April 18, 2004

Evans, Harold
[PHYS C1001] Physics for Poets I and [PHYS C1002] Physics for Poets II

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

As mentioned in other reviews, this class is very well-organized: Professor Evans states the goals of the course and sticks to them. He always has a printed lecture outline to guide him, and picks up exactly where he left off last class.

The courses themselves are interesting, at least for non-science folks who want a glimpse into the way scientists operate (think an even friendlier version of Hawking's /A Brief History of Time/). It takes a historical approach to physics, which means explaining how specific observations and experiments led to the formulation and reformulation of theories, complete with anecdotes. Evans also focuses on the philsophies and biases of scientists in their day and how that influenced the development of physics. Evans himself is genuinely enthusiastic about the subject, which helps.

The workload is amazingly light. If you attend the lectures, you never have to crack open a book. Then study the solutions to problem sets and the midterm study guides two or three hours before the midterm, and you'll get an A! Also, the math is not intimidating--three lines of calculations in the calculation problems, at most.

The prof is /always/ present during office hours, and is happy to schedule meetings outside them.

Cons: The class might seem too basic and boring for those who have a good grasp on the fundamentals of physics. Some days Evans' voice, along with the warmth and the humming silence of the lecture room will put you to sleep, so take some coffee with you to class. Beware of (endearingly) corny jokes.


Extremely light. Two midterms and a final based on lectures and non-mandatory problem sets (whose solutions are posted on the Web), an optional 10-page optional term paper. No outside reading if you attend the lectures.