December 06, 2001

Evans, Harold
[PHYS C1001] Physics for Poets I

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

I think the other reviewers were a little harsh in their characterization of Hal as "the most boring teacher I've ever had." His lectures may not be thrilling and can be a little dry, especially when he's going through a long proof that he's just told the class we don't need to know, but I would not say that they are the most boring ever. It's clear from his lectures that he does know exactly what he is talking about and it a really smart guy who just loves physics, but he may be too smart for the Physics for Poets class. He has trouble removing the complicated calc based parts and truly teaching the class for non-science majors. I found his lectures difficult to transfer to my notes because his examples tended to be long and involve what he calls "worthless algebra." He also tended to make some leaps in reasoning that made the concepts difficult to understand. For example, "Because it is impossible for someone to tell whether he is in free fall or in a zero grav situation without outside information, spacetime is curved." This may make perfect sense to a physics major, but to me it was a little hard to grasp. Also, the class content is weighted heavily toward relativity, a difficult concept to understand at first no matter the circumstances. This would have been less of a problem if the textbook had been helpful, which, unfortunately, was not the case. If you take the class do not buy the Ostdiek text (it's used only as a reference, not for problems) and buy a good textbook instead, this will make the class much more understandable and the exams much easier. Overall, I would say that the course is a decent was to get your science requirement taken care of (especially since you can be brain dead and get an A), but it may not be the best way to learn physics.

Workload:

8 difficult but ungraded problem sets; 3 midterms, final, all with enormous curves (a 20/100 was a C in one case)