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PHYS2055 – Introduction to Fields in Physics 74.0

If you are an agriculture, town planning, or sports science student that has somehow wandered into the physics section of this site, you may have been pleasantly surprised to find we offer courses on fields, and consider taking it as an elective. "How do we define a field?" you may wonder. "What types of fields are there? Must they be grassy or rocky? At what angle of tilt is it no longer a field but a hill?"

Unfortunately, the 'fields' we discuss in this course are specifications of a parameter at every point in space at time, which can be scalar (as in a temperature diffusion field) or vector (as in a force field).* In more everyday language, they are descriptions of how things behave.

It also so happens that the universe is a reasonably complex place, with a large variety of physical laws and phenomena that are not easily described in words, let alone the math you'll need for this course (take MATH2000 first, trust me). This makes this course hard. If you thought the electromagnetism in PHYS1002 was hard, boy oh boy, you are in for a goddamn treat. This course will steal your drink at the bar, apologise politely but insist on its ownership of the drink when you catch it, offer to settle things outside when you get a bit touchy, then promptly meet you outside with five sturdy cousins and spend the next semester curbstomping you in an alley, putting the boot into your throat every few seconds so noone can hear your muffled attempts at screams.

So yeah, I found the content hard.**

With that said, the content is also a hell of a lot more interesting than studying reasonably open, flat, and likely grassy or rocky plains. The gravitational, fluid, and temperature derivations and solutions particularly interested me, and even some of the optics concepts such as waveguide propagation and evanescent waves (which is saying a lot, because optics bored me senseless in PHYS1002). The assignments are reasonably tough but interesting, particularly some of the advanced questions (which you'll need to do for a 6 or 7). You'll also read Feynman's Lectures on Physics. If you don't already hero worship Feynman, you will by the end of the semester. 5 Minute Physics was also invaluable; in fact, likely the only reason I passed the course.

The main pitfall of this course is that the lab work can be more boring than termites and more dull than even PHYS1001's labs. For example, while the theory behind a Michelson interferometer is reasonably engaging, I'll be damned if I ever again spend three hours futilely twiddling knobs and pressing my eye to a piece of glass trying to spot faint coloured fringes that only appear with perfect apparatus alignment (i.e. they did not appear). And trust me, I love twiddling knobs. While I've learned to write a decent lab report now, they were a lot of work and tedious at times.

In short, this course will weed out anybody who doesn't truly love physics. Unless you're genuinely interested in the content and put in the work, you won't pass. If you do, though, your reward will be a greater understanding of the universe and the ability to match equations and physical law to real world phenomena. I've not looked at a whirlpool or magnet or oven the same since. Wonderful course.

* Fields can also be tensor or spinor, but those are not covered in this course.
** This may also be due to the fact that I had a clash with the one lecture for this subject, and thus could not attend. Unless I caught up that night (not always possible even in theory, as sometimes lectures weren't recorded), this made the next-day tutorials very difficult, leaving me essentially without useful contact hours.

Semester taken

Semester 1 - 2014

Your program/major

BE / BSc

Is lecture attendance necessary?


Is the textbook necessary?


  • Feynman. 'Nuff said
  • Gravity and temperature and fluids oh my
  • 5 Minute Physics, although taking far longer than five minutes to understand, is very useful
  • One lecture / week (with often poorly communicated slides) which was not always recorded kinda screwed me over
  • Lab work is drier than a recovering alcoholic
  • Really should've listed MATH2000 as a prerequisite
Posted on July 15, 2014 2:42 pm

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