Physics is about the world around you. As you go about your daily life, you’re doing Physics all the time.

Let me give one of my favorite example which is “walking”.

First, let us understand what Newton discovered about motion. He found, that for any object to move, starting from rest, an external force (push or pull) must act on it. The word “external” here, means that the force should be from something or someone outside the body which we want to move. So if you want to move a table lying at rest, something or someone else should exert a force on it.

Now, you may think this does not make sense, since while walking we are moving without the help of anyone else. Who is applying external force on us when we walk? Think for sometime before you read further.

First, let us understand what Newton discovered about motion. He found, that for any object to move, starting from rest, an external force (push or pull) must act on it. The word “external” here, means that the force should be from something or someone outside the body which we want to move. So if you want to move a table lying at rest, something or someone else should exert a force on it.

Now, you may think this does not make sense, since while walking we are moving without the help of anyone else. Who is applying external force on us when we walk? Think for sometime before you read further.

So, you see to study Physics you should be curious and excited about Nature and whatever happens in it.

If you have ever wondered why the Sky is Blue, why Rainbows have those beautiful colours, why stars twinkle, why ice melts, how 3D television works, how aero-planes can defy (resist) gravity,…and so many more, then you need Physics to understand the answers of these and many other similar questions.

But why should you know the answers of these questions or why should you be excited or curious about the Natural phenomenon around you?

Well, there are two reasons

1) By studying Nature around you, you may make a discovery that would help you or others to build something that would make people’s life easier to live. In other words, by studying Physics you can contribute towards the advancement of today’s technology.

For example, if Pascal had not studied the behavior of liquids under pressure then engineers would not have invented the braking systems in cars. Yes, I agree, if Pascal had not done it then someone else would have, but the point is someone has to study, right?

2) The second reason is what I like more. Our brain is designed to search for something new, something unusual; it constantly scans and searches for explanations of things that happens around us. You may not realize it, but it’s true. Think of the moment, when you are buying a new cloth and as you touch it, your eye and skin sends signals to your brain making you think or ask “wow! How could people make such a piece of beauty?” You are wondering how something like this can happen, and this wonder is the fire that drives Physicists to do Physics.

I believe most Physicists do Physics not because they want fame or money but they do Physics because they love to know what is at the bottom of everything. They are like kids trying to know why and how everything happens. Just imagine how Einstein may have felt, when he came to know (by doing Physics) that the “universe is expanding” and he is the only man in the whole world who knows that and no one else. This feeling is comparable to the one that a musician gets when he/she creates a new piece of music which no one else has yet heard or when an artist or a poet does something creative which no one else has yet done.

There is an additional advantage of studying basic Physics. It is a fact that every branch of science whether it is Chemistry or Biology or Geology, needs Physics to answer the fundamental questions in these sciences. So even if you don’t become a Physicist, you will still be glad that you know the basic principles of Physics.

How can I be good in Physics / How can I enjoy doing Physics?

The first thing is to be excited and curious, as was mentioned earlier. Learning Physics is enjoyable provided you like “thinking” about things!  So always be curious, ask doubts to your teachers. And remember, there are no silly questions; every question of yours will be given respect by an honest teacher. The goal in Physics is to find a “simple” answer of any question, no matter how complicated the question may be. So, until you find that simple answer keep hunting! After you have learnt a particular topic, explain it your friends or your siblings. Remember if you can’t make someone understand a given concepyt, it means you haven’t understood that concept!

I find that many teachers expect students to understand, but rarely make them understand the meaning of understand.

According to me, a new concept or a new idea is “understood” when you can relate it with concepts or ideas which you already know; otherwise, you have simple memorized it without understanding. When we first studied A, B, C, D and so on… we never understood them but we simply memorized them. But after you know A, B, C, D … you can now understand A for Apple and B for Boy in terms of what you already know. So, always try to make a connection between something new (which you are trying to learn) and something which you already have known. Unless you do this, do not quit. Take help of teachers and good books. (Later, I will mention names of some books which are better than many others)

Whenever you get a Physics question or a problem, put yourself in the question and think what you would feel in the given situation of the question. Let me cite an example:

Suppose earth is a round sphere and a tunnel is made that runs all the way from North Pole to South Pole. A ball is released from one end of the tunnel, what will happen to the ball as it moves? Let us neglect air resistance (which is quite small).

As I told, put yourself in the question. Think you are the ball and ask yourself the following questions.

Question: What will happen just after you leap into the tunnel from one end?

Answer:  You will fall down. (Your experience with daily life will be helpful in such cases)

Question: Will you speed up or slow down?

Answer: Well, when you are just at the top of the tunnel, the whole mass of earth is below you, pulling you down. And thus the attractive force of earth will make you fall faster and faster.

Question: what will happen when you reach the centre of earth?

Answer: This is an interesting question. When you were at the top, the whole mass of earth was below you, pulling you down. But when you are at the centre, the mass of earth is all around you. This means you will be pulled in all directions equally. (Do not worry; you won’t be torn into pieces! Why? Think about this.). Thus you will fell no net attraction.

Question: Does this mean, you will come to rest at the centre?

Answer: NO. At the centre you will not feel a net attraction in any direction since these attractions will cancel out. But this doesn’t mean you will be at rest. This is because just before reaching the centre you were moving faster and faster. Think of a situation in which you are moving faster and faster (because something is attracting you) and then suddenly there is no more attraction, what will happen? Well, you will continue to move with the same speed. There is no way you will come to rest after moving faster and faster.

Question: After crossing the centre will you continue to move faster?

Answer: Once you cross the centre, you must realize that this time, there will be more mass of earth above you then below you! This means that even if you are falling down you will now feel an upward attraction.

This is similar to the situation in which you running towards left whereas a strong wind pushes you towards right. What will happen? You will slow down. Here the force of strong wind is similar to the upward attraction of earth on you.

Thus you will slow down, and finally come to rest on the other end of the tunnel. If no one is there to catch you at the other end, you will now move up and then repeat the whole cycle of motion forever.

I hope you got some feeling of how to think like a Physicist. Give importance to all aspects of thinking and don’t worry if you got it wrong. Many have done it wrong the first time.

The golden rule is: Don’t just read. Stop after reading a given idea and think! When the book asks you a question, don’t just skip to the answer. Try to find the answer yourself by thinking about whatever you know about the question and the concepts related to the question. The more deeply you force your brain to think, the better chance you have of learning and remembering.

Try to write your own notes. This is a very useful exercise. Every time you come across a new formula or a new concept or some useful short-cuts your teacher shows you, make sure you put all of these in a diary that u should carry everywhere.

I advise you to follow the instructions given below:

Don’t miss classes

Listen very carefully to what the teacher says in the class

Always ask yourself why the teacher started a given topic or started to solve the problem the way he/she did.

Make a note of the important points the teacher says while solving a problem

Go home and revise your notes the same day

Make a small diary where you enter new concepts and formulae.

The meaning of the symbols used in the formulae must be clearly understood with their units.

Write these formulae in sticky notes and paste them in the walls of your room

Memorizing the formulae becomes easier when you know the underlying principle behind the formulae. So, always look for the principle behind the formulae.

After a teacher solves some problems from a given chapter, go through the solved examples of that chapter in H.C. Verma text book and Halliday, Resnick Book. Make sure you read them carefully, word by word and then solve some similar problems in the exercises. The reason why I ask you to follow these books is because they will discuss the key idea behind the problem in detail and depth, which is very important in the beginning of your preparation). After you have gained experience, you can start learning short-cuts. But NO short-cuts in the beginning of your problem solving!

For entrance examinations, try to solve as many MCQS as possible but remember time management is the key to success. Remember the more variety of questions you will practice, the lesser chance of seeing a brand new question in the exam time.

Talk to your teacher to help you in preparing a proper time table for you.

Once you feel that you are comfortable solving basic level questions, start solving quality and high order problems. Your teacher can help you in this.

Finally eat healthy food, take proper rest and do “pranayam”.

The instructions given below will help you to improve your problem solving skills:

Before starting to solve a problem, make sure you study the theory first and memorize the formulae with clear understanding of when the formula can be used. This means you must understand what were the “assumptions” made while deriving a given formula. Knowing this will help you to understand whether a certain formula can be used in the given question.

Read the problem carefully

Visualize the problem: Almost all physics problems can be represented by diagrams /figures. Draw a labelled diagram where you put the given quantities in the diagram itself. Make use of symbols instead of writing the whole word. For example, if the problem say weight of a body is 80 N, you can draw a “dot” representing the body and an arrow vector pointing downwards and writing near the arrow, . And remember you need to draw a neat diagram not artistic, so don’t waste time in doing that.

Convert words into physical concepts: for example, “smooth surface” means friction is zero.  If you read a question like this “what is the velocity of the body when it just jumps off the surface,” the statement “just jumps off the surface” has to be converted into physical terms. The physical term here is “ Normal force or contact force is zero”

Find what is required to be calculated.

After seeing the diagram and knowing what is given and what is to be calculated, you can now start thinking of what principle(s) apply to the given problem. Once you get the principle, the formula will come automatically.

If you are not getting any principle, ask yourself what do I know about similar situations? Your brain may then show you some similarity between this new problem and a problem which you have already solved.

Sometimes you might not be sure whether you should apply a given principle or not.  In such cases you go back to the basics. Write down the assumptions under which the principle is valid. For example, if you are not sure whether the principle of conservation of momentum can be applied or not, recollect the conditions under which this can be applied. Write down the conditions if possible. Then check each of the conditions. If you get a satisfactory result, then you should proceed ahead. Therefore, whenever you get confused regarding the usage of one concept or which concept to use, go back to the basics. Go one step backward and check the conditions. If you have studied your concepts and theory correctly, you should not have any problems in adopting this methodology.

And finally enjoy the process of thinking about a question and getting an answer.