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Spring term 8.03 teaching consistently bad

One year ago, a historic event occurred: Professor Min Chen, the lecturer for Physics III (8.03), received the lowest score ever on the Course Evaluation Guide course evaluations -- a 1.6 overall rating. This term in 8.03, the Department of Physics has decided to try to break that record. For the lecturer, the department chose Professor Louis S. Osborne. He will probably not receive scores as low as Chen did, but he will get close.

This little contest began a few years ago, when the physics department realized that nearly all of the students taking spring term 8.03 were aeronautics and astronautics majors. In fact, anyone glancing at the class list for 8.03 this term would guess that it is a Course 16 class. The physics department does not want to teach a Course 16 class. Its solution: make the class so bad that if the aero/astro department wants its students to learn anything, the aero/astro department will have to teach it.

We have talked to many people who took the class last year and all but a small handful said that they learned next to nothing. The few people who did learn something said that they had learned it from the texts rather than from the class itself. This year as well, few people we have talked to in the class feel they are learning anything useful. Osborne has also informed the class that they will learn quantum mechanics as part of 8.03 because "it would be a shame for such bright students to go through life without knowing how the universe works." We have nothing against quantum, but if we wanted to learn it, we would take Quantum Physics I (8.04) and Quantum Physics II (8.05). Besides, quantum mechanics has very limited application in aircraft design.

The point of the letter is simple: we put forth a request on behalf of the students that the physics department and the aero/astro department get together and decide who will teach spring term 8.03 so that it is relevant, well-taught and beneficial to the students. We feel that the current situation is counterproductive.

William Gorgen '91->

Jeff Evernham '91->