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physics or real Physics or REAL Physics?

YeOldeMan

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    There are 3 types of Physics offered at my university: Trig/Algebra based, Calc-based, and serious calc/diffs based Physics. I guess the title is a little misleading, because I am not considering the Trig/Algebra based Physics.

    Anyhow, there are two Physics sequences that I am considering. The first one has a Calc I prereq for part 1, and a calc II prereq for part 2. The other one requires calc I and II for the first part, and then Calc III & Differential Equations for the second part. The second one is aimed towards Physics majors...which I am not (close...though). This one usually has around around 30 people in it, while the other calc-based class has around 70 in it. Plus, the Physics department never really cared for non-Physics physics...and treats them like crap.

    I am definitely inclined to take the Physics-major class, but I am worried it just might be way too above the MCAT. Could it possibly be more advantageous for the MCAT? What are the pros and cons of taking either class?

    My school is reaaally geared towards quantitative majors.

    EDIT:
    Just to clarify
    Calc I is Differential Calculus and its applications, with a basic introduction to antiderivatives
    Calc II is Integral Calculus and its applications
    Calc III is Multivariable Calculus and its applications
    Differential Equations is not part of Calc III, it's another math with a Calc II prereq.
     
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    Wolffman

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      I took algebra/trig physics, and the math is incredibly easy. I think if you get the basic theory down in those harder classes, you'll do fine in doing the "dumbed down" physics. Although, I can't say for sure about what the more advanced courses teach you, as I haven't taken them.
       

      fortitude

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        Maybe you can ask the professors who teach it if REAL physics, if it is similar to Real physics.

        If so, I imagine it should be fine for the MCAT.
        I'm guessing though, that since Calc 3 usually means multi-variable calculus, that it is going to be a level above "Real physics."
         
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        Stixman28

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          . Could it possibly be more advantageous for the MCAT? What are the pros and cons of taking either class?.

          You will only need "physics" for the MCAT. You will be able to derive every equation back and forth and know them like the back of your hand if you take real physics...and I just can't imagine how well you'll know everything when you take REAL physics.

          The upper level courses will be overkill, but if you're into those courses, why not take them? I dont think there is the posibility that you will be working so far over the head of algebra based physics that you might run the risk of not even recognizing when you should use the simpler equations on the mcat, but that is something you'll just have to find out for yourself. My bet is that if you can handle those courses, youll be able to handle the physics on the mcat no sweat.

          But really, you only need good old trig/algebra based physics.
           

          ZeusonRoids

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            You should do the easiest one possible. It will give you the best chance at an "A" and also you do not need anything more than basic for the MCAT or the rest of your life
             

            Mattabet

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              I am definitely inclined to take the Physics-major class, but I am worried it just might be way too above the MCAT. Could it possibly be more advantageous for the MCAT? What are the pros and cons of taking either class?

              For MCAT and GPA, your best bet is the easiest trig-based physics that you can find. Calculus-based physics will give you no advantage on the MCAT. That said, from what you're saying, it sounds like you really want to do calc-based, which is fine, if you want the calculus physics for your own personal enrichment. In that case, I'd go with the middle one 'real physics'.

              I'd stay away from anything geared toward a major that I wasn't in. In my experience, classes like that tended to carry extra baggage that wasn't evident until after the syllabus was handed out.
               

              NiCad089

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                There are 3 types of Physics offered at my university: Trig/Algebra based, Calc-based, and serious calc/diffs based Physics. I guess the title is a little misleading, because I am not considering the Trig/Algebra based Physics.

                Anyhow, there are two Physics sequences that I am considering. The first one has a Calc I prereq for part 1, and a calc II prereq for part 2. The other one requires calc I and II for the first part, and then Calc III & Differential Equations for the second part. The second one is aimed towards Physics majors...which I am not (close...though). This one usually has around around 30 people in it, while the other calc-based class has around 70 in it. Plus, the Physics department never really cared for non-Physics physics...and treats them like crap.

                I am definitely inclined to take the Physics-major class, but I am worried it just might be way too above the MCAT. Could it possibly be more advantageous for the MCAT? What are the pros and cons of taking either class?

                My school is reaaally geared towards quantitative majors.

                EDIT:
                Just to clarify
                Calc I is Differential Calculus and its applications, with a basic introduction to antiderivatives
                Calc II is Integral Calculus and its applications
                Calc III is Multivariable Calculus and its applications

                Take whichever. It really doesn't matter. Personally I took calc based physics, but like others have said you only need trig based physics. If you enjoy math and knowing where your formulas come from take either of the calc based physics.
                 

                Mattabet

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                  If you enjoy math and knowing where your formulas come from take either of the calc based physics.


                  Phht. Knowing where things come from is overrated. A stork dropped me off and Hurricane Katrina happened because the mayor of San Francisco let some homosexuals get married.

                  I agree with the poster though. If you like calculus, taking calculus-based physics certainly isn't a disadvantage for the MCAT, especially if you'll understand it better.
                   

                  YeOldeMan

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                    if my school offered alge/trig based physics I'd be all over it like peanut butter on jelly sandwiches.

                    From what my colleagues have said, trig-based is a real headache...if you know math well the higher physics will go much more smoothly.

                    You should do the easiest one possible. It will give you the best chance at an "A" and also you do not need anything more than basic for the MCAT or the rest of your life

                    Yes, definitely. In my case though, which complicates things, REAL Physics would be the easiest...and I really don't want to be staring at a question on the MCAT thinking "wtf? what about X or Y other parameter? can this be done." Happened to me on a standardized math test...but in that case confronting the teacher about it solved the problem; that won't happen on the MCAT. Plus, "physics" is definitely a pre-med weedout class, and even "real Physics" might be also (to a lesser degree though).
                     

                    NiCad089

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                      Phht. Knowing where things come from is overrated. A stork dropped me off and Hurricane Katrina happened because the mayor of San Francisco let some homosexuals get married.

                      I agree with the poster though. If you like calculus, taking calculus-based physics certainly isn't a disadvantage for the MCAT, especially if you'll understand it better.

                      To clarify, I'm not saying that you'll be at an advantage knowing where the formulas come from. For me, as a math major, I was more comfortable knowing how to derive them and it helped me learn, and I enjoyed the class. The OP should just take whichever interests him/her more. If you just want to take physics for MCAT prep take trig based. In fact at my school I was at a disadvantage for taking calc based physics because we didn't cover material that was on the MCATs. If you enjoy physics or math take calc based physics.
                       

                      YeOldeMan

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                        To clarify, I'm not saying that you'll be at an advantage knowing where the formulas come from. For me, as a math major, I was more comfortable knowing how to derive them and it helped me learn, and I enjoyed the class. The OP should just take whichever interests him/her more.If you just want to take physics for MCAT prep take trig based. In fact at my school I was at a disadvantage for taking calc based physics because we didn't cover material that was on the MCATs. If you enjoy physics or math take calc based physics.

                        And that's what I am worried about. Trig based skims over a bunch of different subjects, while calc based gets really into certain things, at the expense of others.
                        Deriving the equations is definitely helpful, not because of the actual derivation itself, but because you are much more likely to understand the underlying concepts and therefore more able to deal with something you have not seen before.

                        But I definitely enjoy physics and math.
                         

                        tedwick

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                          I was in the same situation a couple years ago (non-physics major taking physics, quant school, etc.), except I didn't know I'd be applying to med school, so I took the intense physics schedule. it ended up helping my GPA and i did better on PS on my MCATs than the other sections. and i ended up really liking the class. it depends on how much you like physics, of course, but it worked out for me.

                          edit: if you took something like Physics AP in high school (the non-calculus version), that's right up the MCAT's alley. a quick review of that material would make you at least somewhat prepared.

                          i actually have a related question, for anyone that has insight. i took the mechanics and e&m courses for physics majors. these don't have lab components, while the regular courses did. i have extensive lab experience outside of these classes, but almost all schools require physics with a lab component. will this be a significant problem for me?
                           
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                          NiCad089

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                            And that's what I am worried about. Trig based skims over a bunch of different subjects, while calc based gets really into certain things, at the expense of others.
                            Deriving the equations is definitely helpful, not because of the actual derivation itself, but because you are much more likely to understand the underlying concepts and therefore more able to deal with something you have not seen before.

                            That is a concern. I did not do well on my PS section even though I did very well in my classes. But to be honest that's because I did not study as much as I should have. No matter which course you take, if you study well you should be prepared.
                             

                            NiCad089

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                              I was in the same situation a couple years ago (non-physics major taking physics, quant school, etc.), except I didn't know I'd be applying to med school, so I took the intense physics schedule. it ended up helping my GPA and i did better on PS on my MCATs than the other sections. and i ended up really liking the class. it depends on how much you like physics, of course, but it worked out for me.

                              edit: if you took something like Physics AP in high school (the non-calculus version), that's right up the MCAT's alley. a quick review of that material would make you at least somewhat prepared.

                              i actually have a related question, for anyone that has insight. i took the mechanics and e&m courses for physics majors. these don't have lab components, while the regular courses did. i have extensive lab experience outside of these classes, but almost all schools require physics with a lab component. will this be a significant problem for me?

                              You might want to contact some of the schools you want to apply to. Are there any labs that you can still take?
                               

                              mirrorpair

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                                For MCAT and GPA, your best bet is the easiest trig-based physics that you can find. Calculus-based physics will give you no advantage on the MCAT. That said, from what you're saying, it sounds like you really want to do calc-based, which is fine, if you want the calculus physics for your own personal enrichment. In that case, I'd go with the middle one 'real physics'.

                                I'd stay away from anything geared toward a major that I wasn't in. In my experience, classes like that tended to carry extra baggage that wasn't evident until after the syllabus was handed out.

                                I agree with the above. I took honors physics as an undergrad (which was quite heavy in its use of vector calculus and diff equations) and I didn't really understand anything because I wasn't absolutely comfortable with higher math (and I was a math major). If I took basic trig physics I'd have a better appreciation of the basic stuff and that would work out well for the MCAT.

                                At the same time, I retaught myself physics after I had taught a bunch of undergrad math classes. You can't really get a good appreciation for the depth and beauty of physics without higher math. You can't really say you have a good understanding of physics without knowing how differential equations apply to harmonics or how vector calculus is used in E&M theory.

                                But you have to admit--you don't need to have a good understanding for the MCAT. Reading the Examkrackers books on physics (which uses NO calculus) got me more points on the MCAT than understanding the differential equations behind the period of a swinging pendulum.

                                You just need a basic understanding of physics. Given the amount of stuff you have to learn for the MCAT, you should just aim for getting the basics down pat. And take it from me: I took the advanced physics because I thought I was super smart and it made me feel better about myself. In the end I didn't understand a damn thing.

                                Of course, that's just me and you know yourself better. Just my 2 cents.
                                 

                                YeOldeMan

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                                  I was in the same situation a couple years ago (non-physics major taking physics, quant school, etc.), except I didn't know I'd be applying to med school, so I took the intense physics schedule. it ended up helping my GPA and i did better on PS on my MCATs than the other sections. and i ended up really liking the class. it depends on how much you like physics, of course, but it worked out for me.

                                  edit: if you took something like Physics AP in high school (the non-calculus version), that's right up the MCAT's alley. a quick review of that material would make you at least somewhat prepared.

                                  i actually have a related question, for anyone that has insight. i took the mechanics and e&m courses for physics majors. these don't have lab components, while the regular courses did. i have extensive lab experience outside of these classes, but almost all schools require physics with a lab component. will this be a significant problem for me?

                                  Nice! I too am considering things like MD/PhD, so that's another reason to go for the more intense Physics class -- but I am pretty surprised that you did better on the MCAT PS b/c of that intense class. What do you think that was due to? One advantage is that you look at physics much more analytically due to those classes, and are more prepared to handle it in general.

                                  About your lab dilemma -- contact your department see if you can take a challenge exam or something for a lab. I'm sure it'll work out for you, the departments usually take care of "their own." They should, at least, let you take the lab independently of the class, or after a challenge exam for the lab's accompanying class (assuming you covered the same material they did -- or close). Otherwise than that -- call up med schools about it. I'm sure they'll be impressed by your extensive lab experience.

                                  I just wanted to say that the title of this thread made me chuckle.

                                  =D. Yeah, I thought it was a little amusing too. It's also cute that everyone else picked up the terminology "physics" "real Physics" and "REAL Physics."
                                   

                                  Fort

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                                    I'm a full blown physics major and I can tell you it doesn't matter. I've tutored people in the trig/alg based physics for a while now and all the material covered is those courses is sufficient for the MCAT.

                                    If you really like physics and have an aptitude for higher level math, then take the more challenging courses. I can't guarantee you'll get an "A", though.
                                     

                                    YeOldeMan

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                                      I'm a full blown physics major and I can tell you it doesn't matter. I've tutored people in the trig/alg based physics for a while now and all the material covered is those courses is sufficient for the MCAT.

                                      If you really like physics and have an aptitude for higher level math, then take the more challenging courses. I can't guarantee you'll get an "A", though.

                                      Hi Fort.
                                      Just wondering though, do you think that the trig/alg physics class covered more MCAT-relevant material than the higher class (YOUR major's class). I've aced my math classes, and my stats classes. Keep in mind though, that this is going to be my terminal physics sequence - so while you may have eventually covered everything, you may not have done so in those two classes. What do you think?
                                       

                                      Brent8927

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                                        I never took trig/algebra based physics, but if you're mathematically inclined, which is sounds like you are, then it's actually harder--you'll have a lot more memorization to do compared with calculus-based physics. The latter is generally considered harder, but if you understand the language of mathematics very well, then things will make a lot more sense.

                                        Physics on the MCAT is very conceptual--it's mostly about how you think, rather than memorizing equations. I had very few equations memorized, but I was able to derive what I needed, or obtain what I needed to know by thinking. Personally I don't think I would have done as well had I taken trig/alebgra-based physics.

                                        I think real physics is definitely much better than physics. But REAL physics--that sounds like fun! Physics (baby physics) kind of just tells you how the world works whereas real physics will teach you how to figure out how the world works and why it works the way it does, and REAL physics will basically make you a god!

                                        Just make sure to still take practice tests and go over an Examkrackers or similar text to make sure that you can understand dummied-down physics (shouldn't be a problem really) and that your real or REAL physics class didn't miss anything--I know my class didn't cover a topic or two on the MCAT, but it's pretty easy to learn on your own after taking the real thing!
                                         

                                        tedwick

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                                          Nice! I too am considering things like MD/PhD, so that's another reason to go for the more intense Physics class -- but I am pretty surprised that you did better on the MCAT PS b/c of that intense class. What do you think that was due to? One advantage is that you look at physics much more analytically due to those classes, and are more prepared to handle it in general.

                                          About your lab dilemma -- contact your department see if you can take a challenge exam or something for a lab. I'm sure it'll work out for you, the departments usually take care of "their own." They should, at least, let you take the lab independently of the class, or after a challenge exam for the lab's accompanying class (assuming you covered the same material they did -- or close). Otherwise than that -- call up med schools about it. I'm sure they'll be impressed by your extensive lab experience.



                                          =D. Yeah, I thought it was a little amusing too. It's also cute that everyone else picked up the terminology "physics" "real Physics" and "REAL Physics."
                                          so, i don't think i necessarily did *better* on the MCAT because of it. Physics AP probably prepared me more for the MCAT than this class did. However, I don't think I did worse, and the class prepared me much better for the rest of my classes than the basic physics would have. (i, like you, am considering MD/PhD) but, like the other posters have said, i think it comes down to how much you like physics (and whether you're good enough to get an A, although that's somewhat secondary.)
                                           
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                                            I took calc based physics at my school as it was required for my major (chemistry). I loved it and definitely got more out of it than I think I would have gotten had I taken the algebra/trig version. I can't say whether it helped me get a higher score, but I enjoyed the class more (because I like physics and math).

                                            One benefit, in every MCAT prep book they say that you shouldn't worry if you don't understand everything in the passage. Well I took a lot of advanced science classes and I did understand everything I read in the passage. Nothing I read was confusing to me. In fact I was surprised at how easy most of the questions were compared to what I had prepared for. I think that if you can handle the more rigourous class you absolutely should. Don't just take the easier road cause you can. Enjoy the challenge, be curious, take joy in the journey. Too many pre-meds look at the classes they take as nothing more than hoops that they have to jump through. Maybe that is more efficient, but it is flipping boring.
                                             

                                            YeOldeMan

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                                              I never took trig/algebra based physics, but if you're mathematically inclined, which is sounds like you are, then it's actually harder--you'll have a lot more memorization to do compared with calculus-based physics. The latter is generally considered harder, but if you understand the language of mathematics very well, then things will make a lot more sense.

                                              Physics on the MCAT is very conceptual--it's mostly about how you think, rather than memorizing equations. I had very few equations memorized, but I was able to derive what I needed, or obtain what I needed to know by thinking. Personally I don't think I would have done as well had I taken trig/alebgra-based physics.

                                              I think real physics is definitely much better than physics. But REAL physics--that sounds like fun! Physics (baby physics) kind of just tells you how the world works whereas real physics will teach you how to figure out how the world works and why it works the way it does, and REAL physics will basically make you a god!

                                              Just make sure to still take practice tests and go over an Examkrackers or similar text to make sure that you can understand dummied-down physics (shouldn't be a problem really) and that your real or REAL physics class didn't miss anything--I know my class didn't cover a topic or two on the MCAT, but it's pretty easy to learn on your own after taking the real thing!

                                              Viva la analytical classes! Congrats on your acceptance, and your phenomenal MCAT PS score! That was my exactly my (hopeful) thinking. I think I'm heading off to REAL Physics, and I'll cover any missed baby physics material on my own. I'll definitely follow up on this thread and let everybody know how I do on the MCAT PS.
                                               

                                              Fort

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                                                Hi Fort.
                                                Just wondering though, do you think that the trig/alg physics class covered more MCAT-relevant material than the higher class (YOUR major's class). I've aced my math classes, and my stats classes. Keep in mind though, that this is going to be my terminal physics sequence - so while you may have eventually covered everything, you may not have done so in those two classes. What do you think?

                                                I would say, yes. At my university, general physics I covers mechanics, heat, waves, and sound. General physics II covers E n' M basics, optics, and modern physics. Physics majors take a slightly different course sequence. Our first two semesters cover mechanics, simple harmonic motion, waves, E n' M, and optics. We have to take a third semester of physics to cover heat, thermodynamics, and modern physics to "catch up".

                                                So it depends on how your school offers its introductory physics sequences. For me, I had to do 3 semesters to cover everything I would need to know for the MCAT because that's the way my major is structured. But the people that wanted a non-calc based sequence only needed 2 semesters to cover everything.
                                                 
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                                                bkz

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                                                  I definitely enjoy physics and math.
                                                  If this is true maybe the calc-based would be the most helpful ("real physics" to be specific, as opposed to REAL physics or physics :p)

                                                  Calc was pretty much made for physics...I mean think about it..instantaneous velocity, projectile motion, working with more than two dimensions, blah blah etc

                                                  Deriving the equations is definitely helpful, not because of the actual derivation itself, but because you are much more likely to understand the underlying concepts and therefore more able to deal with something you have not seen before.
                                                  Agree strongly with this part. Good luck and tell us how it goes!
                                                   

                                                  YeOldeMan

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                                                    If this is true maybe the calc-based would be the most helpful ("real physics" to be specific, as opposed to REAL physics or physics :p)

                                                    Calc was pretty much made for physics...I mean think about it..instantaneous velocity, projectile motion, working with more than two dimensions, blah blah etc

                                                    Agree strongly with this part. Good luck and tell us how it goes!

                                                    Why do you say that? I don't follow you. Multivariable Calculus and Differential Equations are still math...and the first half of REAL physics still uses Calc I & II. Better yet, the sequence uses higher math than usual...and the physics will certainly be very immersing.

                                                    Gotta love Calc. You could also say it was made for Economics. Differential Equations too...great for Calc and Econ.

                                                    Thanks for the luck. I will make sure to follow up here!
                                                     

                                                    bkz

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                                                      Why do you say that? I don't follow you. Multivariable Calculus and Differential Equations are still math...and the first half of REAL physics still uses Calc I & II. Better yet, the sequence uses higher math than usual...and the physics will certainly be very immersing.

                                                      Gotta love Calc. You could also say it was made for Economics. Differential Equations too...great for Calc and Econ.

                                                      Thanks for the luck. I will make sure to follow up here!

                                                      O I was simply trying to hedge your bet...you know take the easier of the *real* courses, hehe. Agree about econ, marginal cost etc!!
                                                       

                                                      mirrorpair

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                                                        In trig physics you memorize an equation for the period of a pendulum.

                                                        In real physics you memorize an equation for the period of a pendulum but you hear that it comes from a differential equation involving Newton's second law.

                                                        In REAL physics you learn to derive the equation for the period of a pendulum from Newton's second law and understand that the answer given in the other physics classes are wrong because they make the assumption that sin x = x. You then learn the real answer involves Bessel integrals which can't be expressed in a closed form so you have to approximate with a series (which is why it isn't taught in all it's glory in the other classes).

                                                        Realistically, you can't really expect a sophomore/junior to learn REAL physics to that extent unless they are really, really good at math. And I think the problem with real physics is that the class is really a half-a**ed version of REAL physics. In the end, students tend to worry so much about getting comfortable enough with the calculus that they don't appreciate the physics behind everything. At least with trig physics you dispense with calculus and try to focus on the physical principles behind everything.

                                                        ---

                                                        On a weird tangent about econ, I must tell this story. I know a lot of people in my math dept who do econ stuff and we have some speakers who are established in the financial sector. People work really really hard to come up with models to take advantage of the system. I know of people who make almost a million dollars a year by taking advantage of the fact that a stock in New York might sell for $100 but will sell for $99.99999 in Germany. It's crazy.

                                                        The stories tend to be the same: mathematicians come up with a model for some economic principle, financial guys try to make money off it then a crash occurs because some esoteric assumption in the model is unrealistic. The 1987 crash came because of financial gurus assumed the a standard deviation in the Black-Shoales equations was constant (which has to do with pricing derivatives). You could argue the current credit crisis came because mathematicians came up with financial models that would fall apart when pushed too far.

                                                        I guess this is why I'd rather go through all the pain of medicine than go into finance and retire in 15 years: all the stuff they do is fake and destructive to an extent. Everyone I know in that field hates their job and they're only there so they can make a lot of money and retire early. At least medicine is honest.
                                                         
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                                                          Oh please don't feel bad, it just seemed like you were saying that the op shouldn't take calc-based because it didn't make sense to you...when Brent up there wrote an interesting post about trig-based being harder than calc-based if calc made more sense to you... anyways, it's not a big deal.
                                                           

                                                          NiCad089

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                                                            In trig physics you memorize an equation for the period of a pendulum.

                                                            In real physics you memorize an equation for the period of a pendulum but you hear that it comes from a differential equation involving Newton's second law.

                                                            In REAL physics you learn to derive the equation for the period of a pendulum from Newton's second law and understand that the answer given in the other physics classes are wrong because they make the assumption that sin x = x. You then learn the real answer involves Bessel integrals which can't be expressed in a closed form so you have to approximate with a series (which is why it isn't taught in all it's glory in the other classes).

                                                            ...

                                                            This is true. Luckily, I didn't take physics until after calc 3, differential equations, and other math classes (even though the prerequisite was only concurrent registration in calc I). Don't take this physics unless you are comfortable with differential equations.
                                                             

                                                            RapplixGmed

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                                                              I'm a physics major. :cool:

                                                              If this is your first major introduction to physics, don't take REAL physics, it will destroy you. Take the lowest physics first to get a grasp of the principles and then take the uberest physics you can find to put it on a firm analytical foundation. If you have taken a good physics class in HS, go straight to the REAL physics.
                                                               

                                                              mcgyver

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                                                                At columbia there is physics (alg/trig), real physcis (calc), REAL physics (lots of calc used, some differential), and !!OMG REAL!! physics (mech, e&m, thermo, quantum wave condensed to 2 semesters with lots lots lots of calc and differential equation).

                                                                I took REAL physics for two semesters, worked my butt off and pull an B+ and A. Thrid semester i decided it's not worth it so i drop downed to real physics. worked signigicantly less and got A but still got exposure to the calc basis of physics.
                                                                 

                                                                NoMoreAMCAS

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                                                                  Take the cake physics. It teaches you everything you need to know for the MCAT and makes you plenty competitive for medical school. Don't over-work yourself for no reason. Skate through the easy A's and enjoy your undergrad years.
                                                                   
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