Erick J Weinberg

Dec 2014

You will never get a more straight forward class in your physics education than this one. The first half of the class is very straight forward and mostly review from Physics III. The second half is a do-it-yourself kind of thing. If you want to make sense of the lectures you have to read the book ahead of time, and do practice problems. If you haven't realized yet, the more advanced that the physics courses get, the fewer number of problems they can reasonably ask you on a 75 minute exam. His exam questions come straight from the book, he is up-front about that from the first class. All homework problems are 2 and 3 star difficulty. So if you do every 0 and 1 star problems on your own (total of about 50 problems in Griffiths) chances are you have done all of the questions that will be on the exams. This is not a subject that can be explained through demonstrations or computer graphics, the best way to learn it is to read through the chapters, do all of the 0 and 1 star problems, then read the chapter again. The solutions manual is online (He also acknowledges this in the first class), and there is very little partial credit for homework problems. He doesn't throw any curveballs at you or try to trick you with any questions so take your time when doing homework and try to understand what is going on while using the solutions manual, do all of the above mentioned practice problems and you will learn a lot and do well in the class. There is not much any professor could do to make the mathematics interesting or easier, his greatest gift to you is not giving you anything that is not fully answered in the text and solutions manual. Many other professors I have taken will throw in their own subjects without much explanation or a book to reference them which just confuse me and I end up not learning them at all. Very approachable guy, I went to his office hours and admitted that I did not understand what a probability wave function was (the basis of the entire course) and he explained it more simply than he did in class without judgement or being condescending. He really does want everyone to learn the material and do well. Never went to the recitation, I don't trust TA's. I'm going to be a TA next year, and I wouldn't trust anything I had to say...

Dec 2013

Avoid. Unless you're a physics major, in which case you'll have to take this class and in all likelihood Prof. Weinberg will be teaching it, which makes your life doubly sad. Quantum mechanics is difficult, but where it could've been made interesting, Prof. Weinberg fails to do so on every count. He drones on in class, and places random equations on the board that he expects you to remember from last time (you won't), and gives little or no context for it. For the most part, he covers what's in the textbook, but not always, which can be frustrating since I found most of lectures impenetrable. First part of the semester leading up to the first midterm was alright—basically a recap of 2601 and covers the Schrodinger equation in 1 dimension with various potentials. Then, the class moves into grey areas when Prof. Weinberg spends a good chunk of time reviewing linear algebra in the most unenlightening way possible. This is where he lost my attention. The subsequent part of the course involved recasting quantum theory in the language of linear algebra, so I found myself playing catchup every lecture. One thing though, Prof. Weinberg curves pretty generously, and the class tends to have a HUGE spread in raw scores, so good or bad depending on who you are.

Dec 2013

I won't speak for others (I hear through the grapevine that some others liked the class less) but here's my impression: Professor Weinberg loves the subject and is an enthusiastic teacher. He follows the textbook (Griffiths, Introduction to Quantum Mechanics) pretty closely so if you feel like it you can read along during the semester. Sometimes he'll deviate from Griffiths sequencing, but he usually announces this a lecture ahead of time. If you're a real physics whiz, you probably don't have to come to class but my general observation from sitting in the front row all semester was that the top grades seemed to be clustered there -- Weinberg does add value with his lectures, unlike some physics profs. This semester, probably owing to the way the classroom was laid out, the class was pretty intimate. People would ask questions mid-lecture without raising their hands and would interrupt derivations to point out mistakes or ask about a technical point, and Professor Weinberg just rolled with it. I had fun with that, though I can understand if others found it distracting. In general, the class's material isn't too difficult, but it gets harder as you go on. For the second month you should make sure you know your linear algebra, and for the final month you have to make sure you've got vector calculus down cold. On the hardest homework problems I found myself resorting to the solutions manual for hints (it's is available online if you look hard enough) but be warned: the homework isn't worth enough to be worth cheating on, and is at the same time crucial to picking up certain concepts that Weinberg uses the homework to teach that will appear on the far more valuable exams. Up to the first midterm is stuff you'll probably already know, i.e. Schrodinger, infinite square well, harmonic oscillator, and a bit of knew stuff, i.e. delta-function well, and the free particle. The first midterm was very straightforward; four problems you could do if you had paid attention in class. I lost all my points on a dropped negative. The median was a 50 but it was pretty bimodal. A bunch of people clustered above 90 and a bunch clustered below 50. The second midterm covers the matrix interpretation of quantum mechanics and all it implies, including a bit more on the free particle and delta well as well as the uncertainty principle and observables as eigenvalues. This midterm was a lot harder -- two fairly easy problems, two problems that were impossible if you didn't spot the trick (though in fairness the trick for each had fairly prominently figured on the homework) -- had a much tighter distribution, though the median was 50 again. The last month of the class is quantum mechanics in 3 dimensions. The hydrogen atom, angular momentum, spin, etc. At this point (almost literally the day after the second midterm) I lost track of the class. I did vector calc as a freshman (senior now) and linear algebra in high school and that came back to bite me in the ass. I'm starting to get caught up now, but it wasn't fun. I'd say how I did on the final, but I'm writing this before it to avoid being biased by how I do on that.

Dec 2010

Professor Weinberg is all right. He teaches the material fairly well, covers everything we need to know, and is fair with grading, but he isn't really an exceptional teacher. While it's clear he knows the material inside and out, he can stumble over himself sometimes at how best to write out a formulation or where to begin with a derivation. In the end, though, whatever concept or formula he's trying to explain ends up on the board. The only difficulty sometimes is staying awake through all of it, but he pretty much sticks to the textbook anyway so it's not a problem. The weekly problem sets are usually on the tough side, since he tends to pick from the hardest textbook questions, but they're not excessive for a mechanics course. The tests are a little easier than the problem sets, with a mix of working with formulas and remembering important results from the material. Note that the composition of the class (and, therefore, the curve) will change over time. This course is a requirement for a handful of majors, so the first test will have a very generous curve as people who struggled through introductory physics will continue to struggle here. By the second test, those people will have probably dropped the class, more or less only leaving the people who know what they're doing.