FAQs: Frequently Asked Questions
updated 12.Aug 2002 - thanks to Don Middendorf for some questions
Welcome to the Physical Systems FAQ page.
Please see if your question is answered below. Otherwise,
Q: I can't decide whether to take Physical Systems or Math
A: You can take both - in part. Zita and Middendorf have agreed
to make Differential Equations a shared part of both programs. We
will combine classes on Tuesdays and co-teach DiffEq, and we will probably
do some seminaring together, and possibly other activities. There
are also other days when only one program meets, so you might sit in on
the other if you really want to. But honestly, you will be busy enough
with just one program.
Q: Will I learn anything new if I took Don's program last year?
Absolutely. Most of the material will be new, and the modern
physics and quantum mechanics will be more advanced and mathematical.
Q: Would I have the equivalent of a physics degree by the
end of the year?
A: Yes, if you have also completed Matter & Motion and Energy
Systems (or Astronomy & Energies) or the equivalent. You would
then be prepared for grad school or other advanced work in physics.
Many successful scientists and thinkers also start with a degree in physics
- it can lead to careers in medicine, law, anywhere where you need a sharp
Q: What are the prerequisites again?
A: You should have had at least two solid quarters of calculus-based
physics, such as Matter and Motion. You should be able to integrate
and differentiate polynomials, exponentials, and trig functions, and, of
course, you should be completely fluent with algebra.
Q: What other physics beyond Matter and Motion is available this
If you do not have these prerequisites, this program will probably be
too hard, and you might take Matter
and Motion instead. Otherwise it would be like taking German literature
before you can read German, which would not be fair to your more fluent
classmates who do have the prerequisites.
This is it. Next year Energy Systems or an equivalent program
will be offered.
Q: Will I fulfill the requirements for an endorsement teaching
high school physics by taking this program?
A: You will fulfill many of the requirements for your endorsement.
Share your list of requirements with Zita so we can see.
Q: Can I get out of part of this program to take something
else for 2-4 credits?
A: No, this is a full-time integrated program. You can take an
overload if you really want to, say to take piano lessons or French, but
not to take more physics/math.
Q: What should I do to get ready for Physical Systems?
A: Review your calculus and physics. Remember the integration and differentiation
techniques that you have already learned. Reread your familiar old calculus
textbook. Mathematics is the language of physics - regain your fluency.
If your calculus skills have become a bit rusty from disuse, do drill problems
until integration and differentiation are second nature to you. Take
your text out under a tree with a blank notebook and remember the joy of
Q: Will it be fun? Will it be a lot of work?
You bet, on both counts! You will learn some of the most beautiful
and powerful thinking and problem-solving methods known to humans.
It will take about 50 hours per week including in-class time. Some
reduction in work load is possible in spring. Details available at
the first class.
Q: Where and when do we meet on the first day?
A: Monday 30 Sept.2002 at 1:00 in the CAL
(not 16 Sept!)
Q: How can I meet the professor before class starts?
A: Come to Academic Fair in spring or summer. Dr. Zita is on
leave doing research.
Or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Start the subject header with
"PS" or your mail might not get read.
Q: What books do we need for the first day of class?
A: None, but all the texts need to be purchased by the second day of
class, so come with money to buy books. They will be expensive, totaling
several hundred dollars, and you will use them all year (and perhaps the
rest of your life). Winter and Spring texts will be cheaper.
Do not count on financial aid to be available! Experience has shown
that students who are unable to buy required texts during the first week
have a very difficult time catching up.
Q: What should I read to prepare for class?
Here are our texts, but don't feel you have to read them over the summer!
The best way to prepare over the summer is to review your familiar old
physics and calculus textbooks and work plenty of problems. Read
something fun about science - biographies or even pop science - and remember
not to believe everything you read. If you find a good candidate
seminar text, please suggest it. We might have room for one more.
Q: Can I take this program for less than 16 credits?
A: No - it's a full-time program.
Q. How many of the credits are upper division?
A: All of them, for high quality, complete work. It is possible
to earn 48 upper division credits in this program, depending on excellent
performance. Upper division performance includes being present
at virtually all classes, turning in all homework on time with substantial
writing, doing well on exams, giving good presentations, etc.
Q: Can I get out of seminar?
A: No - seminar will be integrated into lecture/discussion times.
Q: Are we required to subscribe to journals?
A: Yes, certainly to Science News, probably Physics Today and possibly
American Journal of Physics. We're working with the publisher to
get you a discount. Details will be available at the first class.
Q: Will you cover the special topic I'm interested in?
Q: Do I need a calculator?
A: Not really, but you do need an Evergreen email account
I think every registered student gets one automatically. Please learn
to use it before class starts - ask the nice folks in the Computer Center.
Q: What special materials should I get?
A: Your program fee will cover some equipment that we'll use in class.
Consider purchasing Mathematica
you have your own computer. You do not need a calculator.
Consider buying a good pair of 10x50 binoculars
spring if you're interested in astronomy (you should be able to get a good
pair for $200-300). With a tripod, you can see the moons of Jupiter and
some details of nearby clusters and galaxies.
Neither of these is required! We have Mathematica on campus
computers, and binocs and telescopes can be borrowed from Lab Stores.
More questions? Since Dr. E.J. Zita
is on research leave until mid-September 2002, the best way to reach her
is at the Academic Fair or by email
(1) be sure you are logged on as yourself, or we may not be able to
(2) please include "Physical Systems" or "PS" in the Subject header,
or your message might not get read.
Maintained by: E.J. Zita