if you have forgotten. Alg-based physics is a bit of a cop-out and doesn't allow you to fully understand the principles, which I think is why so many pre-meds loathe physics. But like gyngyn said above, it makes no difference to med schools and it will make no difference for the MCAT.

Inb4Agent B.
:laugh:
 
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CyberMaxx

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I agree with what's been said. Algebra based physics will require a little less work but calculus based physics will help you more with concepts. I would argue that a good conceptual understanding of the material will be better for the MCAT.
 

487806

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Hey everyone. I am trying to decide whether to take calc-based physics or non-calc based physics. My physics major dad says I will find the calc based course much more interesting and enriching while the non-calc one would be frustrating for me. I took AP calc BC in my senior year of high school and got a 5 but I'm now a junior and my calc skills would be pretty rusty. I know that general physics at my school is relatively easy. I want to take interesting classes and I know physics without calculus is almost an oxymoron, but I don't want to kill the ever-important gpa. Advice?
So this thread is just a rehash of a prevalent theme that seemed to be bitterly divisive. Here are my thoughts and will reference this post in future threads:

Calculus was created by Newton to simplify the understanding of physical phenomena that were previously studied by Kepler and Galileo. Around the same time, Leibniz created calculus as an extension to Descartes' analytical geometry. The term "calc-based physics" is thus redundant because the first instance of physics was in fact kinematics and dynamics that Newton and others extensively studied by using calculus. If you take an advanced course in classical mechanics (and I'm sure you won't since you wouldn't be asking this question in the first place), you'll understand the essence of calculus in solving various problems involving mechanics.

In calc-based physics I (mechanics), elementary kinematics equations (including that of the projectile motion) are quickly derived by conducting simple integrations. This rules out the need to memorize so many forms of kinematics equations with "missing terms". Beyond that, there really isn't much (if any) calculus involved in Newtonian dynamics, since it's basically freebody diagrams and solving for the unknown quantities. But calculus simplifies the understanding of the critical concepts in physics, and a conceptual understanding is essential for critical thinking, which is heavily used in physics problems.

In calc-based physics II (electricity and magnetism), calculus is essential. The algebra-based approach is meaningless, since you're essentially memorizing a bunch of formulas without much understanding. A basic knowledge of vector calculus is needed to understand what exactly is an electric (or magnetic) field, and the basic laws of electromagnetism involve calculus. Circumventing that by using some awkward summation notation is unnecessarily confusing. Circuit theory does involve algebra, but calculus is used extensively in analyzing RC/RL/LC/RLC circuits and AC circuits, which involve differential equations.

My main point is this: take calculus-based physics if you want to learn physics. If you just want to dispose of physics, well, the satisfaction is only short-term, since you'll encounter it again in MCAT prep. Of course there are prep books that aid in the learning, but having a strong foundation allows you to bypass the content review and dive right into practice.
 

Dandine

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So this thread is just a rehash of a prevalent theme that seemed to be bitterly divisive. Here are my thoughts and will reference this post in future threads:

Calculus was created by Newton to simplify the understanding of physical phenomena that were previously studied by Kepler and Galileo. Around the same time, Leibniz created calculus as an extension to Descartes' analytical geometry. The term "calc-based physics" is thus redundant because the first instance of physics was in fact kinematics and dynamics that Newton and others extensively studied by using calculus. If you take an advanced course in classical mechanics (and I'm sure you won't since you wouldn't be asking this question in the first place), you'll understand the essence of calculus in solving various problems involving mechanics.

In calc-based physics I (mechanics), elementary kinematics equations (including that of the projectile motion) are quickly derived by conducting simple integrations. This rules out the need to memorize so many forms of kinematics equations with "missing terms". Beyond that, there really isn't much (if any) calculus involved in Newtonian dynamics, since it's basically freebody diagrams and solving for the unknown quantities. But calculus simplifies the understanding of the critical concepts in physics, and a conceptual understanding is essential for critical thinking, which is heavily used in physics problems.

In calc-based physics II (electricity and magnetism), calculus is essential. The algebra-based approach is meaningless, since you're essentially memorizing a bunch of formulas without much understanding. A basic knowledge of vector calculus is needed to understand what exactly is an electric (or magnetic) field, and the basic laws of electromagnetism involve calculus. Circumventing that by using some awkward summation notation is unnecessarily confusing. Circuit theory does involve algebra, but calculus is used extensively in analyzing RC/RL/LC/RLC circuits and AC circuits, which involve differential equations.

My main point is this: take calculus-based physics if you want to learn physics. If you just want to dispose of physics, well, the satisfaction is only short-term, since you'll encounter it again in MCAT prep. Of course there are prep books that aid in the learning, but having a strong foundation allows you to bypass the content review and dive right into practice.
Awwwwww...makes me want to take calculus physics now. :(

But seriously--personally, I thought that algebra physics I was very intuitive. However, right now I'm taking algebra physics II and at times it does seem like a lot of random memorization to me (although some of the concepts I can think through). I'm taking calculus as well, and other than knowing that calculus was used to get many of the formulas, I can't see much of a link between my current physics and calculus courses other than the algebra.

Just my two cents. I would honestly say go with what you are most comfortable with. I guess your potential course load would have to be something to factor in as well.
 

Ossyaris

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If it concerns your gpa, go for the courses that are easier at your college.
 
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Agent B stated it very well, Calc-based Physics is a great course if you really want to understand Physics, and it will ultimately help you with your MCATs down the road.

Also, it's great fun. Don't worry about your calculus skills being a little rusty; calculus is like riding a bike, you never forget how to derive!
 

PinknGreenMD

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The calculus based physics (ive had both 1 and 2 cal based because of my double majors) doesnt use that much cal at all .. the only cal you really use is integrals and limits on maybe 4-5 concepts.. Of which, by the way, you can solve using the algebra approach as well. (ive tried and actually solved problems BOTH ways on my homework and on EVERY test ive had)

i finished PHYI with an A (both lab and class) and PHY II with a B for the class and A for the lab (it was split up for some reason lol)

I would say just do the Algebra based.. you wont be using the cacl concepts much on the MCAT... well i didnt anyway.
 
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SliceNDice

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Isn't there something to be said for learning physics for the sake of actually learning the material, rather than to just get a good grade?
 

gyngyn

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Isn't there something to be said for learning physics for the sake of actually learning the material, rather than to just get a good grade?
Often, learning the material is associated with getting a good grade, whether calculus is involved or not.
 

LuciusVorenus

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Often, learning the material is associated with getting a good grade, whether calculus is involved or not.
The problem is that in most algebra based physics classes (from what I've seen) you learn to memorize equations then plug and chug, while in calc based physics you learn how to derive the equations and understand their proofs. This helps a lot with something I've found most people have trouble with when it comes to physics (especially on the MCAT where you have to recall so many concepts and equations) - where and when do you use each of the many equations and problem solving tricks you've committed to memory.
 

gyngyn

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The problem is that in most algebra based physics classes (from what I've seen) you learn to memorize equations then plug and chug, while in calc based physics you learn how to derive the equations and understand their proofs. This helps a lot with something I've found most people have trouble with when it comes to physics (especially on the MCAT where you have to recall so many concepts and equations) - where and when do you use each of the many equations and problem solving tricks you've committed to memory.
I guess I just don't seem to see much difference on the back end (in med school) between the two approaches. That is why I recommend whatever works for the individual applicant.
 

LuciusVorenus

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I guess I just don't seem to see much difference on the back end (in med school) between the two approaches. That is why I recommend whatever works for the individual applicant.
It's also probably very dependent on the professor anyways. Most professors teach both classes and either make both very interesting or very tedious :laugh: