Thursday, March 26, 2015

A basic but important research skill, 5: solving homework problems

Carl Caves has a helpful two pager, tips for solving physics homework problems. It nicely emphasises the importance of drawing a clear diagram, dimensional analysis, thinking before you calculate, and checking the answer.

He also discusses moving from homework problems to "real world" problems, e.g. research. Then, just formulating the problem is crucial.

I wonder if the goals of some Ph.D projects might be revised if the supervisor and/or student simply combined dimensional analysis with a realistic order of magnitude estimate. Just doing the exercise might also significantly increase the students understanding of the underlying physics.

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