December 27, 2004

Albert, David
[PHIL V3576] Physics and Philosophy

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

Prof Albert is incredibly brilliant; definitely knows his stuff. He was always very supportive/encouraging and kept telling me I could do the math involved when I visited his office hours whining about how I couldn't understand the formalism. His high level of support, so rare in CU professors (especially the brilliant, well-known ones), was what kept me in the class, despite it probably having been a better decision to drop it. That said, I was at a complete disadvantage as far as background prep goes (there's a reason the vast majority of students were either math or physics grads or undergrads), but nevertheless, I'm very happy, now that the semester is over, that I took the course because I feel like I now finally have a reasonable understanding of quantum mechanics and it'll help me tremendously in future studies (whether on my own or in a class). Besides his sincere support, Albert's teaching style was extremely refreshing. He was always very relaxed and he displayed no pretentious, better-than-thou attitude. He treated us more like colleagues than his students. He would sit with his feet on the desk or wander around the classroom sitting on the deskchairs. He wanted us to voice our opinions or questions, and even though he mostly shot down everything we came up with, he did it in a tactful, explanatory way which made sense later when we learned more--although at the end of the semester, it was more his opinion (instead of fact) versus ours on certain topics but of course, he's studied the stuff for eons so he naturally has a better supporting argument than we do but nevertheless, I'd encourage any student to pursue studying your own ideas that you find more interesting than Albert's conclusions. If you plan on or are taking the class, please note the following: I really didn't understand what the objective of the course was until towards the middle of the semester, so here's the scoop on what happens: First, the only book required is his book and he lectures almost word for word from it in the exact same sequence as the book. Hence the reason that he says the syllabus is the chapters of the book. Second, the only thing you discuss is quantum mechanics so the course should really be called QM and Philosophy instead of Physics and Philosophy. Third, if you haven't had a minimum of high school physics and calculus, you'll probably find the course much more challenging (at least I did anyway; Albert says you only need a high school background to understand the course, that it's self-contained, but stupid me, I took it anyway, forgetting that I had never taken physics and calc in high school and had done very poorly on the intro classes I took in college). Last, if you're having difficulty understanding stuff from Albert's book, get some books that explain QM theory in more elementary layman's terms. It helps a ton; I wish I would've done that from the very beginning instead of waiting until the end of the semester.

Workload:

1 in-class midterm (depending on how well Albert thinks the class understands the mathematical formalism; if he gives a midterm, it'll only be 1 or 2 problem sets). 1 final 15-20 page paper (believe me, you'll need more pages than that to write a really good paper).