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Is selfstudying advanced physics a silly idea? 
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#1
Dec2112, 12:25 AM

P: 10

Hello everybody. I am considering teaching myself physics in spare time, starting from college physics and multivariable calculus, to a level that I can understand most of the research papers on GR, QFT and cosmology.
There are some obstacles that I can foresee: 1. I will certainly get stuck somewhere, especially on the advanced topics. When this happens, I may not find someone to help me out, and have to skip the part that I don't understand. If it happens frequently, I may not be able to proceed. 2. The exercises in advancedlevel textbooks usually don't have answers. This means that my understanding will be based solely on the text (and perhaps also by *trying* to do the prooftype problems). 3. The textbooks available on the market may not be advanced/uptodate enough, so that a selflearner cannot obtain sufficient knowledge to understand research papers by just studying textbooks. (I am not sure about this). I don't prefer to go back to school due to financial concerns, but I really don't want to selfstudy for many years, only to find myself stuck in a mud pool and can go nowhere. Do you think it is feasible to selfstudy physics to such an advanced level, for a person with average intelligence and can devote 2 hours per day for the next 20 years? or is there really no choice but to study in school? Could you give me some suggestions on how I can overcome the obstacles mentioned above? 


#2
Dec2112, 01:10 AM

P: 783

To the OP, welcome to PF! I am curious, what degree do you already have?
I am also curious about the answer to the OP's question since I could be in a similar situation except my undergrad degree would be in math/engineering. Some of my physicist relatives have suggested that advanced physics, like QM, is very important in some fields of EE, particularly optoelectronics. BiP 


#3
Dec2112, 01:20 AM

PF Gold
P: 278

I doubt you will find any amount of time you put into learning about nature a waste.
How far can you get on your own? I dont know. 


#4
Dec2112, 01:24 AM

P: 783

Is selfstudying advanced physics a silly idea?
To the OP:
Since you are very enthusiastic about selfstudying, here are some resources you might like: www.edx.org www.udacity.com www.coursera.org Udacity is especially good for computer science, the others are generic. BiP 


#5
Dec2112, 01:54 AM

P: 10

The web sites you gave me are of introductory level. This is the area that I am less worried about, because there are many textbooks and exercises with solutions at this level, and I can have a higher chance to get help from online forums like this. 


#6
Dec2112, 02:44 AM

P: 10




#7
Dec2112, 10:53 AM

P: 150

I can't really comment on the feasibility of your plan, but I can address some of your concerns.



#8
Dec2112, 12:37 PM

PF Gold
P: 278

Dont worry about 20 years. Think about the cool stuff you can learn in twenty days. 


#9
Dec2112, 02:39 PM

P: 20

It's certainly possible as I'm learning physics on my own.I've started learning physics two years ago when I had absolutely no physics or math background(except high school math/physics),now I'm working through a textbook on Quantum field theory . Good luck



#10
Dec2112, 03:46 PM

P: 63

SolsticeFire 


#11
Dec2112, 03:56 PM

P: 63

To OP:
Although I'm not that good at physics yet(I'm a mathematician!), one thing that helped me tackle advanced mathematics and gauge my skills at particular area of interest (in your case this might be string theory, QFT etc) was to attempt to read articles from arxiv pertaining to my topic of interest and then when I couldn't comprehend things, go back and read/solve problems in that particular area. This might help you. I have gotten stuck on some things for weeks, but I've always managed to dig myself out of the abyss by backtracking and trudging on! :D Good Luck on your wonderful endeavor! SolsticeFire PS: When you get to advanced topics, your book selection skills should be impeccable. Good books on advanced topics are far too few and too far in between. So choose wisely! 


#12
Dec2112, 04:37 PM

PF Gold
P: 278




#13
Dec2212, 03:20 AM

P: 20




#14
Dec2212, 04:28 AM

P: 10




#15
Dec2212, 04:32 AM

P: 10




#16
Dec2212, 04:38 AM

P: 10




#17
Dec2212, 05:23 AM

P: 10

(sorry for asking you so many questions and thanks for your generous sharing!) 


#18
Dec2212, 05:26 AM

P: 20

I will try to address your questions: 1If you get stuck somewhere , you can find the answers you want and ask questions at physics.stackexchange and math.stackexchange websites . 2You will benefit from having a computeralgebra system and graphing software . I found matlab and mathematica very helpful . Also,There are books that have a complete solution manuals (Griffiths electrodynamics and the quantum mechanics book by the same author for example) You must try to solve the problems without looking at the solutions and also find many ways to solve the same problem.I think that really understanding the problems , finding the correct tools needed to solve it and being able to figure out what the answer should look like is more important than arriving at the correct answers. 3If you want to read research papers in string theory , you have to learn string theory from a textbook or lecture notes on the subject (Which may be outofdate . after you finish the book you will be able to read review papers in the field that mostly interests you (e.g. Dbranes ) 


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