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Why do people think physics is so hard?

by Blahness
Tags: people, physics
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pivoxa15
#55
Jan22-07, 05:46 AM
P: 2,268
Quote Quote by Schrodinger's Dog View Post
if you look at testing: physics tops the academic performance ladder beating Engineering and maths into second and third place. So the brightest really do go into physics.
What do you mean by testing? What is the academic performance ladder? Is that a ranking between the students of the discipline or the professors? Can you provide evidence for it?
Alkatran
#56
Jan22-07, 09:20 AM
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High school physics was one of my easiest classes. Not only did I 'get' it, the teacher spent the majority of class time talking about his financial ideas instead of physics.

Now chemistry, THAT was a decent class in high school. Excellent teacher.
leright
#57
Jan27-07, 06:41 PM
P: 1,194
I am a physics major and find physics to be extremely challenging.
twisting_edge
#58
Jan27-07, 07:57 PM
P: 42
Quote Quote by Alkatran View Post
High school physics was one of my easiest classes. Not only did I 'get' it, the teacher spent the majority of class time talking about his financial ideas instead of physics.
Just wait until you get to the harmonics of an electron orbit. It's a little more challenging then.

Conceptual things I never had a problem with. That's where most people run into early troubles. But the math can get more than a little involved even if you have no problem with the concepts.

They probably focus more on numeric (computer-based) solutions for things like that now. When I went through it, it was a rather bizarre stew of differentials, abstract algebra, geometry, and linear equations. There'd be a few paragraphs every couple of chapters saying, essentially, "You can use a computer to do this sort of thing using the following techniques, but that's just for the lightweights who will fail any course based on this book in any case."

Admittedly, mine was a very theoretical program. I looked at the cirricula for some other schools and was sort of surprised at the number of continuous media, thermo and solid state courses most of them offered under physics. Most of that stuff was relegated to the school of engineering at my alma mater.
twisting_edge
#59
Jan27-07, 08:22 PM
P: 42
Quote Quote by pivoxa15 View Post
What do you mean by testing? What is the academic performance ladder? Is that a ranking between the students of the discipline or the professors? Can you provide evidence for it?
I can't provide a link, but I remember a math grad student saying the same thing when I was a physics undergrad. "The theoretical physics guys have the highest IQ on average, but we [theoretical mathematicians] are right behind them on the list, and they wouldn't get anywhere without us to hand them the pencil." He was explicitly talking about IQ, which is probably the "testing" referred to here, as well.

It's not really surprising, given what IQ tests measure: the ability to quickly resolve abstractions. Of all the disciplines, physics and math certainly have the highest ratio of on-the-spot synthesis to memorization in my experience.
Schrodinger's Dog
#60
Jan29-07, 12:59 AM
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Quote Quote by pivoxa15 View Post
What do you mean by testing? What is the academic performance ladder? Is that a ranking between the students of the discipline or the professors? Can you provide evidence for it?
It's testing from US universities, I've seen the table but perhaps an american might find it, funnilly enough I seem to remember history students came about 6th or 7th.
pivoxa15
#61
Jan29-07, 09:24 PM
P: 2,268
I still think the best pure maths grad students are intellectually superior to the corresponding brilliant theoretical physics students. Maybe the tests are better adapated to people who have done a lot of physics than someone who has done only a lot of extremely abstract stuff.

Maybe you could try a hyperthetical experiment pay the best pure maths and theoretical physics academics 2 times as much salary for a year and get them to do the opposite work. Maths academics do physics and vice versa. At the end of the year you might find that the maths academics have accomplished more than their physics collegues doing maths. That is what I think anyway. One reason is that it's simply easier to learn physics than abstract maths. Although don't get me wrong, I think the 'real world' is extremely complicated but in physics they build models which is not as hard to understand as rigorous maths although a bit of creativity is needed to create these models.
cristo
#62
Jan29-07, 09:27 PM
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How are you defining "theoretical physics"? As far as I'm aware, a lot of theoretical physics is rather abstract!
complexPHILOSOPHY
#63
Jan30-07, 12:00 AM
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Quote Quote by cristo View Post
How are you defining "theoretical physics"? As far as I'm aware, a lot of theoretical physics is rather abstract!
And loaded with pure mathematics, especially analysis.
Schrodinger's Dog
#64
Jan30-07, 05:33 AM
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Quote Quote by pivoxa15 View Post
I still think the best pure maths grad students are intellectually superior to the corresponding brilliant theoretical physics students. Maybe the tests are better adapated to people who have done a lot of physics than someone who has done only a lot of extremely abstract stuff.

Maybe you could try a hyperthetical experiment pay the best pure maths and theoretical physics academics 2 times as much salary for a year and get them to do the opposite work. Maths academics do physics and vice versa. At the end of the year you might find that the maths academics have accomplished more than their physics collegues doing maths. That is what I think anyway. One reason is that it's simply easier to learn physics than abstract maths. Although don't get me wrong, I think the 'real world' is extremely complicated but in physics they build models which is not as hard to understand as rigorous maths although a bit of creativity is needed to create these models.
Are you a maths student by any chance?

All the great physisists of the 20th century also happened to be very competent if not brilliant mathemeticians too, simply put though the best and brightest go into physics, maths and engineering in that order? Perhaps it's the prestige of the subject?

Anyone who thinks philosophy is easy either it comes it at around 6th. Food for thought . And no I can't find the tables, I have seen them and I have tried though.

This is in the US other countries I have no idea?

Simply put though if you asked the mathemiticians and the physisists to vote for who they thought were the brightest, you'd get very predictable results.

IMO to be a good physicist you need not only at least competent maths skill but also imigination and visualisation skills. Plus you have to learn a stack load of technicle information, with maths it's the same but most people in maths are already skilled at maths or they wouldn't be there. The distinction is in the relation of real complicated maths to the real world and spotting were and how to apply maths. Mathemeticians maybe brilliant mathemeticians but they spend all their time doing only one thing: maths.
complexPHILOSOPHY
#65
Jan30-07, 11:13 AM
P: 360
Quote Quote by pivoxa15 View Post
I still think the best pure maths grad students are intellectually superior to the corresponding brilliant theoretical physics students. Maybe the tests are better adapated to people who have done a lot of physics than someone who has done only a lot of extremely abstract stuff.

Maybe you could try a hyperthetical experiment pay the best pure maths and theoretical physics academics 2 times as much salary for a year and get them to do the opposite work. Maths academics do physics and vice versa. At the end of the year you might find that the maths academics have accomplished more than their physics collegues doing maths. That is what I think anyway. One reason is that it's simply easier to learn physics than abstract maths. Although don't get me wrong, I think the 'real world' is extremely complicated but in physics they build models which is not as hard to understand as rigorous maths although a bit of creativity is needed to create these models.
The pure mathematician could potentially be considered better at pure, abstract mathematics than a mathematical physicist, however, a pure mathematician probably doesn't know roughly even half as much physics as the physicist does (unless the mathematician engages in physics research), while the physicist might know as much if not more maths than the mathematician!

You claim that it is easy to learn physics as opposed to abstract mathematics but at a certain level (especially in theoretical physics), you have to first learn the abstract mathematics and then learn how that relates to the physics!

How do you think they 'construct' these models of reality? They use abstract formal logic systems such as mathematics. Mathematics does not represent an external reality, however, it can be used as a visuall language, to model physical phenomena. Theoretical physics today is highly mathematical, focused around rigorous proofs and hardcore analysis.

Perhaps my perception of the situation is slightly distorted.

-cP
pivoxa15
#66
Jan30-07, 07:13 PM
P: 2,268
Perhaps I said too much in my last post. I am studying both pysics and maths and think they are both very challenging with maths even more. The main point I wanted to get across in my last post was "Maybe the tests are better suited to people who have done a lot of physics than someone who has done only a lot of extremely abstract stuff with no realtion to the external world."

Schrodinger's Dog, if you can't find the results could you find the test itself?
Schrodinger's Dog
#67
Jan31-07, 04:38 AM
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Quote Quote by pivoxa15 View Post
Perhaps I said too much in my last post. I am studying both pysics and maths and think they are both very challenging with maths even more. The main point I wanted to get across in my last post was "Maybe the tests are better suited to people who have done a lot of physics than someone who has done only a lot of extremely abstract stuff with no realtion to the external world."

Schrodinger's Dog, if you can't find the results could you find the test itself?

The tests are the standard SAT's and the GPA(grade point averages) Mathemeticians tend to gain in maths GPA's though. But it's not really apt to compare GPA in two different subjects, essentially it was a combined statistical average of who dropped out who stayed in GPA's and SAT's. Plus some other factors.
J77
#68
Jan31-07, 04:40 AM
P: 1,157
Quote Quote by pivoxa15 View Post
I still think the best pure maths grad students are intellectually superior to the corresponding brilliant theoretical physics students.
What do you base that on?
Schrodinger's Dog
#69
Jan31-07, 05:01 AM
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Two words: Erwin Schrödinger. Brilliant mathemetician, brilliant physicist. In fact the brilliant phsysicists of our time would absolutely eat most pure mathemeticians for breakfast and leave their bones for the crows to pick over . Pure maths is worthless per se if it is never used. Only applied maths is valued in science, if you can do both your value is double.
Thrice
#70
Jan31-07, 09:46 AM
P: 233
I find math to be incredibly easy compared to physics, probably because physics facts are much more disconnected. Physics gets easier for me once I can axiomatize it & that approach isn't usually taught in classes.
Schrodinger's Dog
#71
Jan31-07, 12:39 PM
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Quote Quote by Thrice View Post
I find math to be incredibly easy compared to physics, probably because physics facts are much more disconnected. Physics gets easier for me once I can axiomatize it & that approach isn't usually taught in classes.
I find both hard - if you find maths and physics easy I think the nobel prize awaits you - but together they make it much easier, if you can show one in visual form and get the math behind it it becomes more manageable, a good model is worth a thousand words.

For example I didn't get complex numbers untill I saw an example where a graph was used, then I said: I could call that 4D (x)(y)(z)(t), time and space, then time and space became much easier to comprehend mathematically. Minkowski diagrams and then light cones were the icing on the cake

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:World_line.png
pivoxa15
#72
Feb1-07, 07:51 PM
P: 2,268
I am not a US citizen, When you mention GPA, do you mean their University or high school grades? SAT is taken by final year high school students looking for a place in Uni isn't it?


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