I agree with the previous review. Professor Christ is a really nice and smart guy, and he will do his best to explain the concepts and answer questions. However, the lectures are not ideal. He focuses a lot on theory and derivations, which can be pretty cool, but isn’t very helpful in terms of solving the problems. He also uses multivariable calculus and linear algebra quite a bit, which are not prerequisites for the class. I enjoyed the class, but I wish that he’d focus more on examples in his lectures (the examples he does are either significantly simpler than the homework or significantly harder) rather than the derivations. I doubt anyone who isn’t confident in math or physics would take this class but regardless this class will probably be your most time-consuming and difficult class (maybe with the exception of Uwriting). Our midterm and final were take-home, but the problems were still difficult. I definitely would’ve struggled to finish if it was timed. Don’t be fooled by the practice exams, as the actual exams are much harder. I recommend this class if you enjoy physics and are willing to put in the time and brain cells to learn the material and do the homework, as it is difficult but can be pretty rewarding.
I took this class during COVID, however I think a lot of what I will say follows what others say. Professor Christ seems like an intelligent and very nice person. However, his teaching was not the best. I really do not know how people got through his lectures in person. I wouldn't have survived this semester if I didn't have the recordings and I couldn't keep rewinding so I can understand what he said. I found myself watching lectures from other schools just so I could understand what was going on. The problem lies in multiple different aspects. 1: Professor Christ assumes too much math knowledge. The entrance test in the first place is just Calculus 1, but he throws in things from vector calculus without really explaining them much. 2: He is too focused on being technically correct. Often times, physics becomes harder when teachers rely on using the technical terms for phenomenon instead of easing the students into the topics and giving many real-life examples for students to digest. Nonetheless, at some point this semester, I became so discouraged while watching the lectures that I honestly just stopped watching them. Not only that, but because I really wanted to understand them, I would have to spend 3-4 hours watching each one instead of 2 hours. It just really was not good. I honestly think I learned more from the solutions manual of the textbook, which feels super harsh to say, but it is definitely true. I also think that the tests he created were better than the actual homeworks he assigned. They helped the concepts make way more sense.
The two courses basically covers PHYS 1601-2, 2601, 3003, and part of 3007, 3008, and 4021. Brian has taught this course for more than 10 years and he's got experience. But his lectures can be disorganized and he also makes mistakes often. He follows Kleppner and Kolenkow closely for Mech, and that's probably the easiest part of 2801-2. But after that you'll learn relativity, in which he starts to follow multiple textbooks. Same for parts of 2802. This makes it hard to study on your own if you didn't catch up with class because you won't know which textbook to go to. You'll probably do fine if you are the kind of person that actually goes to lecture and takes notes carefully. Other than that, PSETS can be very hard and time consuming once you get past Mech in 2801. They are often 10 pages, and I personally think they are more than necessary. They can take forever to finish, but it's actually more important that you read through the textbook and understand the physics. It's likely that you have rushed through your PSETs and found for the final that you have gone through so much but not entirely clear about any subject. This is going to be OK since his exams are much easier than the PSETs. Additional comments on the curriculum: Problem with the accel. sequence is that Brian tries to cover too much material. Too much for students to learn in such a short time. And ppl tend to end up not understanding every physics learned deep enough. Brian says that you'll learn most of the material again anyway, and good to learn twice. This is certainly arguable, but at the same time accel. ppl tend to skip 3003 and take 4003 directly because 3003 is mostly included in 2801, but in this way you'll never be able to learn Mech again. Personally, I would say that if you learn something, learn it by heart and don't rush. However, there doesn't seem to be an alternative for hard core physicists. The 1600 sequence is simply not mathematical enough to train you as a physicist. At the end of the day, you'll probably end up taking 2800, so just limit your other course load and plan on putting a lot effort in it. If you take Honors math and lithum at the same time, you are stuck in Butler. Grading isn't bad actually. If you get >85% on exams you'll probably end up with an A. A+ probably requires >95% on exams, which is not impossible.
This course is only for those very interested in physics and/or math, and looking to challenge themselves. The materials covered are challenging but quite interesting. Mawhinney is very knowledgeable and goes at a reasonable pace; while the math is sometimes hard to follow, usually everything becomes clear with some self-study/reading the textbook. He is very nice and willing to answer any questions you have during class or after class, and also tends to be available during office hours. He always goes through the easiest concepts in a topic before moving on to the hard stuff, which is good for refreshing one's memory. He also likes to go through bits of history behind the physics which not everyone likes. Exams are very hard but he curves generously. Overall this is a rewarding class and I would recommend it.
Brian is one of the nicest teachers I've ever had. He has a genuine appreciation for physics and enthusiastic students, and he has many office hours and review sessions. I started Columbia in the spring before I took 2801, and the number of close friends I made before 2801 pales in comparison to the number of close friends I made after enrolling. Brian encourages students to help each other out. I don't know whether this helped me understand the material, but it was nice to have moral support, and I think I will keep some of these friends for the rest of my life. The grading was fair; if you understand most of the problem sets and do each one independently, you'll do well. There were some downsides, however. I would not recommend taking this class unless you are pretty serious about physics. The assignments probably would have taken me 10-18 hours a week on average if I had sat down with each of them in a quiet space and finished them. I certainly had friends who could do them in less time, though. Sometimes I would not know how to do a problem, but there is a lot of support available in the form of office hours and friends. I would recommend making at least two good study-buddy relationships. Brian is neither the most organized or punctual person, but he does try his best. He sometimes assumes that you understand more than you do, but if you are in this class you probably understand more than you think you do. I found this class rewarding over all.
There is no excuse not to take this course if you are interested in physics. Actually, there are plenty of excuses, but in the end, I at least found the course worth the effort. Let me get the one potentially off-putting fact out of the way: Homework is at least 8 hours a week. The problems are of varying difficulty, and Cole often times struggles to get the problems published on time. If you take this course, do not wait until the eleventh hour to start your psets. Exams are much easier than the psets, I found the questions reasonable and the curve forgiving. The material is not terribly difficult once you understand it, but it takes a lot of effort to get to that point. I am leaving this sequence with a much better understanding of physics than I started with. In the first semester, our treatment of special relativity was well motivated and interesting. In the second semester, our exploration of E&M tied in perfectly with relativity and quantum. Actually knowing these physics topics is very rewarding. Cole is a great teacher; he is truly excited about physics and about teaching you physics. If you are up to the challenge, it would be a shame to miss such an exciting class.
Professor Cole is a brilliant researcher who works with the ATLAS experiment at the LHC, but he's also a great teacher, a real diamond in the rough. However, this course is designed for physics and other majors who want a rigorous introduction to modern physics. To that end, the structure and content of course material is often designed to be a precursor to more advanced classes in the physics department. It is not for the faint of heart. Brian effortlessly takes multiple approaches to any given problem -- especially approaches that involve a more intuitive understanding, but which one wouldn't otherwise see in an introductory course because the math is a little harder. He'll regularly ask for a show of hands ("who has seen this before?") to see whether he has to spend more time on an explanation, but if it's not new material, he won't dilly-dally on the basics. Further, like any good science professor, Prof. Cole wastes no time emphasizing numerical values or particular equations, preferring that his students understand careful definitions and observations, or "the physics" behind the writing on the blackboard. As a student coming from a math-major background, I was delighted to see a deliberate amount of rigor and derivation of results in lecture. It's also great that, in addition to the traditional classical mechanics (1st semester) and electricity & magnetism (2nd semester), we covered special relativity (1st semester) and elementary classical waves and quantum mechanics up to the Schrodinger equation (2nd semester). I liked moving at a fast pace. But if this is not you, and you're not interested in cultivating a strong background in physics and an understanding of the physical underpinnings of the world, this course is *not* for you. As Brian warns you outright at the beginning of the class, 2800 is a difficult course, and according to many former students, the most difficult course you'll take at Columbia. Regularly a quarter of the already small class drops out over the course of the year. The problem sets are HARD. They are NOT the type of problem sets that a reasonably motivated, smarter-than-the-average-bear first-year who goes to every lecture and recitation can expect to complete in one night. The most well-prepared students at recitation usually spent the entire weekend on the problem set and hadn't finished. (Speaking of, come to recitation with questions or just to absorb advice about problems you haven't tackled yet -- this will be absolutely invaluable, especially second semester, because the TAs, bless them, have already done the problem set themselves.) Problems in Kleppner & Kolenkow (mechanics, SR) and Purcell (E&M) tend to be time-consuming but only rarely very difficult. The problems that Cole LaTeXs up himself are often much harder, as previous reviewers have noted. Sometimes he'll literally guide you through a derivation as if you're giving the next lecture. The nice thing about them, though, is that you get a sense of accomplishment at the end that you don't get from K&K or Purcell problems. You honestly do learn as much from the problem sets as you do from the lectures. And all of that being said, grading is not really an issue in 2800. Prof. Cole curves to somewhere around a B+ or A-. He really gets to know the students who come to lecture and/or office hours and is willing to grant extensions when necessary. Also, if you're interested in research in the physics department or beyond, go and talk to him -- he's very friendly and more than willing to give you advice or recommend you to another professor. A grueling, self-esteem-destroying course, but Prof. Cole will help you understand and learn to enjoy "the physics."
I want to start with saying totally understand why people may dislike Professor Cole. He is not cut out for teaching a standard intro course. He jumps from place to place and it takes familiarity with the subject material to follow him. However, when it comes to C2801, I think he's perfect for the job. While he isn't particularly organized, I'd say that's his one flaw and it mattered less and less as the effects of his disorganization became more predictable and easy to accommodate. He is very nice and tries his hardest to make time for his students. This semester he missed one day for a physics conference and another for a trip to CERN but he made them both up. Whenever his work gets in the way of office hours, he extends the due date of the weekly assignment and attempts to schedule makeup hours that work for everyone. You can also stop by his office whenever and if he's there, he'll make time. This doesn't mean that the class is in anyway easy though. The assignments are not short. The problems assigned from the textbook are straightforward but every problem set comes with 1+ "Cole Concoctions", problems that reach bullet point k at times and can become very convoluted. When you finally do manage to completely solve them however, you realize you've learned a lot and have a much better grasp of the material than the book's problems were providing you with. He is also very nice with the grading and curved the class to a B+ or A- average (he never did specify which he chose in the end), a nice reward for a grueling semester.
THE GOOD: Prof. Christ is an unbelievable mathematician and theoretical physicist. He is able to fill a 2 hour lecture slot entirely by deriving a variety of physics formulae from minimal notes. His personal conceptual understanding is likely unrivaled at Columbia. If you have a very very large background in math, I'd imagine talking with him may be inspiring. Another good thing (that may a point of contention to many) is the workload. Given the unbelievable amount of material covered by the class, the workload is "fair." (Keep in mind that this may mean 20 hours devoted to a single problem set in a week). THE BAD (oh boy is there a lot): While the workload is "fair", it is massively undervalued. There are 12 problem sets consisting of around 9 questions each worth ~50 points. These account for ~15-20% of the grade despite the fact that they take up about 90% of the time you will spend working on the course. The lectures are all but useless to prepare you for homework and tests. You learn a lot more by skipping them and devoting 4 hours a week to reading the textbooks (though you'll need to read it a lot more). As we got into more advanced concepts (general relativity, and quantum mechanics) Christ assumed an unbelievable background in mathematics. Realistically, Calc 3/4 and Linear algebra should be prerequisites for the class. While he briefly introduced the concepts, it was by no means a sufficient introduction for the material covered. Onto the tests. Both midterms were reasonable. During the first semester, the mechanics midterm was simply too easy. The mode was a 100. Second semester the midterm was fair though the grading was inconsistent at best. Appealing for points made little difference though. The Finals on the other hand were another story. The final first semester was atrocious. The mode was a 12. I went into the final with an A- and ended the course with a B. I don't know what I got on the final, but it certainly should not have counted. This is my opinion and the opinion of almost everyone I've talked to in the class. The final this past semester was certainly an improvement, but the final question (out of 3) was nothing short of impossible. Overall, I can't recommend this course. You will hardly learn more material, and you almost definitely won't learn it more thoroughly. While Christ is an intelligent person, he is an awful instructor.
This is easily the most difficult introductory course in Columbia. It requires mathematics well beyond what is expected of an incoming freshman. This class should have Calc III, IV and Linear Algebra as prerequisites if you really want to gain a comprehensive understanding of the material. All the other reviews are quite accurate, expanding on Prof. Christ's incompetency as a teacher and the very difficult material. Norman Christ is an intelligent man, no doubt. However, he fails miserably as a teacher. He is very disorganized, moves way too fast and makes many mistakes on the board (which is infuriating because you spend half your time figuring out the mistake instead of following the derivation). To Christ's credit, he is willing to spend time with his students at office hours and explain things again. Though repeating the same poor explanation doesn't do you much good. Prof. Christ only teaches theory in class, and spends a lot of time on derivations. The worst part is that you don't even know what he's trying to derive till he's finished. There is little to no connection to the material taught in class and the the homework from Kleppner and Kolenkow. Christ only does a select few easy problems in class - very different from the difficult problems in the textbook. If Christ concentrated more on problem solving techniques, the class would be much better. The exam questions are similar in difficulty to the problems from the textbook. This isn't a good thing since it takes a good two hours to solve some homework question after reading the chapter multiple times. I had an A till the final in this class, but ended up with an A- after the final because I didn't study anywhere as much as I should have (my fault, I know. I had too many honors courses on my plate). I only did well on the first half of class because I had learned that stuff in school. Once Christ started relativity and rotational dynamics (mainly precession), I was lost. I shot myself in the foot with this course and am not taking 2802 next semester. I love physics. Never in my life did I dream that I would one day write such a horrid review for a physics class. You will probably not listen to my review and will take Accelerated Physics (just as I didn't listen to the other reviews when I joined this class). Fortunately, it's a good experience. You will meet some amazingly smart people; you will be challenged. But know that this comes at the cost of a lot of time and strain. If you do take this course, my advice to you is this: 1. Read the textbook ahead of class. Kleppner and Kolenkow is a very dense book. So you might need to read a chapter multiple times and look up stuff online. 2. Solve the problems without discussing with friends, even if it takes you 20 hours. If you have the time to put into this class, take it. You will have to self study almost all of it since Christ is hopeless. I wouldn't recommend this class unless you are a physics major. Just know that 2800 will be the focus of your semester if you want to do well.
Explanations for basic content are excessively basic, explanations of difficult content are almost entirely intelligible. Information is often provided not in terms of general cases (which would actually be useful), but in terms of specific scenarios that likely are of little use when solving other problems on similar subject areas. Generalized terms are presented far too generally, concepts and usefulness getting lost in mathematical jargon and excessive notation. Assignments are excessively difficult, often requiring much knowledge or intuition beyond that which is presented either in the textbook or presented in class. For quantum mechanics, the skills required to solve problems extended far beyond the knowledge of even the more advanced students. How the course could be improved: Focus less on simply covering material and more on explaining content. Provide conceptual context for content by explaining the significance of a finding or equation. Give equations in general terms, and show how one can actually utilize these equations to solve problems. Perks: Generous grading curve, generous extension-granting policy regarding problem sets Overall: An extremely difficult course requiring extreme amounts of independent learning, which overall did little to stimulate my interest in physics, or contribute to my ability to solve physics-related problems.
There is nothing quite like the agony of Christ's Accelerated Physics class, esp if you are not extremely fluent in calculus. Lectures consist almost entirely of mathematical derivations and proof, rather than conceptualization or applications. As a result, if you do not come into this class with a solid conceptual knowledge of the material (including E&M and quantum), you will likely encounter a great deal of difficulty learning the physics that you are expected to. Furthermore, the problems he uses in lectures and for homework are largely based on various insights and assumptions you are expected to be able to make, rendering the equations that are presented in class albeit useless (not to mention the fact that they are presented in the form of broad abstractions, whose applicable forms are deeply shrouded in mystery to begin with). Homework from the textbooks is largely disconnected from the material presented in class, and requires significant independent relearning of the same material. Class is mainly an exercise in theory, rendering most students confused in terms of the applications of the material. Final conclusion: be prepared to spend countless hours teaching yourself from the textbook.
Important point about this course: it doesn't get hard until about November. Until then, you'll feel like you're doing slightly more difficult versions of problems you already knew how to do, and it will be manageable. Then you'll get into damped oscillators and relativity, and you will have to actually learn new things and read the book/sometimes watch videos online. The first two months, you will laugh at all the CULPA reviews of this class--just be warned that it only gets tough towards the end. Ways to improve the course: Rather than going into so much detail explaining how different physical results are mathematically derived, it would have been helpful to learn some techniques for solving some of the problems that were completely new material, such as with damped oscillators and relativity, and even momentum with calculus. Best aspects of the course: It allowed students who already had a strong background in basic mechanics to learn more advanced topics. I would consider basic mechanics to include kinematics, forces, momentum, energy, and basic rotational motion. The advanced topics in 2801 that I enjoyed were damped oscillators and relativity on the physics side, and incorporating more advanced math such as linear algebra, complex numbers, multivariable calculus, and programming. Comments about necessary background for this course: The description of the kind of preparation needed of the course is severely understated. A 4 on BC Calc will NOT get you through this course comfortably. I felt comfortable with this course having taken a semester of linear algebra and the equivalent of two semesters of multivariable calculus prior to taking 2801 (at my high school we took Calc III and IV in one semester). I also had several years of programming experience, which made the MATLAB questions doable. I can't imagine taking the course without a strong background in at least two of these (linear algebra, multivariable calculus, programming experience). The Good about MATLAB in this course: I thought it was good for physics students to get some experience using programming/software to demonstrate physical concepts, and the idea of numerical analysis rather than direct integration also provided insight as to the accuracy of results in the real professional/academic world of physics. I don't feel it's strictly necessary for a physics course, and can be extremely challenging and frustrating for students with zero prior programming experience, particularly non-engineering students. If MATLAB is to be included, there needs to be WAY. more instruction on how to use it. The Bad about MATLAB in this course: Honestly, I think if computational material is to be used in this class, there should be a prior or co-requirement that some kind of programming class be at least highly recommended. There isn't enough time to fit a proper and useful introduction to MATLAB in this course, and even if the professor could manage it, it would be unfair to add that to this course because students signing up for it would be basically taking the equivalent of an additional class, which they probably didn't expect, ESPECIALLY if they weren't warned about it.
Professor Christ is a very nice man who is also very knowledgeable about physics and math. He is willing to explain concepts as many times as you ask him to (not necessarily in class), but he is not the most gifted expositor. His lectures revolve around proofs and the proofs are done using a LOT of math (see previous reviews), which you the student are assumed to know. If you don't know the math, the derivations he demonstrates on the board can be tough to follow. Some days you'll get lucky and he will have a cheesy demonstration for all of you to watch. He'll even let you play with some of the demonstration after lecture, which can be quite fun. The problem sets are probably the most challenging part of the course. Depending on how many people you work with, and whether or not there are geniuses amongst you, they can take anywhere from 3 hours (a really good week) to longer than you've slept the past week. They're 8-10 problems and there are 24 of them over the course of the year. For mechanics and E&M, the lectures don't really assist with doing the psets, but for QM, he writes his own problems, so the lectures helped a lot more. All the problems were 5 points each, graded for correctness. It doesn't matter how long each problem is, it's still worth 5 points. Note: the problems he writes on his own are usually proofs that he showed you in class or very similar to something he showed. The midterms and finals were easier than the psets, but it is hard to anticipate how hard they're going to be. He give you a practice midterm/final and a review session (very useful) the week beforehand, which is good practice, but isn't useful for gauging the difficulty of the actual exam. And as various other reviewers have noted, the curve is very generous. For the first semester (when the class was 40+), he used the full spectrum of grades for the midterm (and presumably the final), but for the second semester (when the class was ~20), a 19/100 on the midterm was a B. Overall, you'll learn quite a bit, and be frustrated a decent amount, but don't expect it to be an easy way to get a physics requirement done. Office hours are useful, problem sessions aren't, pre-exam review sessions are, and classes can be.
Best class of the year! Tough, but fun if you like hardcore physics with math! Lots of advanced math (but math majors might find the math not rigorous enough but this is by no means easy) with honors math B/calc4 stuff thrown at you in 1st month of class in c2801. there will be QM in c2802. Christ's treatment of QM is almost entirely mathematical (which is fun but sometimes i just don't know what physical thing is going on). Read the book to understand the physics of it. Christ is knowledgeable and humorous :D
This review generally addresses the points made in other reviews and provides some advice for those planning on taking the class. Christ often makes minor mistakes at the chalkboard. However, they are largely inconsequential (such as forgetting to bring a factor over when re-writing an equation) and are quickly fixed. The demonstrations were indeed lame, but they were welcome and sometimes humorous diversions from actual presentation of material. Contrasting the ridiculously easy entrance exam and the math actually involved in lecture, you will feel very misled as to the difficulty of the class. However, the math involved seems harder than it really is. You shouldn't get bogged down in trying to understand it all formally, but rather focus on how it is used. Useful math concepts (in roughly chronological order): 1st semester: vectors, differentiation/integration, polar coordinates (and relevant calculus), tensors, four-vectors. 2nd semester: gradient, divergence, curl, Dirac delta function, Levi-Civita symbol, basics of complex numbers/vectors (conjugate, magnitude, ...), linear algebra of complex spaces (Hilbert spaces, operators, orthonormality of bases...) Finding a group to work with on homework is key to success in the class. Homework is graded on accuracy, not completion, and every single problem is graded. Yes, you can get a zero after hours of work on a problem if you did it completely wrong. I completely disagree with the review that said you can get near-full credit by ignoring problems. You will get no credit that way. There is quite a lot of required reading. I didn't do any of it. You should. If you pick random equations through the textbook for your homework you'll get confused, since everything within a chapter (in both Purcell and Kleppner) is largely the same thing over and over again in greater and greater detail. Very important: Read the first chapter of Kleppner. Christ skips it. Read it. It contains important mathematical preliminaries which give very useful information on polar coordinates and differentiation in particular. The midterm and final exams for both classes are easier than the homework problems. The curve is extremely generous. He will use the full spectrum of grades for the first semester's exams, but he will not go below a C+ on the second semester (unless you manage to fail spectacularly in a hitherto unseen manner). AP Physics will get you a long way here. Rotations and relativity were the only new concepts first semester (though other concepts were covered in greater detail). Almost everything second semester had a completely new feel due to the vector calculus involved. Sem1: Mechanics, relativity Sem2: Electricity and magnetism (first half), quantum mechanics (second half). Try not to miss lectures, but don't panic if you do. I missed about half of them each semester and still pulled off an A-. The problem session is largely useless. It consists of a TA redoing the homework problems you ask by following the solutions that are published to every problem set. You could just as well look at those solutions for yourself. In short: you could easily do well in this class if you actually do the readings along with his suggested schedule and start the homeworks early, and go to classes. But as far as I know, none of us in the class honestly did that. And you could easily do well without doing any of the above because none of us did that. Random note: studying many hours for exams in this class is nearly useless (though the first few hours can be very valuable). I have never felt like I could have gotten a better result on an exam had I studied an additional hour. (But definitely do the practice exams at least, those pay off, and some concepts are almost exactly the same on the actual tests.) Also, I do somewhat regret taking this class. I don't feel like I learned much, and it was irrelevant to my intended course of studies to begin with. If you're taking this course as an ego trip because you "always took the hardest classes", stop and realize that that is not what college is about and reconsider, or you will most likely regret your choice later.
I came to Columbia with grand hopes to become a physics professor. Math and science had always been my best subjects and I was truly enthusiastic to find where the Ivy League would take my passions. However... Norman Christ singlehandedly shattered all of my aspirations and dreams. He has the charisma of a wet noodle and the teaching ability of a dead giraffe. Please believe me, this review is not a joke. It is the sad sad truth. On the first day of class, Christ extravagantly states that he loves to be and will be CRYSTAL CLEAR. This is a LIE, meant to draw in naive prospectives. Trust your instincts. If you find his first lecture to be confusing, drop at the first opportunity. Seriously, it's not worth damaging your foundation. Trust me, your IQ WILL DROP at least 50 points after the first week. You will emerge dumber, less critical, and most importantly less confident of yourself after this course. Even if you don't believe me, why risk it MAN? A 1st year physics major reading Kleppner and Kolenkow, Christ's preferred textbook for the class, is comparable to a blind hobo trying to read a half Sanskrit half French dissertation in a dark tunnel. Naturally, Christ told us several times that he loves this book and demanded it be republished. His physics demonstrations are lame, awkward, and will never get girls- much like Christ himself. It is made worse by his unrelenting grins and sense of self-satisfaction even when he fails miserably. If you ever dare to ask him to be clearer in his lectures, he will give you a thousand reasons that runs the frame of 15 minutes telling you how it is better to stay the way he already is. He will logically disrepute your request for clarity..... Good luck to the skeptics who will still take this course because of peer/parental pressures or of Freudian phallic insecurities.
I'll start by saying the other reviews of this professor, and in particular this class, are very accurate. I took 2801-2802 as a freshman more than five years ago and like a lot of other people this class,especially the second half, remains one of the most frustrating experiences of my life. There are however still a few points worth adding. The main problem is that Christ expects a significant level of preparation beyond the AP curriculum. If you're mathematical training doesn't extend beyond BC Calculus do yourself a favor and take the 1600 sequence. If you don't, you will add a lot of stress to your life but you won't learn much physics. I managed to pull an A in 2801 and an A- in 2802 by relying on Physics C knowledge and understanding maybe 25% of Christ's lectures, which is less impressive than it sounds since both classes were curved to an A- and I routinely received near full credit on problem sets by ignoring the problems I couldn't solve. At the end of the year I had learned almost nothing. From a pedagogic point of view, I would only recommend this class if you have already learned all of calculus, the core material of linear algebra, and have experience doing rigorous proofs. Extra knowledge of geometry and elementary asymptotics would also help. You could probably get by taking Calc III/Honors Math concurrently with 2801 and then Calc IV and Linear Algebra with 2802 but think hard about whether you want to. As others have said Christ is an enthusiastic and super-nice if awkward man who seems to have good intentions. The summer before freshman year he mailed a letter to those of us with the prerequisite AP scores welcoming us to Columbia. This did nothing to ameliorate his teaching. This man is a legitimate genius and he impressed me many times with the depth of his understanding of physics but his decision to teach introductory physics as if we were grad students meant that most of the time most people had no idea what he was talking about. I've since had an easier time taking graduate math courses that covered much harder material at a faster pace. The difference was that I was actually prepared for them. That said, this would be an excellent course for someone who does have the appropriate math background. If you're a sophomore/junior math major or you learned real analysis at math camp then by all means go for it. I would love to take this class again with the training I have now.
Basically, this course covers almost everything that an introductory class can cover. Many parts of it are in class, while the others are in weekly problem sets- killer problems. They can be extremely hard. Let's just say it's definitely below 10 hours a week for most people... unless it doesn't have that 'Prof. Cole's special question'. Even if you are really good at physics, just writing down the solutions right away takes quite a bit of time. However, it is also very rewarding, and you actually can get the idea how things are done. He does kinda good job at explaining, although he goes into that overemphasizing territory quite often, and he knows what he's doing, although he forgets lecture notes or books quite often. Grades. Class is essentially made up of 'science kids' from high school, and usually there are quite a few perfect scores even for hard sets. This applies to midterms too, although in case of midterm they're not really perfect scores- just high scores. The course is curved, but I don't think there are many As.
Not for the faint of heart. Take iff you have a tremendous passion for physics and you have plenty of high-school experienced studying it (with calculus). The difficulties are immense--the class is incredibly fast-paced, the problem sets are LONG (and often, part of the problem is determining what the mistake is in the question) and the exams brutal. But what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. If you're absolutely sure you want to take this course, you will be a better physicist and scholar for it. If you're not sure, it's not for you. Take 1601 instead.
Problem sets and their solutions are returned extremely late, if at all. The problems that Professor Cole writes are RIDDLED with mistakes/typos, and the problems actually grow over the course of the week, as Cole feels the need to keep adding more substance to the p-set. Lectures that "only" finish at 12:35 are considered short to normal (the class officially ends at 12:25). Other than that, 2800's a really good class, and Cole an awesome professor. I'm not actually screwing with you. This class was without a doubt the most intense academic experience of my life thus far. Quantum mechanics, E&M, Special Relativity, and Mechanics all in two semesters. Not only that, but it uses arguably the most difficult introductory textbooks available: Kleppner/Kolenkow for Mechanics and Relativity, Purcell for E&M, and Gasiorowicz for quantum (we didn't actually get any book problems in the latter unit, but later classes might.) If this sounds ridiculous, that's because it is. P-sets are very difficult, taking a TON of time and sanity, even without their typos. Exams range from reasonable to hideous. "What's the good part?" you might ask. Brian Cole is one of the best professors I have had so far. He is truly intent on getting his students to understand the material, and he schedules extra lectures and office hours accordingly. His lectures are generally very informative and his presentation really clear, though he has a habit of moving too fast for his own good and he makes a fair number of mistakes on the board (if you catch them instead of waiting for him to do so, the class will move at a much better pace.) He understands that much of the mathematics in the class will be new to students, so he does try to give succinct introductions to the necessary linear algebra, differential equations, Fourier analysis, etc. so that you can actually do physics at a nontrivial level. Which leads me to another point. A lot of the difficulty of this class was mathematics. If you consider this class, I'd STRONGLY suggest taking Calculus IV first term and Linear Algebra soon afterwards (I don't know about the honors math sequence). Understanding eigenvectors, complex analysis, Stokes', Green's, and the Divergence Theorems from a MATH perspective makes the physics a lot easier. The class was well curved first term (the jury is still out on the second term), and though I cannot attest to the next fact yet, according to other students of Cole's 2800 class, many of the rest of Columbia's physics courses are considerably easier having hacked away at the material in this class. In short, you do not just take 2800, you LIVE it. And though you might think that you will be lost forever in an interminable labyrinth of Green's functions and boundary value problems, be assured that it will end, and that by the end of the journey you will emerge extremely well prepared for the physics ahead.
This man is a fantastic Physics professor whoâ€™s got more on his plate than most mortals can handle. I have a lot of respect for him- heâ€™s brought our class through the mud and muck of enough angular kinematics to make you dizzy, and our treatment of quantum and classical waves (which will last about a month) required him to spend a half-lecture on vector bases that my linear algebra class took four lectures to cover. Heâ€™s got a shit-ton of pressure on him to maximize the scope of the class, though, which means that heâ€™s an organizational disaster. Iâ€™ve caught three or more typos on each problem set from the beginning of the year, and he makes flat-out unsolvable/â€™wrongâ€™ problems frequently enough that spending 5~6 hours on a single problem really makes you wonder whether itâ€™s you or him. I donâ€™t meant to bitch, but the man actually forgot to write me a recommendation (actually, fill out a webform, so itâ€™d have taken him approximately 5 minutes) after a month of polite reminders and pleas. Nevertheless, donâ€™t let that stuff color him wrongly- Professor Cole will take your young, supple mind and fill it to bursting with physics. If what doesnâ€™t kill you makes you stronger, you will literally be smart enough to blast holes through the spacetime continuum with your mind (or at least know enough special relativity to get your head around that).
I'm a little surprised at the silver star next to Cole's name on CULPA, but I guess I'm in the minority. Having now taken additional physics classes, I now have a better perspective on the them, which leads me to think that Cole did an overall terrible job teaching the class. My biggest complaint is his overall lack of organization. Problem sets were not handed back in time. While we had solutions to first semester materials up until the midterm and had gotten back our graded problem sets, this was not true for the rest of the semester. We did not have a single solutions set for the second semester, and most of the problem sets were not graded. In my opinion, it is highly difficult to study for a class where I do not receive feedback the homework. I understand that Cole is probably very busy with his research, but for my two physics classes this semester, the professors have each uploaded solutions in a timely manner. Problem sets were returned to us as well. Another issue was the pacing of the class (although this probably will get better in the next few years). Cole spent the entire first semester on Mechanics, leaving us to do E&M, relativity, waves, and intro to quantum all in the second semester. As one can imagine, the lectures were rushed, and the problem sets consequently highly difficult to understand. Cole also had a habit of writing PS questions with errors in them, which did not help the situation. I don't deny that I did learn a lot in accelerated physics, but most of it was due to my own efforts, not Cole's.
He is a giant- not physically, but he is just an incredible teacher. This is the hardest class I've taken all year (except for 2802) and it requires a ton of work but if you love physics then don't be scared off by this class. Professor Cole is extremely clear, and he is the nicest guy in the world. He is often behind on grading and the class is often behind on the problems sets. He is extremely accomadating. Don't sign up for the class if you don't want to work hard.
Cole is incredible. His presentation of the material is perfect- the class moves at a fast pace yet he is easy to follow and explains the physics perfectly. I never felt I learned so much in such a short amount of time.
DO NOT TAKE THIS CLASS WITHOUT CONSULTING SURVIVORS FIRST! ARGUABLY THE MOST DEMANDING CLASS IN COLUMBIA: Oh, how I have longed for this pay-back time to Christ, after sleeping for not more than five or six Wednesday nights this past year when problem sets are due Thursday morning. Exams for which any level of preparation is inadequate, and lectures which are less productive for the exams than watching the Price is Right at the same time. Why you want to take this class: You hate yourself, you want to make physics the focal point of your dorky academic and personal life, condense three introductory physics courses into two, a genius of a professor, a chance to finish 8000 level Quantum Physics (which he also teaches) in your freshman year, and a chance to demonstrate that you have testicles of steel (my apologies to the few girls who lasted till the bitter end) to not only humanities BS (fecal sense) majors, but BS (in a Bachelors of Science) engineers as well. How to leave this inferno with most limbs intact: First, do the problem sets in study groups: this is a must. It will motivate you and leave you with some sleep to spare before ThursdayÂ’s lecture (which is when problem sets are due). Second, strong math background: Expect to know some Linear Algebra from the beginning, and expect to know ALL OF IT for Quantum Mechanics in second semester. It goes without saying that Taylor series, multivariable calculus, line integrals, div, grad, curl are absolutely necessary for this class. Teach yourself these concepts as early as possible: he will not help you with them, in class or in office hours. Third, get good supplemental textbooks. K & K, Purcell, and French & Taylor are generally as helpful as your First-Year advisor who told you to take this class in the first place. For Special Relativity, I highly recommend Â“Spacetime Physics.Â” For Quantum, I recommend Â“Quantum Mechanics Demystified.Â” Also, you may find some help in general textbooks, Wikipedia, and by googling the numbers of questions online, as MIT and UC-Berkeley put some answers to these problem sets online. Recitation was helpful at times, yet not well-attended. Lectures were highly theoretical and did not explain how to do the homework or exam problems. 1st semester: Midterm was fair, yet final was very difficult (special relativity included). 2nd semester: Midterm fair, final very difficult (50% Quantum). The homework steadily became less possible as we treaded farther into Quantum Mechanics. He held office hours, which I found unhelpful. Supposedly, he curves the class around a 3.5 or A-, but some people did much worse than me (B-). Class began with about 75 students, had about 55 mid-year, and we finished with 36. Go figure. DonÂ’t try this if you are pre-med or want an easy A, or B for that matter. If I were the registrar, this would be 8.5 credits!
Azfar is, bar none, the finest TA I have ever had. He is clear, concise, interesting, smart and, most importantly, correct. His work with the 2800 classes saved many students, myself included, from C+'s. He knows his stuff and knows how to explain it far better than either the text or the professor. If the world were just, Azfar would be put on tenure track immediately. The amount of good this one man could do for the general understanding of physics is immense. Simply put: if you ever have a chance to take any sort of class in which Azfar is involved, do it.
Just a word of caution if you ever take 2801 with this man. Professor Hailey made his intentions very clear at the beginning of the year: first semester exists to weed out those who are not serious about physics. If you can hack your way through the jungle that is K&K, it is clear sailing. You will have a better, more complete and deep understanding of mechanics than any of your peers and some of those 3003 kids. This comes at a steep price: time. Be prepared to spend at least 4-5 hours outside of class for each hour in class. And that is just studying the book and your notes to understand what went on. The homework is a whole other story. As other reviewers noted, Azfar, the TA, is almost solely responsible for the midterms passed, the homework understood and the general good feelings about these classes. The textbooks are, by far, the best introductory physics texts I have seen. They will lead you down trails that you never knew existed and are very readable. Well, the notable exception is that god-forsaken intro waves book "Six ideas that shaped modern physics." So incredibly simplistic as to be laughable after K&K and Purcell.
If your thinking about taking this course you don't belong in it. You either have the balls to take it (or so the gender ratio would leave you to believe) or you will get buried and drop out. The going percentage of people who don't make it through the year waivers around 50-70%. That said there are some interesting facets to this course that are good to know: 1) Hailey is a research professor, not a teacher. This considered his lectures really aren't that bad, he tends to get lost a bit though but chances are you won't understand what he's teaching until a week later anyways. His lectures on relativity are very nice. 2) The books for this course are incredible, buy them, love them, sleep with them; they will serve you well. 3) Azfar the TA is awesome, his reviews will save you from bombing the tests. Hope that he stay on this course. 4) You can't fail this course, 0-30 is a C+ 5) If your one of the lucky few to complete this course you are a leg up on everybody for the rest of college. It exposes you to all sorts of math and concepts not touched in the regular phyics path and you'll have seen a lot of material that will reappear in your math and phyics courses later on. 6) The class forms into an ad hoc frat by the end of the year, this makes up a tiny bit for all the friends you didn't have a chance to make due to the workload.
If you are interested in physics and want to challenge yourself, I STRONGLY recommend that you take this class. 1) Lectures: Lectures are essentially straight from the textbooks, so I'll speak of lectures, the professor, and the textbooks in this section. Overall, I enjoyed the lectures and found them valuable. Much of the material is confusing, but this class is meant to expose the students to physics at an advanced level early on, and I tend to appreciate that sort of mentality. Professor Hailey seems far more comfortable with special relativity and electricity & magnetism than he is with mechanics. Although for the most part I liked his presentation of Kleppner & Kolenkow's sometimes baffling text, Hailey can sometimes get a little lost with what he is trying to say and is consequently prone to errors when deriving results and solving problems. Some people were annoyed at his lectures' periodic lack of fluidity, but I found the mechanics lectures generally acceptable and worthwhile. The relativity lectures were fantastic. Hailey seems to understand and explain special relativity far better and more intuitively than the textbook does. There's not much else to say other than that I really enjoyed this part of the course, and I think many others did, too. The e&m lectures that we did so far are involved and difficult, especially if you have never seen the material before. Hailey himself said during one of the lectures, "I expect neither you nor I to understand Purcell at this point in our careers," which was both entertaining and true. Purcell's book is very sophisticated, and his writing is sometimes too involved for a first-time e&m student. However, once you really study his text you can at least follow some of it, and the part that I did get I found valuable. I'm sure this book will serve as a useful resource in the future, too. 2) Homework: The homework is extremely difficult and time-consuming. Even if you feel you follow the lectures, the textbook problems are still challenging. I strongly advise working in groups for the homework. 3) TA: Our TA (Azfar) is awesome. Before every test, there was a fairly universal sentiment that Azfar would save us. He always helped with the homework, and his review session for the final was excellent. 4) Exams: Honestly, our exams really weren't that bad. The mechanics exam was far easier than K&K, although I think at that point in the year all of us were expecting an impossible test; we (maybe just I) were thrown off by how straight forward some of it was and were consequently unable to think clearly and coherently. It happens. The special relativity test was directly from the notes - if you know Hailey's lectures, and if you're in a good test-taking mode that day, you'll do fine. The final was, I have to say, disappointingly easy. That isn't to say that I did well on it - at the time of this writing I have no idea what my grade is - but the mechanics questions were high school AP material. The special relativity questions were all right, and the question on general relativity was kind of confusing, to me at least. The e&m questions seemed doable, but at that point in the year I was not very confident about the subject and therefore was very uncertain on the test. We did get to drop our two worst questions on the final, though, which was quite nice. Overall, the class is definitely worthwhile. Hailey's teaching also sometimes gives the lectures a small infusion of astrophysics, which is usually interesting. Near the end of the semester, we did a lesson on the expansion of the universe, and he went on a hilarious rant about the Nobel Prize. Anyway, if you're thinking about studying physics, I recommend that you at least try the class - you can always drop it later.
A mildly confusing lecturer. He forgets to identify variables (whose significance changes quite a bit in a course that covers so much materials). The classes are also very long, and sometimes he likes to hold them a little longer than the alloted 2 hours, which can grow a little tiresome. Hiowever, he's fair, and very explicit about what will be tested, besides the occasional odd problem. You'll find yourself learning more than you even need for problem sets and tests, which I guess is a good thing. While the class is demanding, the more work you do, the better you'll do, so the class isn't unconquerable.
Very hard class. Lecture does not teach you anything, either. Books almost incomprehensible. BUT, it can be done, for the tests are not too bad and the curve is high (b+).
This is by far the hardest freshman-oriented science class. (I know, I took/am taking intensive orgo, honors math, this, honors comp sci, and bio.) There was not a single person in the class who understood all the concepts completely. Don't expect to sleep Wednesday nights. Don't expect to "get it." You do learn a lot though, in great detail. Professor Christ is awesome. He teaches as if you're graduate students, but understands how hard it is, and makes efforts to help. He largely teaches the theoretical material, leaving the application (which is what the homework and tests are on) to you to discover on your own, from the book, your classmates and the TA. He does, however, goes out of his way to provide time to review before the tests, and stays as long as people have questions. I suppose it would have been feasible to not go to his classes, but you should! He's a very enthusiastic teacher, and rather engaging in general. The classes made me believe and understand relativity, and put me on the same path for quantum mechanics.
2801 was a great class. christ or no christ, i think i would feel the same way. he was just there, while i was there. however, i did like how his physics teaching style was so mathematically driven, so i did end up going to about half the lectures. i did 90% of the prob sets on my own. they took 5 to 10 hours to finish. there are always two or three problems that are straight forward on each prob set and a few that take about an hour or two to figure out. midterm was decent, and the final was more difficult. the textbook is okay. i dropped to 1402 second semester, and i seriously regret not taking 2802. physics sequences below 2800 are jokes and should not be offered to engineers. you have to feel the pain of 2801 to truly gauge your physics abilities.
This class is absolutely a NIGHTMARE. Look forward to watching the sunrise on Thursday morning as you come to the end of your problem set due at 10:35. The texts used for this class are old, boring, and out-dated. Don't bother attending class because the lectures are useless. However, for those of you who love going to class, look forward to long-winded mathematical proofs and hour-long tangents on such interesting topics as matrices (which you should know if you are taking this class), differential equations, and OH YES complex numbers and Taylor Series Expansions. Don't get me wrong, Christ is a nice, approachable professor, but he simply does not prepare the students for the rectal workout that is homework. Speaking of rectal workout, the exams are absolutely disastrous and no amount of studying can prepare you for them. Once you get past the difficult material, you have to worry about the PhD-level mathematical manipulations you have to perform to get the correct answer. I would advise taking 1601-1602 if you want to learn physics, but if you have an ego and want to test yourself, this impossible class is for you.
He's a genius, no doubt about that. But he also teaches as if were the same. Most of his classes involve rigorous proofs of formulas, in which you only need the end result. His lecture's don't really correspond with the book, and the homework has absolutely nothing to with his lectures. Most of the time you have to teach yourself the material so that you can do the homework. Same goes for the exams, they have little to do with his lectures. I come out of every class feeling like I've learnt nothing, in fact most people leave the class early. I only came to class for the fear that today might be the day that he actually taught something and that I might miss it. I took him because I had no choice; his is the only section.
The material is great. The professor however is not so great. Christ is one of the smartest people in the physics department and has an incredibly insightful understanding of the material. Unfortunately he is as blind as a bat when it comes to teaching. Actually, that wasnt fair...The lectures were generally standard. He wasnt teaching, he was reciting. The problem is. material as theory heavy and at times as abstract as that of phys 2801 requires a thorough explanation of the theory and ALOT of application to problems to be mastered. Christ did a great job on the theoretical stuff (you better brush up on Linear ALgebra and multivariabel calc to get most of it), but when it came time to apply the theory, he left alot to be desired. You will find yourself sitting in class, taking intense, impressive looking notes, then doing the HW problems the same way you did them last year in Physics C. Christ just doesnt emphasize problem solving enough.
Mixed feelings towards Christ. Although he has a somewhat intriguing sense of humor and is insanely smart, I would definitely not rush to take this class over again with him at the reigns. He IS the stereotypical, egotistical prof. who is intent in getting like 90% of his class to drop out. He believes in students learning from homework problems or so it seems. One can do totally fine in his class by not going to a single lecture. Reason being, he is in love with math and spend all of his time deriving the textbook in class. Yet, although his lectures are highly theory-based, hw, and both of the finals are problem solving oriented. Don't try taking this class unless you know alot of math and physics. He says all you need are a 5 on BC Calculus, and 5s on the Mechanics and E/M sections of the Physics AP exams. From my experience, it is helpful if you've seen some multivariate-calculus, and even better if you've seen some diff. eq. especially during the oscillations chapter. Furthermore, unlike high school physics, in this class you actually USE calculus to solve problems. All in all, the class could have been much better with a different teacher. I know I definitely learned a lot of physics in this class through sheer hardwork, which is probably the only way one can learn this stuff. However, it was definitely not a fun proccess by any means, plus the textbook was horrible. Have an open mind when walking into this class. You'll be able to see if its worth the work after you get back the second hw assignment. Good luck.
Going into Professor Christ's class, I was relatively confident with my ability to do well. Christ advertizes the class for students who have a 4 or 5 on the Calc BC or Physics B/C AP exams.. and I had a 5 on BC, and both parts of Physics C. However, the amount of mathematical preparation for the class far exceeds that covered in your standard BC class. Plan on having a complete understanding of differential equations and linear algebra if you wish to understand the derivations he spends virtually all of class time performing. I was particularly disappointed in the book, Intro to Mechanics, which as another poster stated, assumed that one knew all of the fundamentals of mechanics to begin with (why call the book Introduction... I feel really sorry for any student who has this as their first physics text.). In addition to the problems with the math and book, I often felt intimidated to ask Professor Christ for help on a problem. His most common answer to virtually all who asked a question seemed to be 'maybe you should consider 1601' regardless of the question. Having gone to *all* of the lectures (although I sometimes wondered why I did), I felt that Professor Christ didn't adequately prepare students for the homework assignments or tests... he developed the theory behind the problems, but didn't give the tools necessary to solve them. I could tell you all about four vectors, rigid body motion, etc, but ask me to solve a problem on his tests, and I, along with many other students, would probably have a real tough time doing it for you. I found the class to be very frustrating, but it sure helped me decide to major in Chemistry instead of Physics.
Norman Christ is a decent professor who does his job at presenting complex physical concepts. However, as a student who has taken BC Calculus (5) and AP Physics B (5), this course is the most mind warping experience ever. The level of mathematical and physical concepts is way beyond what I had imagined. This is worsen by the fact that the text book, Kleppner and Kolenkow's An introduction to Mechanics, is too advanced as well. The book assumes that you know sophisticated mathematical and physical concepts and therefore skips fundamentals. In addition, the examples given in the text does little or nothing in aiding the homework questions. As a result, the homework was extremely painstaking and often required literally hours of torture. A decent study group alleviated but didn't eliminate the intensity of the homework, which left many of us in a stupor while the stronger person in the group forged on. In short, I recommend all those who are considering whether or not to take this course to really evaluate their mathematical and physical abilities as well as the sacrifice they are willing to make in the interest of physics. Unless you have a mathematical backing beyond Linear Algrebra and Calculus as well as an intense love for physics, do not take this course. It will not only be useless, but will leave you with an intense dislike for physics as a whole. Hint: 4.5 (They make it worth every point of it.)
What else can I say other than "this man is a genius." A fountain of knowledge and a very approachable and flexible person. His class was immensely fun (if you like physics). All the other reviews are dead-on accurate. The class itself is quite intensive (be ready to earn those 4.5 points) and the math involved is quite advanced.
This course, nay, this professor, singlehandedly turned me into a physics major. It's very hard and the lectures can be overwhelming at first, but he even said himself that this would probably be the hardest physics course we'd end up taking. Professor Christ radiates genius like mad and has the best sense of humor. He's my hero. Definitely take this course if you have any interest in math or physics, it'll totally be worth it, and if Christ can't make you love physics nobody can -- just don't plan to do any other work (or sleep too much) the night before assignments are due. This course will really show you what physics is all about, not just solving rope and pulley problems.
This guy is insanely intelligent and immensely gifted. Seldom would u find a professor with such a thorough grasp of the theory of physics. Be ready to do some higly advanced math (IIIS/IVA and beyond) in this class. The physics might be very familiar to you but the way its taught is (most probably) radically different from what you have seen upto now. A very demanding class, with tough exams(for an intro class), but one, which is, definitely worth its weight in gold if one is capable enough to do it. The books used in this class, old as they may be, are absolutely great.
This guy is brilliant. His brain is so advanced that it works faster than his mouth can output the information. Be ready for a whopping 4.5 point course, where you earn every penny. I learned a lot, and got your butt kicked on exams. I can't wait 'til the second half. One more thing, try to take Calc IIIS/IVA while you take C2801, because the math of C2801 is somewhat advanced (I took IIS, and I felt the pain).
One of the best lecturers and best physics professors I have ever seen. He magically explains everything almost incomprehensible in physics. A great class for all of your physics lovers.
The man is incredible. He does not use any notes and yet his lectures flow flawlessly. I do not remember him making any mistakes while working out even the messiest of examples. It's actually quite scary how organized he is without any notes. It's as if he memorizes the lecture before teaching it. His teaching style is incredible as well because you actually look forward to coming to class and sitting in it for 2 and a half hours (Although we did get 2 5 minute breaks). The notes you take in that class can substitute a textbook (That's why the textbook is just recommended). The homeworks are hard but he makes the material so interesting that you want to spend the 15 hours every two weeks trying to get all the problems. The tests are fairly easy and he is a lenient grader with the average being an A-/B+. Although, don't expect your tests back too soon. It usually takes him about a month or so to grade the midterms, and even longer to grade the finals. (We got ! our fall grades in the middle of February!) The bottom line is that he is the BEST professor I have ever had and his class was my favorite of all the classes I have ever taken (And I'm not even a physics major)