Classical & Quantum Waves

Dec 2014

Chuck Hailey is not a good teacher. He struggles with teaching. Worse, however, is his struggle with interpersonal interaction. He is by far the rudest professor I have ever had, and he frequently discourages students. Taking a class with him was a highly unpleasant experience and in the future I would refrain from taking a class just to avoid having him as a professor. He was also a complete mess, organizationally, and a nightmare as a lecturer. Nobody ever knew what he was talking about except for two kids who had taken more advanced classes than everyone else and would always ask questions, and he would frequently get in some sort of childish rage and start to be really combative with them instead of just answering their questions, to which he often - even admittedly - didn't know the answers. I learned very little in the class, because I spent all my time pouring over poorly organized notes (for lack of a course textbook) to figure out what his pointlessly ambiguous problems were asking for. Chuck Hailey seems like the kind of person who has made a lot of people cry with his words over the years.

Feb 2014

I am hoping that the previous review was written by some giant troll, because Professor Hailey is tied for the worst professor I've had so far at Columbia, and I really can't imagine having a worse instructor in the future. He told us early on that he's very sensitive to the difficulties that students can have learning physics, which would be great if there was any truth to that statement whatsoever. I've never seen a professor overcomplicate simple concepts to the extend that he did. He'll dive into the discussion of some topic without ever giving a basic definition or motivation for what we're talking about. In fact, I don't think he defined a single term the entire semester; rather, he'd just start using some term that we've never heard before and assume we could figure out what it meant. For example he'd say something like "okay now we're going to start geometric optics," and then he'd immediately jump into some random, poorly explained problem based on an unclear sketch on the board. Asking questions wasn't the solution, as the professor didn't really stop for questions, and clarification questions are generally nonexistent. The only time people asked them was when they thought something written on the board was incorrect, and most of his questions were met with the response "I'm sorry but you are mistaken" and without any further explanation whatsoever. His blackboard presentation was generally too disorganized and taking clear lecture notes was difficult. This all made it very difficult to gain any understanding from attending lectures. In fact, if you understood what was going on in lecture, you probably already had a sufficient understanding of the subject for the course and didn't need to be there. A natural response in many classes would be to keep up with the readings for the class, but there was no clear reading schedule provided, and the professor never told us what chapter he was covering at what time. In fact, many times he was covering material that wasn't in the books, or the coverage was too different to be helpful. This might not have been a problem if he had presented the material clearly or at least gave us enough information to read about the topics on our own, but he typically did neither. His approach to doing derivations was to skip a great majority of the steps, often without telling us that he was skipping steps. He told us on the first day that he wasn't very rigorous with his derivations, with the defense that we have the textbooks if we want to go back and fill in all the details. This made lectures even more difficult to follow. It typically seemed that he was just stating random results one after another, without any intuition, motivation or justification. There's absolutely no order to his presentation of topics; he'll start one thing, move on to something that seems completely unrelated (without completing the first topic or telling us he's changing gears). Then he might return to the topic several lectures later, or "revisit" something that was never covered. He also made a really big deal the two times during the semester when he thought what were doing was mathematically rigorous, and he usually prefaced it with a speech arguing that despite the pain of working through this math, it is important to know how to use this to solve problems, or something along that line. Seeing as the purpose of this class is supposedly to help students transition to more advanced physics classes that make use of a lot of math, I don't see why he made such a big fuss about having to work through something of that sort. It was clear that he preferred to spend lectures on "applications" and "intuition." The homework assignments were equally poorly designed and mostly felt like busy work. Most of the problems required no understanding of any of the physics, but just required some meaningless algebraic manipulations. I am well aware that tedious algebra comes up in a lot of physics problems, but in this case that's all there was. It wasn't necessary, or even helpful, to have any understanding of the topic in the problem; just compute the random derivative, integral, taylor expansion, or solve some ugly system of equations. Other problems just required copying a derivation directly from the textbook or finding the magic formula and rearranging it. This is true both of the problems from the textbook and the handwritten problems that the professor gives out. Additionally, the problems that the instructor handwrites are often very unclear or contain errors. Finally, you have to be careful about just downloading the problem set after it is posted, as he has the annoying tendency to add problems to the assignment without ever indicating the original posting was incomplete or notifying us about the addition of new problems. There were different TAs for recitation, grading homework, and grading exams. However, they all seemed to have in common the fact that they had no idea what was covered during class. Recitations were scheduled in the middle of the day when many people had other commitments, but I heard from people who attended that I wasn't missing anything, as the TA often was clueless about what was going on in class. Oh, he also acts so arrogant during lectures. He spends so much class time talking about himself and his research accomplishments. I get that some people find this entertaining, but I found this attitude really distasteful. For example, on the first day, he told us that he picked new textbooks for the class this semester because he found the ones he used last year too difficult. He told us that he really liked the book on waves, except for the fact that it doesn't use complex notation to solve differential equations. He then speculated that the reason they don't use complex notation is because the author of the book comes from a lesser schools than Columbia (the University of Texas, to be exact), and that the author might have made this decision because he thought complex notation would be too difficult for the students at his school. I was a bit shocked when he said this at the time. Once I got the book, I realized that the author explained in the preface his reasoning for his choice in notation. (It had nothing to do with the ranking of his university.) I guess that's also a nice indicator of how much thought Hailey put into this course. I really don't think this class was a productive experience in any way at all. If you were to ask me at this point what the class covered and why this material is important, I still couldn't tell you. I don't doubt that there is a lot of valuable material that this class could cover, but I don't feel like I learned any of it, as it was simply reduced to plug and chug exercises in this class. Don't get excited about the introductory quantum mechanics unit at the end of the semester, as it's way minimal to be of any value.

Jan 2013

(This review might not be worth much, since Hailey taught 2601 this year for the first time in over a decade, and I have no idea whether he'll teach it again anytime soon.) I took 1600 freshman year and found 2600 a lot easier to manage. The subject matter itself is pretty small in scope: the first part of the semester is spent learning a lot about waves, then the second part is spent applying the things you already learned to Quantum Mechanics. Hailey told us the first day that as long as we really got the fundamentals at the beginning of the semester, the rest would fall into place pretty easily, and that was true for me. We didn't do any physics too rigorously (though waves require some complex math [literally, ha!] to really understand, the most we really needed to be able to do was single-variable calculus). Problem sets could be difficult and time-consuming, but not unreasonably so. Most of the book problems were pretty much applying formulas, with a couple hard ones each week leading to a lot of stress. The problems Hailey wrote were actually helpful for learning, because his hints led us through them in a way that felt like a teaching exercise more than a problem to struggle with. Exams were even simpler, because Hailey focused on only the important concepts, but studying was important to both figure out what those were and understand them completely. I liked that on each exam, there was one qualitative question, which made sure we actually understood to some degree what we were learning. The whole style of the class was very distinct from 1600 with Millis or Dodd. It's much smaller and designed mainly for physics majors, so it feels more like an upper-level class. Hailey is almost conversational with the class even though there's not really any student involvement during lectures, so his lectures are peppered with interesting asides about history, applications, and his own research. I felt much more interested during lectures, probably because of the combination of Hailey's personality and teaching style and the material itself (that's not to say I never felt lost, but the really confusing stuff tended to be derivations that we didn't need to understand).

Dec 2010

Let me preface this whole ordeal with the fact that the man is brilliant. He is also extremely cheerful and willing to communicate if you care to do so. That being said this class is one of the most demanding I have taken, nearly requiring most of the class to attend the problem session in order to have a manageable amount of work. When Professor Kim is addressing physical insights and discussing concepts the class moves very smoothly. Former complaints about the man's accent are greatly exaggerated. He is thorough with his material and address every correction of the math in his derivations with a thank you. However, when Professor Kim has to explain advanced math concepts (please note that Math 1202 is, in my opinion an inadequate corequisite) the class was left wanting. Such examples include the use of the Eigen vectors and numbers and the use of Fourier Series. Professor Kim himself expressed that he was disappointed with the class' ability to utilize the latter on exams. Exams: they take a very long time to grade and get back to the students. In both midterm waves I had 5 exams. His was the first I took, and the last I got back by a lag of no less than 2 weeks compared to the others. They are very long, time will be a factor. Remember this. Assignments: These are the striking point of the class. These assignments will take much longer than those for 1601 & 1602. The second assignment of the year took a good 40 or more man hours (you should certainly work in groups) and ~50% of the class dropped the course after this assignment. To their loss as the course became more interesting after that point. Expect to dump 10 hours or more into an assignment. With this in mind the only way to learn is to do, the better you do on the homework, the more prepared you are for the exams. Twidoo (don't worry, you'll get it)

Jan 2009

Marka is the most inept professor/teacher I have had in my life, and this is a view shared by EVERY person I knew or worked with in the class >15 people. Sure I got a good grade, but this class was worthless. The course material is obviously engaging and the foundation of so much physics. Upon further investigation.. I found out that Marka has trouble keeping graduate students to work with him in research. Here's a few reasons to describe what makes Marka so bad: -Poor (useless) lecture style: does not explain derivations, explains topic as if it is a review, starts talking about things that are barely examples of the phenomena -Poor class organization: Syllabus gets filled in on courseworks as a one word topic a few weeks after each class, spaced 2 out of 3 midterms with 2 classes in between, homeworks get handed back months later or not at all -Long and difficult homeworks of which the lectures are of no help, draws on concepts and ideas that you may have never been exposed to -"-has no concept of how little the class understands the material, not helpful during office hours because he Doesnt Understand Questions how unfortunate that a class he teaches is a requirement for so many physics majors. to get a good grade- share homeworks, copy down the questions from the practice midterm on to your formula sheet- he uses the exact same questions and answers year after year from the practice midterms to the midterms/final sample of review for midterm, that he posted on courseworks two days before midterm. In summary, teach a course by listing pages of information that students have to know: " Please make sure that you understand the material covered on pages 313-331, 355-382, 413-441, 519-577 and the related problems. (pages 453-488 are recommended) . The multiple choice and conceptual problems most likely will cover: A.P.French: An Introduction to Quantum Physics . Some of Chapters 1 and 2 . -> Please make sure that you understand the material covered on pages 17-102 and the related problems. (pages 1-16 are recommended) . Also, please make sure that you study the material posted on courseworks."

Dec 2006

Professor Marka made this 2000 ridiculously difficult. Not only does he recycle slides from his 3008 class, he assigns homework from their textbooks/midterms. The first exam was unnecessarily difficult and nothing like the homework problems. He uses like 6 different books and the one he starts out with is this POORLY written book by Pain. The text is confusing and the homework problems are all algebra and no physics. The class got a little better once we stopped using that book, and then he hit us with this insane E&M homework. The curriculum for this course is fantastic. I just wish it was taught better. I hear he's better at his 3008 course, maybe he's just not fit to teach fundamental concepts. Nice guy though.

Oct 2004

I was in this class for about two-and-a-half weeks before I dropped down to 1403. Professor Cole is a very thorough professor, and expects you to be able to learn a lot of fundamental concepts very quickly. In the first week I had to pick up differential equations. In the second it was complex exponentials. And in the future it was going to be linear algebra and partial differential equations, and who knows what else. If you have a solid math background and are interested in covering everything there is to know about describing and analyzing waves, then by all means, take this class. But if you only want to take it because it looks better than 1403, you'll end up in 1403 anyways. Oh, and the day that I went to the 1403 professor to get my add/drop form signed, three other people were there asking the same thing. A class of 65 had fallen to 38 in three weeks.

Jan 2004

Professor Cole's classes are not for amateurs. He has tremendous ability and intelligence and is clearly highly respected within the department, but for those who aren't supremely motivated and already well-versed in physics, this class will be a nightmare (assuming you don't drop it). The (lengthy) review before this one is pretty much spot on, in the following respects: - Problem sets take a LONG time, and if you don't attend class and keep up with the material religiously, you will find yourself playing a continuous game of catch-up from which it is very hard to recover. - This past semester he used no book, and no TA. This meant we were entirely dependent on him and his limited time schedule (remember, he's a big-shot professor) to answer any and all of our questions. And no book to pore over, not until the last few weeks when we started into the actual "quantum mechanics" of the course - The course spends 3/4s of its time on waves and the mathematical tools needed to analyze different types and consequences of waves. Be prepared for matrix algebra and eigenvectors, Fourier analysis, partial differential equations, and so forth. -- moreover, if you haven't taken classes that cover these subjects before or aren't taking them concurrently, you're pretty much f'd. Prof. Cole will, of course, assure you that any math background you need will be amply covered in class, a promise he forgets as he blazes through the lectures, skipping steps and assuming knowledge willy-nilly. - Our class started out with roughly 60 people and dwindled to 35 through drops - and these were among the people who felt confident enough on 1601/1602 to try their hand at a tougher physics course. Many people stopped going to class even if they were going to stick it out through the semester, simply because if they hadn't heard the previous 5 lectures, they wouldn't understand the current one. The barrier to catching-up is absolutely enormous, and Professor Cole's office hours are generally dominated by fawning nerds who ask pedantic questions, show off their own mastery of the material, and sneer at those of us who legitimately are having trouble. In Cole's defense, I did get the sense that he was genuinely interested in helping his students succeed. Indeed, he often devoted long office hours on Fridays to answering questions, and would push back deadlines if it was necessary. (He would also accept stuff late if you didn't make a big deal about it). However, the disorganization of the class and the many unorthodox decisions Cole made in setting it up (no TA, no textbook, insane problem sets, no ability to catch up...) combined to make this an altogether miserable experience. Cole's really a nice guy though. Seriously.

Jan 2004

Brian Cole started the semester by telling us that we should not buy a textbook for his class because none of them are worth their price. Instead, he would made his lecture notes available online and print them out (when he had time which was about half of the lectures). Brian Cole also decided that because he was not using a textbook he would hold his own recitations. The lectures were at 9:15, but Brian Cole's skill as a lecturer was so strong that halfway through the semester I stopped drinking coffee before coming to class because he made physics so engaging. Many others decided not to come to lecture (maybe because it was at 9 or maybe because the notes were all online) - by the end probably only one-third of the 35-person class would come. Often the lectures would start 5 minutes late because he was late or because he was waiting for enough people (8-10). The class is heavy on the math - a lot of which is above the typical sophomore's level of knowledge. This class is for physics majors, if you're not interested in physics or maybe some applications of math, take 1403. The course definitely ups the ante from 1601/1602, but probably falls shy of the rigor of 2801/2802. They don't let physics majors slip through an introductory sequence without doing some mathematical physics. I thought it was much less painful to do it for one semester as a sophomore than for two as a freshman. The math used includes complex variables (to more easily solve sin/cos differential equations and for the quantum mechanics), linear algebra (to solve coupled-oscillator problems - finding eigenvectors and eigenvalues), partial differential equations (to solve the wave equation). However, Brian Cole provides everything you need to know to do the physics. If you've taken these courses already, you're set; the problem solving won't be challenging and you'll develop intuition very quickly. I took linear algebra and partial differential equations concurrently and it helped tremendously. Brian Cole told us he didn't like to talk about grades; he said we should focus on the material and if we learned it the grades would come. Basically, he's telling you to not bitch at him after the midterms and that he'll probably give you an A range grade if you are competent on the exams. The class is pretty difficult. The problem sets take a lot of time, usually, because he uses them to teach extra material. Brian Cole makes himself very available for help, which you should definitely make use of. In the end, it's all about caring. If you care about physics, you'll spend the time doing the homework; if you care about learning how to solve the problems, Brian Cole will guide you through them. Brian Cole care about you - he spent hours writing his lecture notes and creating problem sets, and he expects you to care about learning, and consequently, to not grade-grub. Brian Cole is not without fault, however. He can be slow to post homework problems and lecture notes, but will usually extend the deadline if he's late. He also does schedule extra lectures, to make up for days missed for exams or if he misses a lecture, sometimes on Friday (but we often had a problem set due on Friday, so it was already a wasted weekend day). If you think you're interested in physics, you should take this class. Even if you're unsure, Brian Cole could give you reason to like physics. I thought it would be my last physics class, but now I'll probably take more. If you're an engineer in need of the third semester of a physics track and don't want to work hard, take 1403.

Nov 2003

Prof. Cole is a very nice man but a complete disaster when trying to organize a class. For this semester's class, he decided he didn't like ANY books & so taught only from his notes. He didn't have a TA so did recitations himself, during which he refused to help students 'too much' - which means if you're confused and want to see a problem done, because he really doesn't do many in his lectures and you don't have a book, you're out of luck. Perhaps the most annoying aspect of Prof. Cole's teaching is his complete disorganization and chaotic way of assigning homework. He never posts completed problem sets, but rather parts of problem sets, which are then amended later to add problems and correct frequent errors. And the homeworks bear only a passing resemblance to his lectures. He schedules exams for random evenings, holds makeup classes on random days. He shows no awareness that students have other classes with other obligations. Student feedback on his chaotic methods is met with silence. He either can't get his act together or just doesn't care enough to try. If you're having trouble imagining just what a mess his teaching is, check out his class website. It speaks for itself. Bottom line: stick to a professor who bothers to assign things on time and sticks to a fixed schedule so as not to throw his students' lives into chaos.