The approach many courses take to physics, specially "modern Physics" is really bad, this is how it should be taught:
- start by describing experiments that the previous best theory did not explain, see also: Section "Physics education needs more focus on understanding experiments and their history"
- then, give the final formula for the next best theory
- then, give all the important final implications of that formula, and how it amazingly describes the experiments. In particular this means: doing physics means calculating a number
- then, give some mathematical intuition on the formulas, and how the main equation could have been derived
- finally, then and only then, start deriving the outcomes of the main formula in detail
This is likely because at some point, experiments get more and more complicated, and so people are tempted to say "this is the truth" instead of "this is why we think this is the truth", which is much harder.
But we can't be lazy, there is no replacement to the why.
- settheory.net/learnphysics and www.youtube.com/watch?v=5MKjPYuD60I&list=PLJcTRymdlUQPwx8qU4ln83huPx-6Y3XxH from settheory.net
- math.ucr.edu/home/baez/books.html by John Baez. Mentions:
This webpage doesn't have lots of links to websites. Websites just don't have the sort of in-depth material you need to learn technical subjects like advanced math and physics — at least, not yet. To learn this stuff, you need to read lots of booksCiro Santilli is trying to change that: OurBigBook.com.
- web.archive.org/web/20210324182549/http://jakobschwichtenberg.com/one-thing/ by Jakob Schwichtenberg
This is the only way to truly understand and appreciate the subject.
Understanding the experiments gets intimately entangled with basically learning the history of physics, which is extremely beneficial as also highlighted by Ron Maimon, related: there is value in tutorials written by early pioneers of the field.
"How we know" is a basically more fundamental point than "what we know" in the natural sciences.
In the Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman chapter O Americano, Outra Vez! Richard Feynman describes his experience teaching in Brazil in the early 1950s, and how everything was memorized, without any explanation of the experiments or that the theory has some relationship to the real world!
Although things have improved considerably since in Brazil, Ciro still feels that some areas of physics are still taught without enough experiments described upfront. Notably, ironically, quantum field theory, which is where Feynman himself worked.
Feynman gave huge importance to understanding and explaining experiments, as can also be seen on Richard Feynman Quantum Electrodynamics Lecture at University of Auckland (1979).
Everyone is beginner when the field is new, and there is value in tutorials written by beginners.
For example, Ciro Santilli felt it shocking how direct and satisfying Richard Feynman's scientific vulgarization of quantum electrodynamics were, e.g. at: Richard Feynman Quantum Electrodynamics Lecture at University of Auckland (1979), and that if he had just assumed minimal knowledge of mathematics, he was about to give a full satisfactory picture in just a few hours.
The same also applies to early original papers of the field, as notably put forward by Ron Maimon.
In Physics, in order to test a theory, you must be able to extract a number from it.
It does not matter how, if it is exact, or numerical, or a message from God: a number has to come out of the formulas in the end, and you have to compare it with the experimental data.
Many theoretical physicists seem to forget this in their lectures, see also: Section "How to teach and learn physics".
Nature is a black box, right?
You don't need to understand the from first principles derivation of every single phenomena.
And most important of all: you should not start learning phenomena by reading the from first principles derivation.
Instead, you should see what happens in experiments, and how matches some known formula (which hopefully has been derived from first principles).
Only open the boxes (understand from first principles derivation) if the need is felt!
- you don't need to understand everything about why SQUID devices have their specific I-V curve curve. You have to first of all learn what the I-V curve would be in an experiment!
- you don't need to understand the fine details of how cavity magnetrons work. What you need to understand first is what kind of microwave you get from what kind of input (DC current), and how that compares to other sources of microwaves
- lasers: same
Physics is all about predicting the future. If you can predict the future with an end result, that's already predicting the future, and valid.