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*From*: John Denker <jsd@AV8N.COM>*Date*: Tue, 22 Mar 2005 12:47:41 -0500

On 03/22/05 11:49, Rodney Dunning wrote:

When teaching the introductory course, what are the essential lessons

you would like students to learn through having taken the course?

[I wrote this before seeing Rick's note, and I'm

happy to see that we basically agree about the

centrality of learning to think.]

0) Far and away the most important objective is that

they learn to think!

Naturally we're talking about an introductory level

of thinking ... but still this is the crux of the

matter. The idea is that you can measure things

and then use equations etc. to make quantitative

predictions about what will happen next.

Everything else is a just a means to this end.

(As a corollary: thinking requires reading, writing,

studying, calculating, et cetera.)

1) Some notion of how to measure length, mass, time,

voltage, and current. Some notion of how accurately

they can be measured.

2) The great conservation laws: conservation of

energy, conservation of momentum and angular

momentum, conservation of electric charge.

3) Some notion of uncertainty. Measurements do not

need to be exact to be useful. This implies at

least some glimmer of an idea about probability.

4) The great scaling laws: surface as a function

of volume, perimeter as a function of area, et

cetera.

5) Basic notions of wave mechanics. Energy

proportional to the square of the amplitude.

Constructive and destructive interference.

6) Introduction to the universe: How big is an

atom? What is the wavelength of light? How big

are bacteria? Roughly how far away are the moon,

sun, stars?

7) Introduction to electrical technology: current

and voltage; series and parallel circuits; Ohm's

law.

8) Some notion of information, entropy, and the

paraconservation of entropy.

9) Some notion of vectors. Position, velocity,

acceleration, and force as examples of vectors.

Invariance of vector equations under rotation.

10) Newtonian 1/r gravitational potential. Coulomb

potential. Field of a bar magnet, field of a solenoid.

Ferromagnetism distinct from paramagnetism.

11) Physics in the real world. At least one example

examined in enough depth to show how the various

ideas work together. I don't much care what example

you choose (physics of color vision, physics of

power plants, physics of weather, physics of flight,

etc. etc. etc.)

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**Follow-Ups**:**[Phys-L] Re: Goals of the Introductory Course***From:*Rodney Dunning <rdunning@BSC.EDU>

**References**:**[Phys-L] Goals of the Introductory Course***From:*Rodney Dunning <rdunning@BSC.EDU>

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