Conceptual Understanding in Introductory Physics XXV

This question emphasizes geometry and should be done without use of a coordinate system. It should also be done using only symbolic manipulation of vectors. Here it is. Consider a particle moving with a constant, non-relativistic velocity. Starting with a general expression for kinetic energy in terms of either velocity or momentum, prove that the […]

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Help Me! Question About Tensors and Projections

I need some help. I am working hard to find ways to bring more geometry into introductory calculus-based physics (and conceptual physics as well). By geometry, I mean specifically the geometry associated with vectors and tensors, and the information encoded therein. Yes, I said tensors. I have been heavily influenced by these notes by Kip […]

Did Feynman Invent Feynman Notation?

In section section 27-3 of The Feynman Lectures on Physics, Feynman describes a notation for manipulating vector expressions in a way that endows nabla with the property of following a rule similar to the product rule with which our introductory calculus students are familiar. It allows a vector expression with more than one variable to be […]

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HELP! A Stubborn Vector Identity to Understand

Over the past three years or so, I have been researching the history and implementation of Gibbsian vector analysis with the intent of finding ways to incorporate it more thoroughly and more meaningfully into introductory calculus-based physics (possibly algebra/trig-based physics too). Understanding the usual list of vector identities has been part of this research. One […]

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Conceptual Understanding in Introductory Physics XXI

Okay this may not be the most interesting thing to think about, but it’s a question I’ve been asked on several occasions. For that reason alone, I started thinking about it. I also think it’s another situation where coordinate-free vector manipulation can simplify otherwise messy questions and problems. So, here’s the question. Give three different […]

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Conceptual Understanding in Introductory Physics XX

This post is inspired by the October 2015 AstroNotes in The Physics Teacher. I have sometimes introduced vectors into my introductory astronomy course and students were able to do most of the things described below. We never discussed angular momentum or the Laplace-Runge-Lenz vector, but the other quantities were familiar. I was not permitted in […]

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Conceptual Understanding in Introductory Physics XIX

This is a very quick post addressing a frequently asked conceptual question. Maybe it my heightened awareness, but I’ve also seen this question asked a lot on various physics Q&A sites lately. It’s a question that gets to the heart of how vectors are often defined, loosely and incorrectly, in introductory physics. Here’s the question. […]

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Conceptual Understanding in Introductory Physics XVIII

The Maxwell equations contain everything mentioned in an introductory calculus-based electromagnetic theory course, and then some. They contain detailed mathematical structure and deep insight into electromagnetic fields. They are a magnificent playground for learning the various theorems of vector calculus, and applying these theorems to the fields of particles naturally leads to things like divergence, […]

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Conceptual Understanding in Introductory Physics XII

This is post is long overdue, and I’m sorry for that. Life and work got busy late in the semester. I have far many more ideas for more posts in this thread that I doubt I’ll ever be able to write them all up but I will try. In this post, I focus on an […]

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Conceptual Understanding in Introductory Physics XI

In this post, I present a conceptual question that is so important, I feel that no undergraduate student should complete an introductory calculus-based physics course without being able to correctly answer it. Given the way introductory calculus and introductory physics are traditionally taught, I just don’t think there is nearly enough carryover from the calculus […]

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