Review Comment

[PHYS W3003] Mechanics

December 29, 2010

Weinberg, Erick
[PHYS W3003] Mechanics

Please keep in mind that this review is more than 5 years old.

Professor Weinberg is all right. He teaches the material fairly well, covers everything we need to know, and is fair with grading, but he isn't really an exceptional teacher.

While it's clear he knows the material inside and out, he can stumble over himself sometimes at how best to write out a formulation or where to begin with a derivation. In the end, though, whatever concept or formula he's trying to explain ends up on the board. The only difficulty sometimes is staying awake through all of it, but he pretty much sticks to the textbook anyway so it's not a problem.

The weekly problem sets are usually on the tough side, since he tends to pick from the hardest textbook questions, but they're not excessive for a mechanics course.

The tests are a little easier than the problem sets, with a mix of working with formulas and remembering important results from the material. Note that the composition of the class (and, therefore, the curve) will change over time. This course is a requirement for a handful of majors, so the first test will have a very generous curve as people who struggled through introductory physics will continue to struggle here. By the second test, those people will have probably dropped the class, more or less only leaving the people who know what they're doing.

Workload:

Weekly problem sets that can take quite a bit of time. Two tests and a final - none of them are very bad, but the curve is much nicer for the first one.

January 09, 2010

Blaer, Allan Silver_nugget
[PHYS W3003] Mechanics

Please keep in mind that this review is more than 5 years old.

Excellent professor and great class. Blaer is one of the best physics professors I ever have had. He is one of the few lecturers who have mastered the fine art of being detailed and thorough while still being clear and concise.

Blaer goes over every concept he holds you responsible for in his lectures. As other reviews have mentioned, he gives all his lectures from memory and does a much better job than most other professors who have their notes in front of them. His delivery is smooth and his pace is well measured. All his points are well connected and tend to reinforce each other. He presents a healthy mix of proofs and applications, so you not only understand the concepts but also know how to use them to solve problems.

In the first portion of the class, he covered all the basic classical mechanics topics from the Newtonian perspective i.e. projectile motion, momentum and angular momentum conservation, energy conservation and oscillations. In the second portion of the class, he introduced calculus of variations and langrangian mechanics, which is essentially an alternative to newtonian mechanics. He also spent a good amount of time on the two-body problem where he went over Kepler's orbits among other things.

Workload:

10 problem sets or so every week, which were graded and handed back to us a week after we turned them in.
1 midterm and 1 final, which were very fair. They tend to be application based problems, so if you review all the problems he did in class and assigned for hw, you should be fine. On top of all that, he curves to an A-!!

December 15, 2009

Blaer, Allan Silver_nugget
[PHYS W3003] Mechanics

Please keep in mind that this review is more than 5 years old.

Allan Blaer is one of if not the single best teacher I've had yet at Columbia. He genuinely cares about his students and puts in much more time and effort for this class than he is required to, by teaching two recitation sections and grading all of the midterms and finals himself. On top of that, he seems to know everything there is to know about every detail of classical mechanics and how it relates to other areas of physics, is full of interesting anecdotes about the physicists after whom the theorems we use are named, and even goes as far as to discuss the philosophical implications of each of the approaches we cover, all of which make the class much more interesting than simply reading a textbook. On top of all that, he's always in a good mood; jolly,if you will, like santa clause. He'll make your heart melt with his gentle, soothing explanations of the Euler-Lagrange Equations while keeping you on your toes by yelling a few carefully chosen terms with tremendous fervor. I suppose it's something you must experience for yourself to really appreciate.

Workload:

Weekly problem sets, but he'll typically cover (meaning give detailed solutions to) 3 of the 6 to 8 problems in the recitation sections. If you were really lazy you could go to both of the recitations and ask him to cover different problems at each one. Midterm is very fair, as I'm sure the final will be too. He explains beforehand what topic(s) each problem on the exam will cover and encourages you not to memorize formulas because the ones you will need are provided.

December 07, 2009

Blaer, Allan Silver_nugget
[PHYS W3003] Mechanics

Please keep in mind that this review is more than 5 years old.

He is a very good teacher. It's not anything spectacular or ground-breaking but he does a very decent job, I mean, very decent. The class is not like those verbose introductory physics, but combines essential intuition about physics and simple, neat mathematics needed to understand the physics. He explains every crucial points, and make you understand the material without trying so hard. Problem sets are usually demonstrative or classic problems of the subject, and not very long. He is reachable during his office hours (contrary to some physics instructors who aren't very much) and actually spends quite a lot of time in Pupin.

Workload:

light to medium. about ten problems each week. all graded.

July 06, 2008

Blaer, Allan Silver_nugget
[PHYS W3003] Mechanics

Please keep in mind that this review is more than 5 years old.

Take any class Prof. Blaer teaches! He makes mechanics really easy because you actually learn it when he teaches. As said by the other reviewer he lectures without notes and holds recitation himself. He's also very funny and sweet. The problem sets aren't bad and the exams are also straightforward. You should go to class because he's an excellent lecturer and it will make the class much easier for you.

Workload:

weekly problem sets will take some time as a few problems on each will have some tricky subtlety or messy algebra so start them ahead of time. If you start the night before it's doable, just plan on an all-nighter. Exams are very fair, especially if you've been to class and did the psets

January 01, 2008

Blaer, Allan Silver_nugget
[PHYS W3003] Mechanics

Please keep in mind that this review is more than 5 years old.

This class was one of the most spectacular classes I've had in my undergraduate career! Professor Blaer is a wonderful professor that loves to teach and really loves his students. He also has an incredible passion for physics, and he teaches his lectures from memory! I would highly recommend this course to anyone wanting to take an upper level physics class.

Workload:

Weekly problem sets straight from the book (not too hard, but can get lengthy), 1 reasonable midterm (the average is curved to a B+/A-), one harder final (same curve)

December 11, 2007

Blaer, Allan Silver_nugget
[PHYS W3003] Mechanics

Please keep in mind that this review is more than 5 years old.

Just another positive review for Prof. Blaer, who is the most thorough professor I have ever had. He will explain each and every detail in every step, so it's almost impossible to be lost in his lectures. Although this has the side-effect of slowing down his pace (we sort of ran out of time at the end of the semester), his amiable disposition more than makes up for it. Prof. Blaer can make any and everything clear to anyone.

The problem set problems are well chosen so that you don't have to spend hours trying to find your way through pages of algebra. He runs recitation sections personally, which means that even the problems were thoroughly explained.

What more can I say? He cares about his students learning the material; he teaches without notes (an incredible feat, considering the messy algebra that he goes through); he can and does explain everything. He's perfect.

Workload:

A problem set per week (9 problems on average per set). Midterm and Final. Very, very fair grader on midterm.

February 04, 2007

Mawhinney, Robert
[PHYS W3003] Mechanics

Please keep in mind that this review is more than 5 years old.

This is one of the hardest undegraduate class because of contents. Nobody should try this unless he is prepared to take the challenge. There is no doubt about Professor Mawhinney. He knows the stuff very well. He explains things very well and gives you enough time to discuss after class or in his office hours. Exams are hard as it should be for this course. However, it would be better for students if he could made up problems like midterms or finals in his weekly homework problems. The best thing is he makes sure everybody gets his / her grades based on her work as well as conceptions on materials.

Workload:

No that much, but the midterms and finals are very hard.

January 09, 2007

Mawhinney, Robert
[PHYS W3003] Mechanics

Please keep in mind that this review is more than 5 years old.

His lectures follow straight from the text, of which is not terrific. He does make the material more understandable than the text does and his lectures are simple and straightforward with less material than the text. He is a good instructor and will answer your questions for the most part and cooperate if you are having trouble. The homeworks are challenging, as should be, but can be completed satisfactorily if you put in the time, especially in a group. The worst part, which is a total downer, is that I found his two midterms and final were for the most part out of left-field. They just didn't seem to match the level of course material presented in the lectures or the problems on the homeworks. That being said, if you work hard enough, you should be able to earn the representative grade that you deserve.

Workload:

Challenging weekly problem sets, two difficult midterms (3-4 problems) and a difficult final (somewhere around 5 problems). I suggest reading the text as you go over the material during the semester, always.

May 21, 2006

Ponton, Eduardo
[PHYS W3003] Mechanics

Please keep in mind that this review is more than 5 years old.

Tends to stick closely to what the book covered, but besides that he is a solid professor. Class is pretty enjoyable, he's helpful enough in office hours and tests are reasonable. Workload occasionally pushed to the limit, your free time is not guaranteed.

Workload:

Sometimes a bit much, but this is a second year physics class. Stop whining.

December 19, 2005

Ponton, Eduardo
[PHYS W3003] Mechanics

Please keep in mind that this review is more than 5 years old.

I must say that Ponton did not impress me the first day of class. He seemed like he was the kind of professor that simply regurgitated the text (which is pretty horrid due to its lack of description and ugly notation). As a result, I rarely went to class but somewhere along the way I started enjoying him. He's far from being a solid professor but there's something wry about this smirky spaniard. The way he'll go on for an hour about a topic nobody understands and have the audacity to tell us, dead-pan, "So if you review this for ten minutes when you go home, you should be prepared to do a typical problem on this material." Or how he asks, "any questions" after a topic even though he knows no one will ask him.
Going to office hours was fun--I didn't really have any questions it will just be fun to hear the guy talk. The semester would not have been complete without making Ponton laugh.

Workload:

The problem sets are typical; long, arduous, and sometimes unfairly graded. Some problems will be enjoyable and make you feel happy that you're learning others you will label as "Ponton", which are essentially four pages of algebra and no physics. Midterms and Final are manageable but not easy to completely ace--but that doesn't matter as class average was never too high.

January 30, 2005

Ponton, Eduardo
[PHYS W3003] Mechanics

Please keep in mind that this review is more than 5 years old.

Well I feel that the previous review is a bit strong. This was Professor Ponton's first time teaching, and it may have even been his first experience with a course in this country. Much hullabo has been made over the "grading controversy", but I really don't blame him at all for not being aware of the extent of ivy league grade inflation. It is true that getting a B- is pretty bad here, but only because grad schools assume that we go to a school where the average is an A-. Not being aware of this situation isn't his fault in the least.
Now to the course: as stated by the previous review, the book sucks. It is long-winded, vague, and full of unecessary examples. The presentation of Lagrangian mechanics is logically confusing and the reader soon loses track of what the axioms are and when the methods are applicable; it wasn't until I reverted to Goldstein's excellent book that I was really able to understand it.
The problem sets were long and mostly taken from the book or from klepner/kalenko, but after initially adjusting to them I found them to be very helpful. In some sense this class is more a class in problem solving than in classical mechanics.
Professor Ponton's lectures are mediocre at best; he takes most of the subject material right out of the book with occasional extra material of his own that I actually found to be quite interesting. This material usually complements the material from the book, providing derivations and improving the logical flow. Nonetheless, his lecturing style is rather dull so it is often difficult to stay focused.
That said, this class is intended for people majoring in physics, and while the workload is rather significant, I feel that it provides a good transition to the graduate level courses. The first midterm was difficult, but again it provided a wakeup call and made me realize that I had to take the class much more seriously than I had been. The second midterm was not quite as bad, and the final was very reasonable.
**
I should just add that one thing that I do agree with the previous reviewer about is that Professor Ponton was not very encouraging of students who are struggling... eventually people are going to have to be able to take responsiblility for their own education, but this class is still only intermediate level and in any case there is no reason for the professor to discourage students.

Workload:

medium... probably a lot for anybody coming out of the 1400 track, but if you were good in 2601 (or presumably 2802), then it isn't too bad.

December 29, 2004

Ponton, Eduardo
[PHYS W3003] Mechanics

Please keep in mind that this review is more than 5 years old.

I don't think there is much about this class or professor that I can praise. Lecture consisted of the professor mumbling into the board while writing neatly and drawing nice pictures until you realize that you're copying the textbook, which, by the way, sucks. Questions felt unwelcomed during lecture. Although the professor was fairly approachable during office hours, he was still a little intimidating.
Tests were sooo unreasonable. The first two midterms were so hard and nothing like the hw problems, or anything I'd seen before in that class. When he returned the tests in lecture the next day, he expressed how dissapointed he was in the consistently low grades we all had (the mean was in the 30s). He acted like it was our fault, like the whole class had slacked off. It never occured to him that he might not be preparing us enough for his exams or that they're not like the hw or lecture, or that he's just unreasonable... because the second midterm was just as bad as the first.
This pissed a lot of people off, but the icing on the cake was when he told a student that there would be no curve and that he was only going to consider the raw score. When word got out we had to get the department head to intervene.
This got us a more reasonable final and meant that over a third of us wouldn't be getting F's after all. But all in all, this guy taught me nothing, and everything that I taught myself wasn't even going to get me a good grade on any of his tests, including the final which was long but even had problems we had seen on the hw.
I never felt prepared enough for exams, maybe it was because the lecture before exams, he'd be about to dismiss class without saying a word. Usually someone would say, "Hey, isn't there going to be an exam next time?", and the professor would be like, "Sure, now what do you want from me?". I made sure to bombard him with questions because I really wanted to do well. He could never give me a straight answer. "How many questions?" -- "About 3 or 10... maybe" -- "Will the 2nd midterm be cumulative?" -- "Yes and no" -- "Will there be a review session" -- "Maybe" -- "Seeing as how we've covered 8 chapters of physics so far, which concepts will this exams stress?" -- "All of them" --- Thanks for being so helpful...
There wasn't even a review session for the final, and he gave out a big fat list of problem from the book with a disclaimer at the top that said "If you do all of these problems, you may(italicized) do fairly well on the exam... There is no guarantee that these problems or anything similar will be on the final..." So why not give review problems that would help a student do REALLY well? Why would I waste my time doing 20 hours worth of problems if I'm only going to do fairly well? If I spend more than 20 hours studying for anything, I want to do damn good on the test! I'm ranting at this point... this class sucked. Avoid it at all costs.

Workload:

Weekly problem sets (difficult, so working in groups might help), 2 midterms, final.

January 08, 2004

Shaevitz, Michael Silver_nugget
[PHYS W3003] Mechanics

Please keep in mind that this review is more than 5 years old.

A straightfoward lecturer, doesn't make exciting revelations not covered in teh textbook, but explains fairly well and his examples are succinct. He enjoys his toys, especially all the tops he gets to bring in for demonstrations. His arrogance shows through sometimes in snide remarks about the intelligence of the class, but definitely a likeable guy overall. The TA, on the other hand, seems like an a stuck up... but at least he willingly solves homework problems for you in recitation.

Workload:

Week-and-a-half-ly problem sets of moderate length and difficulty; look over them and go to recitation to get the answers to the hard ones from the TA. Midterm, final, both straightforward. Decent curve.

December 14, 2003

Shaevitz, Michael Silver_nugget
[PHYS W3003] Mechanics

Please keep in mind that this review is more than 5 years old.

A mediocre professor, nothing special, nothing horrendous. The one problem is that he's usually a bit sloppy with the equations he puts on the board, so take a little more care when you're taking notes. Also, the practice exams were a bit less effective for having a couple of wrong formulae and errors in the solution set.

Workload:

BiWeekly homework, midterm, final

November 13, 2003

Shaevitz, Michael Silver_nugget
[PHYS W3003] Mechanics

Please keep in mind that this review is more than 5 years old.

Since you probably have to take this class if you are reading this review, all I can say is that you could do much worse that Professor Shaevitz. He is a generally nice guy, very approachable, and his lectures are easy to follow. He writes derivations of the current material on the board, then does increasingly complicated examples until class lets out. His considerable condescension towards his students manifests itself in a sarcastic demeanor that some find amusing and others resent, but he is sensitive to complaints and requests. Problem sets are on the easy side for a non-introductory Physics class. Exams are straightforward. Mechanics will not blow your mind, but if you like doing tricky mechanics problems you can enjoy yourself, and it wonÂ’t put too much of a damper on your social life. Not an easy class, but in comparison to Quantum Mechanics or E+M it is a walk in the park.

Workload:

9 Problem Sets, 1 midterm, 1 final.

Directory Data

Dept/Subj Directory Course Professor Year Semester Time Section
PHYS / PHYS PHYS PHYS W3003: Mechanics Erick Weinberg 2010 Fall MW / 11:00-12:15 PM 1
PHYS / PHYS PHYS PHYS W3003: Mechanics Allan Blaer 2009 Fall MW / 11:00-12:15 PM 1
PHYS / PHYS PHYS PHYS W3003: Mechanics Allan Blaer 2008 Fall MW / 11:00-12:15 PM 1
PHYS / PHYS PHYS PHYS W3003: Mechanics Allan Blaer 2007 Fall MW / 11:00-12:15 PM 1
PHYS / PHYS PHYS PHYS W3003: Mechanics Robert Mawhinney 2006 Fall MW / 11:00-12:15 PM 1
PHYS / PHYS PHYS PHYS W3003: Mechanics Eduardo Ponton 2004 Fall MW / 11:00-12:15 PM 1
PHYS / PHYS PHYS PHYS W3003: Mechanics Michael Shaevitz 2003 Fall MW / 11:00-12:15 PM 1
PHYS / PHYS PHYS PHYS W3003: Mechanics Michael Shaevitz 2002 Fall MW / 11:00-12:15 PM 1
PHYS / PHYS PHYS PHYS W3003: Mechanics Robert Mawhinney 2001 Fall MW / 11:00-12:15 PM 1