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Introduction to Special Relativity for a twelve year old

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FreeMitya
#19
Oct11-12, 12:55 AM
P: 31
Hello!

What does make quantum physics particularly difficult? (I don't mean to sound like I think it is easy.) I believe that you need to know calc 1-3, differential equations, linear algebra, and multivariable calculus as a math prerequisite. I am not sure what the physics prerequisites are. Or is Quantum Physics simply difficult to understand?

I do go to a public school for gifted children were accelerated learning is heavily encouraged. I do not know if I am capable though - and I do not want to rush through things too fast. I also have to worry about my school grades, as I would be taking several of these courses at the college (which are paid by the public school), and the grades I get would count as high school credits. Are there any questions you may ask me to see if I might be capable of such an endeavor?

Thank You.
Have you been officially registered as gifted? This may seem like a silly question, but you say you don't know whether you are capable of going to that school. Is a certain score on an intelligence test a pre-requisite at that particular school? I personally don't take psychometrics very seriously, but I'm sure being identified as gifted wouldn't hurt.

Quantum physics or quantum mechanics, if you will, by my understanding (again, I'm not an authority), is one of the most intricate branches of physics. Richard Feynman once joked that no one is smart enough to understand quantum mechanics (paraphrased). A simplified example is the wave-particle duality that particles exhibit; that is, they behave both as particles and as waves. I'm not sure if being proficient in the mathematical prerequisites necessarily means quantum mechanics is going to be easy. I don't know you personally and a couple of posts on the internet is insufficient to gauge another's intellectual potential, but fourteen seems a bit early to begin studying it. Then again, you could be exceptionally talented. Talk to one of your teachers.

All that being said, you're interested, which is key. Like I said, it is very pleasing to see a youth take such intellectual initiative (then again, who am I to call you a youth, as I'm only eighteen).
sarsonlarson5
#20
Oct11-12, 01:01 AM
P: 35
I meant that I do not know if I am capable of trying to learn quantum physics at such an early age. I do not know if this helps, but the school that I go to is a fairly prestigious school.

I hope I don't seem like a snob. :)
FreeMitya
#21
Oct11-12, 01:04 AM
P: 31
I meant that I do not know if I am capable of trying to learn quantum physics at such an early age. I do not know if this helps, but the school that I go to is a fairly prestigious school.

I hope I don't seem like a snob. :)
In case you didn't read my post before I edited it, I included an example of what makes quantum physics so puzzling.

And no, you don't seem like a snob. I'm not so insecure that I'm intimidated by people who are registered as gifted (or "giftoids", as I call them). You do seem intelligent, and I only want to encourage you. Sure, try quantum physics when you're fourteen. If it's too hard, there is no shame in putting it on hold. You go to the same school that gave us Taylor Wilson, so you at least have quality of education taken care of.

As a side note, may I make a few recommendations for nurturing your mind? If you don't already read recreationally, do so. Read as much as you can. Read fiction, non-fiction. Don't just focus on maths an physics. Never stop educating yourself, and expose yourself to a variety of topics.
Cbray
#22
Nov20-12, 08:50 PM
P: 135
I meant that I do not know if I am capable of trying to learn quantum physics at such an early age. I do not know if this helps, but the school that I go to is a fairly prestigious school.

I hope I don't seem like a snob. :)
It's irrelevant which school you go to, prestigious schools are obviously where most doctors, or lawyers come out of, but you can rarely find someone truly passionate about something and they are usually distributed fairly evenly. Natural intelligence is pretty much quite irrelevant until you start doing your own research (unless you're lower then average) or GR (lol), I have even a hard time believe natural intelligence actually exists.

Just go and start studying, you have to do single and multi variable calc, linear algebra (including eigen values - VERY IMPORTANT!), differential equations mathematical wise, then do modern mechanics and EM. I don't know why you're so keen, QM isn't as exciting at first (it is later though for sure!) and if you rush things it will be a complete waste of time and you'll end up hating it. Physics is the hardest thing to study, and blasting through to QM is not going to make you any better then someone who just waited till their in 2nd year to start it.

I'm not trying to say your bad or anything, you just need to take your time with physics (i.e. make sure you're absorbing everything properly), physics is incredibly beautiful and rushing through to the end is not the point - I thoroughly recommend doing single-variable calc first, and then starting your physics. Make sure you've done all the essentials before hand (i.e. functions, trig, logs, etc).
mathwonk
#23
Nov21-12, 04:52 PM
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when i was a youngster i read einstein's own elementary introduction:

http://www.amazon.com/dp/1456548522/ref=rdr_ext_tmb

and also "the universe and dr. einstein", by lincoln barnett:

http://www.amazon.com/Universe-Dr-Ei...incoln+barnett


these do not use any calculus and are suitable for any lay person.

i also liked taylor and wheeler, linked above, spacetime physics.
Jorriss
#24
Nov21-12, 05:17 PM
P: 1,042
Quote Quote by Cbray View Post
It's irrelevant which school you go to, prestigious schools are obviously where most doctors, or lawyers come out of,
Don't you imagine most doctors and lawyers just went to normal public high schools? And what school you go to can matter a lot. This school is giving him access to college courses as a 12 year old, and he's succeeding in them, as opposed to many high schools in america which do not have precalculus.
Cbray
#25
Nov21-12, 05:48 PM
P: 135
Quote Quote by Jorriss View Post
Don't you imagine most doctors and lawyers just went to normal public high schools? And what school you go to can matter a lot. This school is giving him access to college courses as a 12 year old, and he's succeeding in them, as opposed to many high schools in america which do not have precalculus.
And that holds you back from going out and buying a book? You can find the equivalence in a book anywhere instead of dropping lots of money on a school. I've learn't most of my knowledge from text books, and I'm studying 3-4 years ahead of my age and go to a public school. I fail at noticing your point.
Cbray
#26
Nov21-12, 06:12 PM
P: 135
Oh btw, hit up the international olympiad in a few years. I'm going to do it just for the sake of getting in a university in America (there's really no other point) since I find the physics departments in places like UC Berkeley and UCLA incredible - I hope to do my under and post grad work there, it's much harder as an international student from Australia to go to America, so it's something I can guarantee my acceptance. Though since your from America you probably don't need to bother, so lucky haha.
mathwonk
#27
Nov22-12, 10:33 AM
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I wonder if it wise of you to solicit advice on this topic from complete strangers, when you say you have a good physics teacher to help you. I suggest that such a teacher who knows not only physics but who also knows you, can give the most appropriate advice. In my opinion, some of us advisers here are at least partially using this opportunity to toot our own horns. Notice for example in my advice above I could not resist pointing out that I had also read about relativity as a child. And I suggest you remember to just try to relax a bit. it is of no importance at all whether you learn quantum theory when you are 14 or much older. Louis de Broglie said he spent over 25 years contemplating the subject. He said this in a book my father gave me as a young child, hoping to prod me into becoming a prodigy of some kind. I greatly enjoyed reading the book some 30 or 40 years later. Learning is for enjoyment and enriching your life, not obsessing about being the youngest person to read some book or other.

By the way you sound quite normal and well adjusted. You also seem to have a fortunate opportunity to expand your education. But I again caution you to proceed as seems interesting to you, and not in order to live up to the expectations of some other people. Gee whiz, if you don't take time to explore recreationally at 12, when will you ever? Good luck to you.
jtbell
#28
Nov22-12, 10:44 AM
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What does make quantum physics particularly difficult? (I don't mean to sound like I think it is easy.) I believe that you need to know calc 1-3, differential equations, linear algebra, and multivariable calculus as a math prerequisite. I am not sure what the physics prerequisites are. Or is Quantum Physics simply difficult to understand?
A full-bore QM course at upper undergraduate or graduate level does pretty much require the math background you describe. However, that is not where most students (in the US at least) get their first exposure to QM.

Most colleges and universities have an "introductory modern physics" course which follows the usual two-semester calculus-based introductory physics course. It covers basic relativity and QM (e.g. simple one-dimensional situations like the "particle in a box", applications in atomic physics, nuclear physics, etc., and some history of the subject. It often requires only calculus I-II as a prerequisite, and introduces basic concepts of complex numbers, differential equations etc. as necessary.

A typical textbook for such a course is Taylor / Zafiratos / Dubson.
micromass
#29
Nov22-12, 03:06 PM
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Quote Quote by Cbray View Post
And that holds you back from going out and buying a book? You can find the equivalence in a book anywhere instead of dropping lots of money on a school. I've learn't most of my knowledge from text books, and I'm studying 3-4 years ahead of my age and go to a public school. I fail at noticing your point.
There is a big problem with self-studying. Namely, you never really know whether you know the material or not. And you can't get feedback on the things you do or the exercises you solve. It's very easy to grow bad habits while self-studying, and nobody is there to correct them.

There have been quite a few people on this forum who said they were self-studying calculus. But whenever they said something about it, I immediately noticed that they were doing it wrong and that they really needed a teacher to guide them. They thought they were doing quite well though and they thought they knew the material.

Taking actual and formal college courses (should) eliminate the problem a bit. You have to do homework, mid-terms and exams. So you get constant feedback on your performance.
Cbray
#30
Nov22-12, 03:11 PM
P: 135
Quote Quote by micromass View Post
There is a big problem with self-studying. Namely, you never really know whether you know the material or not. And you can't get feedback on the things you do or the exercises you solve. It's very easy to grow bad habits while self-studying, and nobody is there to correct them.

There have been quite a few people on this forum who said they were self-studying calculus. But whenever they said something about it, I immediately noticed that they were doing it wrong and that they really needed a teacher to guide them. They thought they were doing quite well though and they thought they knew the material.

Taking actual and formal college courses (should) eliminate the problem a bit. You have to do homework, mid-terms and exams. So you get constant feedback on your performance.
Just as an addition to most post, it is good to have a tutor to make sure you're going along well who's doing physics in university (which is what I'm currently doing) and if you have any questions ask them every week or so.
sarsonlarson5
#31
Nov24-12, 08:41 PM
P: 35
Hello!

I think that micromass may have a point. When I study from textbooks and research papers, I often make a few mistakes, and I don't even realize them until a while. (For example, I used to use one moment of inertia for all rotational mechanics problems until I figured out why I was getting many of the problems wrong). However, I think reading Einstein's original paper can work out, because I can ask my physics teacher if I don't understand something, or I am getting something wrong.

Thank You.
Cbray
#32
Nov25-12, 01:19 AM
P: 135
I don't know what you mean by reading 'Einstein's original paper'? Okay sure, you make a really stupid mistake by being careless of what you're reading. Does that imply that the information in the book isn't good enough for your standards?

Sure, you need to ask a few questions you're curious about, hire a tutor every 2 weeks. You think Richard Feynman asked a teacher at school about a careless mistake? NO! Because he didn't make careless mistakes, he spent years ripping his hair out throughout mathematics and physics to make sure he understood the true meaning of something, and found huge pleasure of doing so using textbooks and became one of the greatest physicists of all time. Maybe it isn't the quickest root to building a cyclotron or studying quantum mechanics, but he was brilliant at everything by the end. As I said earlier, since not everyone is Richard Feynman, hire a tutor every once and a while. I don't know the reasoning behind the doubt that textbooks 'don't work' and there is a 'BIG PROBLEM' with self studying, so I'd have to disagree with micromass.
sarsonlarson5
#33
Nov25-12, 02:18 PM
P: 35
Hello

Throughout the forums, people stated that the best way to learn special relativity is to read Einstein's original paper. So I was just saying that I will take their advice and start reading the paper. There's no harm in trying to figure out something on my own - it is fun to do anyway. Like Cbray said, if I make a mistake, I'll just take time to try and figure it out on my own. Only if I'm really stuck and I don't know what to do after lots of time spent on figuring it out, I'll ask for help. I guess I should probably stop posting on what I should do, and get around to doing it itself. :)

Thank You for your help.


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