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Physics 1B is a challenging course, but Cowley makes it simple to follow. He does not assign too much homework (about 3-4 hours a week). His lectures are straightforward, although difficult to understand at times. The tests are open book, open note, etc (just no friends or electronic devices), but if you do not know the concepts, you will not do well in the course. You must not cheat on homework as doing the problems with prepare you well for the tests. I ended up with a B+ in the class (I had a B-, but studied a lot for the final)
Basically what you have here is a really tall English dude who I think is a very good teacher. He has a great sense of humor too and does a fair job of turning a boring class into one that is interesting. The greatest drawback to him is that he is a difficult professor. He really makes you earn your grade.
The format of the class was approximately as follows (I took him back in spring 06, so things may have changed since): the final a big chunk of your grade, with two midterms worth a fair chunk, and homework and quizzes (the quizzes are really easy and are taken in discussion section. they are unannounced but if you have a late discussion section, you can basically ask people who have already had their discussions if there was a quiz haha).
I remember the homework in this class being worth a lot (like 20% of your grade at least i think). It was online homework and it could get pretty hard, especially the homework problems dealing with material in the first half of class. Basically, the best way to do well on the homework is to collaborate with other people (in fact, i think cowley even encourages this) and start early (which i didnt).
The first midterm is easy and the second midterm is more challenging while the final is the hardest test (he even said he designed it this way). Dont mess up on the first midterm like i did because the averages will be pretty high (class is curved by the way).
My best recommendation for taking a physics class with cowley is to TAKE MATH 33B BEFORE/WHILE YOU TAKE HIM!!! a lot of what he teaches and what the class is based around has to do with differential equations. i didnt know diff eq when i took the class, and i ended up with a B. after taking 33B, i realized how easy physics 1b would have been with cowley had i taken 33B beforehand or concurrently. cowley himself says that he thinks it is best for people to take all of their math classes before taking physics, and i agree. After like the second week of class, he said in lecture that he was getting a lot of complaints about how people hadnt taken diff eq and he said he would try to make it so that you wouldnt need to know it (he didnt always fulfill this promise). thus, do yourself a favor and take 33b before this class!
Otherwise, he is a very good, effective, and humorous lecturer and a good guy. i recommend taking him.
Best professor I've ever had at UCLA. While he can appear to be sort of cold, he really does care about how students perform and learn. Case in point: I actually missed the FINAL EXAM for the class, (read the wrong date from an old schedule :P). I panicked all day, but when I finally got to talk to him that night he let me sit down at a desk in the next room and take it all by myself, while he graded the others in his office. This is why, no matter how difficult the material, Cowley owns. :')
Cowley's class was wonderful. His lectures were great and the format of his office hours made all the difference in the world. I also liked that he passes out notes to class so you don't have to frantically write anything down. Definitely take him if you have the chance because I don't think I've had a better professor.
Cowley is an amazing lecturer and his notes allow ou to pay attention instead of writing all class. The homework is tough but in office hours he gives you almost all but the answers. He had 4-6 office hours per week. His personality really comes out as such a nice guy. Also, the best part, you can use NOTES and the BOOK on the test. There is a good amount of studying but the material itself is difficult. I got an A without suffering at all and I really feel like it was so worth it.
P.S. He does the coolest research and he will probably talk about in class. TAKE HIM!!!!
*Lectures I found to be informative and easy to access on his website.
*Homework was frustrating at times, but if Mastering Physics was at fault a TA can fix the problem.
*Tests were challenging, but very doable. He allows one to use any non-electronic notes.
The majority of Prof. Cowley's classes will say the course was hard, and they will be correct. The main thing that bothers me though is that everyone has a negative reaction to having to work for a grade. It's not Prof. Cowley's job to spoon feed every bit of information to you. He is there to lay a foundation for us to build on. We have to think for ourselves for once. Prof. Cowley can not cover everything in great detail, it is our jobs as students to fill in what is left. If something is difficult to understand on the homework or the class in general there are many options a student can take to remedy this. For one students need to learn how to read a science textbook. If this fails then go to the internet for help, then after that seek help from TA's and staff.
Avoid this man like the plague. Seriously. You really do not learn anything from his lectures and you're better off not even attending his class at all. All he does in class is give a detailed derivation of a formula. He does not teach you how to use what he is explaining at all. It's the 8th week now and he has yet to do one problem on the board. On top of that, he expects you to do incredibly difficult problems online which aren't always based on what he explains.
If you go crazy about theory, you'll enjoy this class. If you want to learn about practical applications of physics, do not take his class. If you don't care and just want an A, you're on your own, but I recommend not to take his class.