Allan Blaer

This professor has earned a CULPA gold nugget

Dec 2011

Having taken a class by Prof. Blaer for the third time, I must say he can teach any course in physics! The material is very clear, concise, and informative. His organization makes reviewing your notebook so much easier and it ultimately helps with the exams. He extended this course by half-hour each lecture to make time for recitation, which allowed people to come on either day depending on their progress with the homework. The exams are straightforward and fair. They are also very interesting because once you do them, you feel like you've learned something so deep! If you screw up the midterm, no worries, because depending on your performance on the final, he will omit the midterm as one of his ways he formulates the grades. All in all, any class Prof. Blaer teaches will be a class on my schedule! Since I'm now a grad student, I may not have a chance to have him anymore... so I spread my word of advice - if you have the chance to - take any of his courses!!

Feb 2011

Currently taking Math Methods with him. He is a wonderful professor. I am a new grad student and previously went to a liberal arts college for my undergrad. I've come to realize that the highest praise I can give a professor is that they make me feel like I'm back with one of my undergrad professors, and he fits that description to a T. Both in class and in his office hours it feels like I'm sitting with my undergrad advisor or one of the many other excellent professors I had in undergrad. Excellent professor, very approachable (3 hours of office hours a week, split over two days, and is happy to sit and explain things to you), and he seems like he wants you to succeed and isn't just looking to jam everyone into a curve. His recitation sessions are also very useful and honestly unless you're easily knocking out the problems on your own, I think you're foolish not to stay for them. A+

Jan 2010

Excellent professor and great class. Blaer is one of the best physics professors I ever have had. He is one of the few lecturers who have mastered the fine art of being detailed and thorough while still being clear and concise. Blaer goes over every concept he holds you responsible for in his lectures. As other reviews have mentioned, he gives all his lectures from memory and does a much better job than most other professors who have their notes in front of them. His delivery is smooth and his pace is well measured. All his points are well connected and tend to reinforce each other. He presents a healthy mix of proofs and applications, so you not only understand the concepts but also know how to use them to solve problems. In the first portion of the class, he covered all the basic classical mechanics topics from the Newtonian perspective i.e. projectile motion, momentum and angular momentum conservation, energy conservation and oscillations. In the second portion of the class, he introduced calculus of variations and langrangian mechanics, which is essentially an alternative to newtonian mechanics. He also spent a good amount of time on the two-body problem where he went over Kepler's orbits among other things.

Dec 2009

Allan Blaer is one of if not the single best teacher I've had yet at Columbia. He genuinely cares about his students and puts in much more time and effort for this class than he is required to, by teaching two recitation sections and grading all of the midterms and finals himself. On top of that, he seems to know everything there is to know about every detail of classical mechanics and how it relates to other areas of physics, is full of interesting anecdotes about the physicists after whom the theorems we use are named, and even goes as far as to discuss the philosophical implications of each of the approaches we cover, all of which make the class much more interesting than simply reading a textbook. On top of all that, he's always in a good mood; jolly,if you will, like santa clause. He'll make your heart melt with his gentle, soothing explanations of the Euler-Lagrange Equations while keeping you on your toes by yelling a few carefully chosen terms with tremendous fervor. I suppose it's something you must experience for yourself to really appreciate.

Dec 2009

He is a very good teacher. It's not anything spectacular or ground-breaking but he does a very decent job, I mean, very decent. The class is not like those verbose introductory physics, but combines essential intuition about physics and simple, neat mathematics needed to understand the physics. He explains every crucial points, and make you understand the material without trying so hard. Problem sets are usually demonstrative or classic problems of the subject, and not very long. He is reachable during his office hours (contrary to some physics instructors who aren't very much) and actually spends quite a lot of time in Pupin.

Jul 2008

Take any class Prof. Blaer teaches! He makes mechanics really easy because you actually learn it when he teaches. As said by the other reviewer he lectures without notes and holds recitation himself. He's also very funny and sweet. The problem sets aren't bad and the exams are also straightforward. You should go to class because he's an excellent lecturer and it will make the class much easier for you.

Jan 2008

This class was one of the most spectacular classes I've had in my undergraduate career! Professor Blaer is a wonderful professor that loves to teach and really loves his students. He also has an incredible passion for physics, and he teaches his lectures from memory! I would highly recommend this course to anyone wanting to take an upper level physics class.

Dec 2007

Just another positive review for Prof. Blaer, who is the most thorough professor I have ever had. He will explain each and every detail in every step, so it's almost impossible to be lost in his lectures. Although this has the side-effect of slowing down his pace (we sort of ran out of time at the end of the semester), his amiable disposition more than makes up for it. Prof. Blaer can make any and everything clear to anyone. The problem set problems are well chosen so that you don't have to spend hours trying to find your way through pages of algebra. He runs recitation sections personally, which means that even the problems were thoroughly explained. What more can I say? He cares about his students learning the material; he teaches without notes (an incredible feat, considering the messy algebra that he goes through); he can and does explain everything. He's perfect.

Jul 2006

Alan Blaer is without question the greatest professor I have ever had in either my academic career, undergrad or postbacc. He has a great sense of humor, and his lectures are absolutely crystal clear and fun. Although there are numerous factors that I can't identify, I'd say that Professor Blaer does three things which make his teaching great: 1. He includes many of the rigorous concepts (unit vectors, the cross product and line integral -- though he never actually used the latter term in class) behind the material that other professors gloss over. Other professors think that including such things will confuse students but don't realize that they are necessary for students' understanding. Moreover, Professor Blaer has the talent to present such concepts so that they are absolutely clear to students. The result is that every idea Professor Blaer presents is well-defined -- no ambiguity. 2. During the first few minutes of every class, Professor Blaer runs through (almost) all of the material we covered in the previous lecture, or at least everything that is a prerequisite to understand the current lecture. He always begins this with his famous phrase "You will recall . . ." The result is that many fewer students are lost due to missing or forgetting the material of the previous lecture. 3. He takes the different problems that are given in the book, classifies them into a handful of categories, and he shows you the method to solve each category of problem. Therefore, for every problem that was thrown at us, we could identify its type and the method needed to solve it. The result was that the process of problem-solving, which is often a crap shoot even in science classes, became systematic. There were 2 midterms and a final. All were certainly fair tests. In the pre-exam review session, Professor Blaer does tell you the *type* of questions that will show up on the exam and the method of solving that type. However, I'd say that the actual exam problems are significantly harder that the ones in the review session. Therefore, substantial studying is still required, even with the review session. If you have the opportunity to take *any* class with Professor Blaer, do not miss this opportunity. Professor Blaer will make you love physics and love him, even if you have no initial interest in the subject. Professor Blaer sets a very high standard for teaching that, unfortunately, other professors do not live up to.

Mar 2006

blaer is a nice man and a good teacher but he lets some students run wild, asking stupid questions. his review sessions are key, but again they would only be 2 hours if he would just tell the postbaccs to shut up and ask what constant acceleration is during office hours. his tests are trickier than you might expect, given the problems he does in class, but not impossible by any means. just study the class notes and look over the homeworks and you will be fine. if you took high school physics there is no need to come to class, just go to the review session and hand in the homeworks. if you took ap physics (i did) do yourself a favor and just take 1400. theres a great curve and the material is at least more challenging. i feel ashamed that i dont know how to use anyt calc in physics.

Nov 2005

Why is Professor Blaer so amazing? Out of all the teachers I've had in college, he is by far the best. Unlike pretentious professors who care more about fluffing their ego, he will give you the material straight. By writing it all out on the board for you. Explaining every step clearly. Take his class, it will be the best decision you've ever made during your college career.

May 2005

Blaer has a passion for Physics that he loves to share with anyone and everyone. I enjoyed going to class each day because he told jokes, danced to cell phone rings, and simplified physics in a way that allowed me to really understand the material. He lectures completely from memory, which is truly amazing, and seems to really care about each and every member of the class. I highly recommend taking any class you can with Professor Blaer.

May 2005

Some of you prima donna/stereotypical Ivy Leaguers who are complaining that Blaer insults your intelligence with his staightforward exams should probably snap out of it this instant. I'd like to see you take a higher level physics class taught by somebody other than Blaer and see how well you do. Sure enough, you'll come back repentant and wishing you had never acted like little physics prodigies. You're limited intelligence, furthermore, manifests itself in your inability to accurately and objectively assess a professor. You came here to learn, not to show other students what you've got. If you don't like Blaer because he wants to reinforce and resynthesize concepts for everybody in his class, and would instead prefer a professor that makes the top 5% shine without imparting any useful knowledge, then go somewhere else, because it's people like you that make Columbia a laughing stock around other schools.

May 2005

Professor Blaer can translate concepts into plain words better than anyone I've had at Columbia. He's good natured, organized, engaging, and smart. Also goofy-funny. Lectures from memory. Very compulsive when it comes to Physics (likes to stay after class and look over the notes he has left on the board). His compulsiveness can be mistaken for arrogance, but it's really dedication. Links past and current topics very well. Prefers variables to numbers (unless numbers make more sense, e.g. circuits), which helps because it works to avoid losing track of the physics in a series of calculations. Answers questions well and completely. That said, he takes his sweet time doing all these wonderful things. For every one outstanding student at Columbia there are at least two or three who are not as gifted but try to make up for it through hard work. A Blaer class helps the latter, but not to the detriment of the great student, who just gets bumped up to an A+. The curve is very high, with the median representing the cut-off between a B+ and an A-. Close to half the class gets some sort of an A letter grade, which is ridiculous. Overall, if you want to understand and even enjoy Physics, learn how to approach problems efficiently, and have the grade to match, then Blaer is your man.

May 2005

Everyone only likes Blaer because he's ridiculously easy. The exams are a total joke!!! He tells you every problem on the exam the week before. This is cheating!!! Some one should report him to the Honor Council. Furthermore, his lectures are painfully slow for those in the class who are decent at physics. He treats his students like retards. That being said, there is something to be said for the no calculators tests. Because there are no calculations, you tend to know the equations a lot better, rather than perfecting your math skills and I think you get a much better conceptual understanding of Physics, which is really what makes it hard to begin with (the math part isn't so bad). Plus, there are no calculators on the MCATs, so this seemed like a good idea to me.

Apr 2005

I completely disagree with the previous reviews! I find him to be VERY pretentious and arrogant. His lectures are not awe-inspiring as other posters claim. The curve is insane and the grading is very confusing at best. Beware of students being friends with the graders because it ruins it for the rest of us. This is the classic case of a class that is full of bull***. People rave about him, and I do NOT understand why. I dread going to his lecture every day! And his final is nothing like any of the midterms. Take ANYONE else and save yourself the aggravation.

Apr 2005

Professor Blaer is incredible. Simply put, he is the best professor I've ever encountered. Period. I switched from Professor Budick's class to Professor Blaer's for the second semester of general physics and it was the best decision I've ever made. Many people say that Blaer is easy--what they don't realize is that you really do learn the material inside and out. I think many of us are suprised to get an A or a B+ on a physics exam because we've never had such an incredible professor before; we're used to going into an exam "somewhat" knowing the material and coming out with a "so-so" grade. I find that when Prof. Blaer simply reviews a concept from first semester ("Recall that. . . ") I actully understand it! When I was in professor Budick's class I had no idea what angular momentum was, but then Blaer mentions it to clarify a point about electric fields and I actually get it. This makes me angry that I wasted my money with Budick while some students got to have two semesters of Blaer, but at least I got a semester. When I go back and study E and M for the MCAT, I'll look over my Blaer notes and forget that awful textbook. The man is a genius; his lectures are absolutely flawless. Take this class even if you're not a premed; take it just to learn about electricity and magnetism. If you're in another class with someone else, do yourself a favor and go to Blaer's lectures once in a while, just to really learn the material. Finally, Blaer just inspires his students. You genuinely like physics during your time in his class--a class many students loathe. If I was an undergrad taking this class, I think I would probably concentrate in physics, just because Blaer made it so interesting and engaging. Note that I came out of first semester with Budick wanting to study anything but physics. I think it's one thing to be wowed by a class, and it's another to be inspired by it.

Feb 2005

Consider yourself extremely lucky and fortunate if you get to take a class with this brilliant professor. He is by far one of the greatest professors at this university. His lectures are fluid, elucidating and straightforward. Take him!

Jan 2005

He's a very smart guy clearly knows the stuff he's teaching. He's also very a engaging and nice guy. That said, I'm not sure people learn all that much in his classes. His tests are so easy (he tells you all the questions before the exam) and the problem sets are so unchallenging (since the TA gives out the solutions before you have to turn them in) that there is really very little initiative that the student needs to take. Everyone gets an A or an A+ and it really makes a mockery out of a rigorous "Ivy League" education. That said I'll take my grade but it seems kind of ridiculus.

Jan 2005

An outstanding physicist and a gifted instructor are not two things which Columbia is great at making out of a single human brain. By the end of the course, you will realize that Blaer is a rare exception to this general premise. At first, the succession of blackboards spent on the rigors of a single part of one problem may bore the hell out of you, depending on your reason for being in the class, and on top of that, your notes may be next to useless. But then the exams roll around, and all the people you hear walking around saying how easy their classes are start crying about how they got totally raped on their exams. And you? You attended the review session the previous SundayÂ…studied the review notes with anything more than zero presence of mind, and got in the 90s. BlaerÂ’s problem-solving approach to the class really succeeds in tying everything presented together into a few basic concepts which you very likely understood years before you were accepted to Columbia. Highly recommended classÂ…but you must learn to trust his ingenious approach.

Dec 2004

Simply put, the man's amazing. He takes entire chapters worth of material and condenses them into one or two simple, easy-to-remember equations. He defines all his terms clearly and backs up all of his explanations with helpful examples. He's also extremely understanding of student concerns and easy to approach. The textbook is awful, but even he encourages you to ignore it sometimes. If you're planning to take physics and see his name listed next to a course, do anything you can to get into it--you will love the decision forever.

Dec 2004

Blaer is the real deal. Definitely take a class with him if you get the chance.

Nov 2004

Professor Blaer is a god, but Satan must have created this awful, awful textbook that is used in the course. Although the problems Blaer chooses are exactly what he focuses on, the answer key is full of errors, the reading is useless, and most of the problems are horribly tangential. So once again, amazing teacher, pitiful textbook.

Sep 2004

I also had Allan Blaer as a substitute in 1602 (what a relief from Amber Miller). He was AMAZING. Unfortunately, I don't think he teaches undergrad classes too often.

Apr 2004

I had this man one time as a sub. for professor Scuilli. One word. WOW. Take any and every class that this man teaches. He is simply amazing.

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)