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Preface

This introductory electromagnetism and optics text is intended to be used in the second semester of a two-semester series of courses teaching introductory physics at the college level, following a first semester course in (Newtonian) mechanics and thermodynamics. The text is intended to support teaching the material at a rapid, but advanced level - it was developed to support teaching introductory calculus-based physics to potential physics majors, engineers, and other natural science majors at Duke University over a period of more than twenty-five years.

Students who hope to succeed in learning physics from this text will need, as a minimum prerequisite, a solid grasp of mathematics. It is strongly recommended that all students have mastered mathematics at least through single-variable differential calculus (typified by the AB advanced placement test or a first-semester college calculus course). Students should also be taking (or have completed) single variable integral calculus (typified by the BC advanced placement test or a second-semester college calculus course). In the text it is presumed that students are competent in geometry, trigonometry, algebra, and single variable calculus; more advanced multivariate calculus is used in a number of places but it is taught in context as it is needed and is always ``separable'' into two or three independent one-dimensional integrals.

Note that the Preliminaries, Mathematics and Introduction are not part of the course per se and are not intended to be lectured on. However, it is strongly suggested that all students read these three chapters right away as their first assignment! Or, (if you're a student reading these words) you can always decide to read them without it being an assignment, as this book is all about self-actualization in the learning process...

The Preliminaries chapter covers not physics but how to learn physics (or anything else). Even if you think that you are an excellent student and learn things totally effortlessly, I strongly suggest reading it. It describes a new perspective on the teaching and learning process supported by very recent research in neuroscience and psychology, and makes very specific suggestions as to the best way to proceed to learn physics.

It is equally strongly suggested that all students skim read and review the Mathematics chapter right away, reading it sufficiently carefully that they see what is there so that they can use it as a working reference as they need to while working on the actual course material.

Finally, the Introduction is a rapid summary of the entire course! If you read it and look at the pictures before beginning the course proper you can get a good conceptual overview of everything you're going to learn. If you begin by learning in a quick pass the broad strokes for the whole course, when you go through each chapter in all of its detail, all those facts and ideas have a place to live in your mind.

That's the primary idea behind this textbook - in order to be easy to remember, ideas need a house, a place to live. Most courses try to build you that house by giving you one nail and piece of wood at a time, and force you to build it in complete detail from the ground up.

Real houses aren't built that way at all! First a foundation is established, then the frame of the whole house is erected, and then, slowly but surely, the frame is wired and plumbed and drywalled and finished with all of those picky little details. It works better that way. So it is with learning.



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Next: Textbook Layout and Design Up: math_for_intro_physics Previous: Contents   Contents
Robert G. Brown 2011-04-19