course


Jan 2018 
The two courses basically covers PHYS 16012, 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 28012. 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.
Apr 2017 
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 selfstudy/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.
May 2015 
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 1018 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 studybuddy 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.
May 2014 
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 dillydally 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 mathmajor 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, smarterthantheaveragebear firstyear who goes to every lecture and recitation can expect to complete in one night. The most wellprepared 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 timeconsuming 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, selfesteemdestroying course, but Prof. Cole will help you understand and learn to enjoy "the physics."
May 2013 
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 ~1520% 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.
Apr 2012 
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 extensiongranting 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 physicsrelated problems.
Mar 2012 
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.
May 2011 
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 810 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, preexam review sessions are, and classes can be.
May 2011 
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
Apr 2011 
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 rewriting 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, fourvectors. 2nd semester: gradient, divergence, curl, Dirac delta function, LeviCivita 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 nearfull 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.
Apr 2010 
I'll start by saying the other reviews of this professor, and in particular this class, are very accurate. I took 28012802 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 supernice 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.
May 2009 
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 pset. 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. Psets 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.
Oct 2008 
Brian Cole is a BAMF. I learned far more from a year of Cole's problem sets than from any other class at Columbia. If you just suck it up and actually do the neverending problem sets you end up learning more than you even know until you see it all again in other classes, PDE, Into Quant, Linear Algebra, Mechanics, all begin with problems easier than the ones treated in Cole's problem sets. A genuinely great intro to studying physics. The guy actually knows what's going on, and he's also busy as hell, but was still willing to do an occasional night lecture if we were falling behind. I don't know why you would pay for Columbia and not take such a sweet class, just wish I hadn't slept through so many lectures....
Apr 2008 
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 halflecture on vector bases that my linear algebra class took four lectures to cover. Heâ€™s got a shitton 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 flatout 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).
Dec 2007 
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.
Jan 2007 
I firmly disagree with the assessments by earlier students. I suspect that they were disgruntled with their grades on homework assignments, and I would encourage them to spend more time working on future assignments rather than complaining on this forum. Michael Cheng was solely responsible for the survival of a number of students in Professor Christ's 2800 class. He was always meticulously prepared for discussion sections, and he went out of his way to provide extra preparatory measures for the final exam. He is readily comprehensible and will take time to explain things thoroughly in discussion sections. Furthermore, he's a serious threat on the squash court.
May 2006 
DO NOT TAKE THIS CLASS WITHOUT CONSULTING SURVIVORS FIRST! ARGUABLY THE MOST DEMANDING CLASS IN COLUMBIA: Oh, how I have longed for this payback 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 FirstYear 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 UCBerkeley put some answers to these problem sets online. Recitation was helpful at times, yet not wellattended. 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 midyear, and we finished with 36. Go figure. DonÂ’t try this if you are premed or want an easy A, or B for that matter. If I were the registrar, this would be 8.5 credits!
May 2006 
Christ is absolutely out of touch with reality. He assumes that we understand what he's teaching, even when we visit him in office hours every single week, or ask questions that he considers obvious. He doesn't get the signals that we're confused. Even if I get a decent grade in the class, I know that I've barely learned anything. The time spent on quantum mechanics was an absolute waste. Nobody will deny that Christ is brilliant. However, he has no ability to transfer his knowledge. It has been so longer since he has learned the material and it has become so engrained in his person that he cannot connect share his complete understanding with people who have no basic knowledge. The TA, Michael Cheng, is great. 3 hours with Cheng was more informational than an entire semester with Christ. Cheng produced a study guide for the class in an attempt to help us understand what Christ might give us. It went above and beyond what we had done in class or in homework, which seemed like a good idea. However, on the final, it seems like Christ used the study guide to design his problems. He assumed that we knew stuff that we were only barely familiar with. First semester was alright (C2801). However, it all changes second semester. Once you leave the territory that you're familiar with (AP Physics, high school stuff), you will not be able to figure out what Christ is doing. His teaching only works when you already have some base knowledge. If you really enjoy physics, take C2801. It's challenging and you'll definitely learn new ways to approach problems. Do not take C2802 unless you are going to put in a lot more effort. You need to find outside sources of information, and you will be struggling to keep up.
Apr 2005 
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.
Apr 2005 
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 45 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 godforsaken intro waves book "Six ideas that shaped modern physics." So incredibly simplistic as to be laughable after K&K and Purcell.
Apr 2005 
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 5070%. 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, 030 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.
Dec 2004 
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.
Nov 2004 
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+).
Nov 2003 
This is by far the hardest freshmanoriented 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.
Aug 2003 
After taking a tough beating in the first semester of this course, I decided to dive into the second half, C2802 Electricity and Magnetism . I only did this because the completed sequence would mean not having to take another physics class in my undergraduate career. Also I figured that I've probably seen the worst of it. Boy was I utterly wrong and completely beaten down even further. The second semester started fairly general with a discussion of what charge was and a general rambling on the history of progression in electricity and magnetism. However, things soon accelerated into a complete incoherent mess of inconceivable transformations and matrices. It was only further complicated and alienated by the usage of CGS units which capacitance was no longer a Farad but a Centimeter. It was completely horiffying and outright snuffed many more of the students that were interested in physics. Our only brief moment of relief was when Professor Christ had to leave for Washington to get more grant money for his supercomputer research. Professor Allan Blaer was the substitute and he was absolutely amazing. Although Allan Blaer and Norman Christ were both classmates in physics and went to Columbia back in the days, they wouldn't have been more different. While Christ had a timid and often high pitched voice, Blaer was vibrant and full of life. His lesson was invigorating and gave us a glimpse of the joys of physics. However, good things seem ephemeral and we that was teh only lesson we had with Blaer. Later Christ returned with his grant money but that was about all that had chnaged. When things finally seemed like they were going to end, we get slapped with Quantum Mechanics during the last week of classes. There was no way we could learn Quantum Mechanics in one week but that didn't stop Christ from making one of the four questions on teh final a quantum mechanics question. Basically, this semester was full fledged punishment for continuing on without heeding the cautions in the first semester. In short, we all realized that Christ is in fact a genius and it would be great researching with him. However, as a physics professor, he lacks the ability to attend to the needs of the class and make the material more accessible. It is a pity, since many potential physics students turn to chemistry and biology for salvation.
Jun 2003 
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 outdated. Don't bother attending class because the lectures are useless. However, for those of you who love going to class, look forward to longwinded mathematical proofs and hourlong 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 PhDlevel mathematical manipulations you have to perform to get the correct answer. I would advise taking 16011602 if you want to learn physics, but if you have an ego and want to test yourself, this impossible class is for you.
Jan 2003 
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.
Nov 2002 
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.)
May 2002 
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 deadon accurate. The class itself is quite intensive (be ready to earn those 4.5 points) and the math involved is quite advanced.
Apr 2002 
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.
Apr 2002 
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.
Jan 2000 
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.
Jan 2000 
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)