June 29, 2005

Modular Thinking

Got an e-mail last night informing me of the new structure of the second year of my physics course.

The revamp, such as it is, appears to have been designed to alleviate concerns that many modules flew by too quickly (3 lectures a week for five weeks for a typical 6 CATS module). So now we'll be getting 7.5 CATS modules with 2 lectures a week for ten weeks.

This reform applied to the core modules has resulted in a relative decrease in the importance of the lab work + essay (now all in one "Physics Skills" module worth a still weighty 30 CATS), but a moderate increase in the importance of the Matheamtics modules (now worth 22.5 CATS total). That's good and bad news from my perspective respectively, but overall it's probably good news. The rest of the core has also seen changes from last year – the new Quantum Mechanics module is now worth a chunky 15 CATS (used to be 6) which should be interesting, and the Electromagnetism and Optics modules have been combined and reduced into one 7.5 CATS module (used to be a total of 12), which seems a bit of a shame. The Thermal Physics module completes the list, having merely been coverted from 6 to 7.5 CATS .

The optional modules are all 7.5 CATS, which means for a normal load I need to pick five of them. There are eight to choose from (unless you want to do outside options like Business studies or languages, and I don't), and while the full details of what each incoporates are not yet available, I'll post my first thoughts on each here.

"Physics of Fluids" – The new Intro to Fluids. Looks like a lot of partial differential equations, which I'm OK with. Moderate interest level.

"Geophysics" – As lectured by my personal tutor, Dr Bell, whom I like. Parts sound interesting, other less so. Unsure of what mathematical demands will be placed.

"Hamiltonian Mechanics" – Sounds fascinating if a bit mathematically dense. I want to take it because I find the weirdness appealing.

"Stars" and "Galaxies" – Two seperate modules here. I'm never quite sure whether I find astrophysics boring or interesting – it seems to osciallate wildly depending on precise topic and mood. Certainly some very fascinating questions are being tackled, but there seems also to be a strong (and necessary) tradition of extremely patient measurement and calculation which I admire, but also bores me to tears.

"C Programming" – No longer Fortran, it seems. I've a little experience with coding (in C++) and generally love all things computers, so this module seems a natural fit for me. If the syllabus is similar to the one for Fortran I shouldn't have much trouble at all. Definite take.

Then there are two entirely new modules (as opposed to the above options which are going to be moinor variations on the ones that were avilable last year). These I know nothing about beyond the module titles:

"Global Warming" – Ugh. I asuume this is a sexed-up name for a module that will give a basic grounding in the physics of weather and climate in general. Not really grabbing my attention off the bat.

"Physics of Electrical Power Generation" – Sounds profundly dull, but then many things in physics do before you get into them. Still, also not grabbing my attention.

——————————

Neglecting the two new modules, then, and assuming I take C Programming, I'm left with four modules to choose out of five – in short, I've got to drop one of:

Hamiltonian Mechanics
Physics of Fluids
Geophysics
Stars
Galaxies

I could do an overload and take them all, but I'm not sure that's so great an idea after my somewhat shaky perfomance in the first year.

Any other physicists out there puzzling over their new options? Any third or fourth years who want to reccomend modules to take or avoid? Course lecturers are also welcome to sell me on any of the above courses if they wish (especially the new two, which I know nothing about) :) .

Advice is greatly appreciated.


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  1. Helen Ryan

    Take them all then drop what you don't find interesting. One of my mates took every single option this year and dropped a few he found hard, but still overloaded a bit (including a CS unusual option) and the seymour thingy made him do even better!

    29 Jun 2005, 11:14

  2. I'd agree with Helen. You never know what it's like till you've tried them.

    I found all of these very interesting. I'd have to say Hamiltonian Mechanics was my favourite because I quite like the high mathematical content which wasn't particularly difficult.

    The astrophysics modules mean remembering a lot of information for the exams, so it would depend on how good you are at that, but they are worth attending even just out of interest.

    29 Jun 2005, 12:55

  3. Hey, good idea on attending everything at least to start with. That literally didn't occur to me. Module deregestration can actually happen quite late for physicists, I believe, so that'd work out… right?

    29 Jun 2005, 13:24

  4. The deregistration dates are quite late. Just make sure you know when they are and don't miss them!

    29 Jun 2005, 15:57

  5. Emma

    Nothing to add really, just wanted to say thanks for blogging this, makes interesting reading to see how it's being changed!

    29 Jun 2005, 16:43

  6. Have fun with a 15 CAT Quantum Module. If it's taught by Don Paul then it might well end up as highly moderated as this year.

    Fluids might be a bit dodgy, as this year it was spotted that Boris had just been recycling papers every 4 years so they may be reshuffling it.

    Galaxies I loved, I had 5 lectures worth of notes when the exam started, got drunk the night before, overslept and still got over 80%. Then again, I like astrophysics.
    (For comparison, got about 62% for the year and failed one of the maths exams, I'm not a physics genius)

    Global geophysics has about 3 equations in the entire thing, and has a nice cycle in the questions asked, though not as much as fluids.

    Think Global warming could be boring, but might be handy for Physics of Weather in the third year, if they still do that.

    Electrical power generation probably will be dull as all chemical ones are: produce heat—Boil water-Steam turns turbine. Renewables are slightly different. This sounds like the new Modern Microscopy. Lots of learning diagrams but not too hard. Can't say for sure though.

    If it's Roddy Vann teaching C programming then read what you have to submit very carefully. I know a few people who didn't hand in the printouts so got really bad marks, since he apparently doesn't run the code to check it works, just looks at the printout and glances at the code.

    I did a language this year, so had to Overcat, but only by 6. I'd agree with Helen to do most of the modules and drop later. The deadline was end of term three week one this year for the final set of exams, so you have plenty of time.

    We missed out on the particle physics module you guys did, how was that?

    30 Jun 2005, 09:43

  7. Helen Ryan

    Quantum Mechanics – 18% for one equation. Moderation rocks!

    30 Jun 2005, 18:56


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