Monday, January 31, 2011

PDE Class Rumor Creates Excitement?

Oooh.... a rumor on a possible creation of a Partial Differential Equation class! This is a damn, fine gossip! :)

OK, I read this news report, and then scratched my head, and then read it again, and then said to myself "OK, what did I miss here?" :)

It seems that the rumor that the Physics Dept. at McGill University in Canada might create a class in Partial Differential Equation is causing an excitement not seen since "... they put a flat screen in the foyer has Rutherford Physics .... " Oh my! That's is an excitement!

“PDEs is one of those things that if you want to do physics, it pretty much puts up a wall if you don’t have it,” says McGill Society of Physics Students VP Academic Nina Kudryashova. “It’s so omnipresent.”

Although it’s been brought up, it is unlikely that PDEs will become a requirement anytime soon. “To even give it rumour status is going a little far” Physics Undergraduate Curriculum Committee Chairman Professor Kenneth Ragan says, “and for current [physics] students lacking PDEs, it’s not fatal.”

Physics professors often include higher-level math, like PDEs, in their curriculum on a need-to-know basis: if a particular tool from a math course which is not required for physics majors is needed, the professor will explain it in class.

Er... Hum. When I was an undergraduate student, I took a class on PDE from the Math dept. There wasn't ANY question on whether it was needed or not, since we ALL know that a physics undergraduate NEEDS to know PDE. Nowadays, many physics dept. have courses in "mathematical physics", in which PDEs are covered. I think teaching it on a "need-to-know" basis is highly inefficient, especially when it is taught during the actual physics class where PDE is needed. You are trying to learn both the physics, and the mathematics, at the same time. I've mentioned in my "So You Want To Be A Physicist" essay why this is not the best way to learn physics (read the chapter of mathematical preparation).

It is interesting that, a "rumor" that most of us don't consider to be anything significant, is creating quite an "excitement" among McGill's physics students. Could it be that they are really indicating that there is a need for such a class? Even if it isn't just a course in PDE alone, a mathematical physics class using a text like Mary Boas' "Mathematical Methods in the Physical Science" could fulfill the same needs.


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