Introduction to Mechanics

This is probably a good place to talk a bit about the organization of this course and some of the symbols you will see. There is a main thread to this story which is carried by the series of pages of which this is the first. These pages are linked together so that when you are at the end of one you may click on "Next" to go to the next one or on "Previous" to go back to the previous one. You may also click on a link to "Contents" which gives you access to the course outline from where you may jump to any page.

We are beginning a long journey together but I will only go part way with you. If I am successful as your coach, you will go on to heights that I can not reach. Imagine for example Joe Paterno tackling a running back or Bela Karoli doing a tumbling pass in a floor exercise to see what I mean. My job is to work with you to help you in two ways. One of my goals is to teach you some fundamentals. In particular, to teach you some physics which is the foundation of many sciences. The other goal is to teach you how to learn. You would not be at this level in your education if you had not already demonstrated a capacity to learn. What we are talking about here is getting to another level of learning.

Many of you will be using this coaching program at the same time you are taking a formal course in physics at college or perhaps even at high school. You will have a teacher and textbook which will give you much of the information you will need. It is not my intention to replace either the teacher or the book. I am available through this on line course to provide extra examples, a different point of view, some additional help where you need it and most of all encouragement that it is all worth it. For those of you who are not taking a physics course along with this coaching program I will try to provide enough detail so that you will be able to make sense of the subject as a stand alone course. If this was easy, everybody would be doing it and its value would be low. You have wisely chosen the high effort/high reward path.

Perhaps the ideal use for a course like this if you are a student is to give you a competitive advantage over the other people against whom you will be measured. Whether we like it or not there is an element of competition in everything we do. Striking the right balance between cooperation and competition is a life skill that really successful people have mastered. If you can work through this material with me, I guarantee that you will do well in that freshman physics course which many institutions use to cut the numbers of people in their advanced science and engineering courses to a select few. Not only that but your classmates are going to be looking to you for help. Never pass up an opportunity to teach. It is not until you have to explain something to someone else that you really learn it. Your academic reputation is going to be established in those first few semesters and success breeds success.

Back in the 17th century, Isaac Newton and some of his friends (and enemies) invented calculus to replace millions of trivial calculations with a few complex ones. In the 20th century we have a tool to reverse that. What computers do best is simple math very fast. We will be substituting millions of simple calculations, easily understood, for the few complex ones. Oh, you will still need to learn calculus, but not very much for this course.

So let's get on with it.

main thread Next main thread Contents