Physics I is a first-year, first-semester course at MIT. Students usually take this course at the same time as 18.01 Single Variable Calculus.
This course is ideal for motivated high school students, college students, and anyone interested in learning the basics of physics.
The overall goal of this course is to convey the excitement of the physicist's quest to understand nature at its deepest level, and at the same time to provide the knowledge and tools that you will need to continue your studies in science or engineering.
There are three main reasons why the study of Classical Mechanics important, one obvious and two more subtle.
- The physical laws and principles you will learn, and the methods of applying them to practical problems, are important and relevant in many other fields. A civil engineer designing a bridge, an automobile designer laying out the specifications for the engine or the safety air-bag of a new model, or a geologist estimating the likely severity of the next earthquake all are using, directly or indirectly, the principles of classical mechanics.
- The structure and development of classical mechanics is a good example of the aims and methods of science. You will see how experimental results and mathematical representations are combined to create testable scientific theories, and how the impossible complexities of most real-life physical situations can be reduced to soluble problems by identifying the essential physical features and ignoring the rest. This way of working is what distinguishes the scientific approach to situations from the many other ways of looking at them (e.g. artistic, political, business, etc.).
- Because the same basic principles can be used in a wide variety of different applications, the study of classical mechanics is an excellent introduction to the art of problem solving. By the end of the course you should be able to extract the essential features of a problem, use them to set up and solve the appropriate mathematical equations, and make quick and easy checks on your answer to catch simple mistakes.
The course will have succeeded in its aims if you come away from it with a grasp of the basic principles governing the motion of objects, a feel for the scientific method, and an understanding of the techniques of problem solving.