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About Learning Physics

  1. Jul 9, 2016 #1
    Pardon me if this is the wrong forum but I couldn't find any others befitting of my query.

    If anyone has good teaching experience and is willing to spare the time, do you think you could provide me some basic informal tutoring?

    Though, seeing as that's possibly very unlikely, do you think you could at least point me towards the right questions to practice from the 50-70 questions a college textbook provides. It takes forever to get through all those and many are too easy, but not discernible to the untrained eye from a difficult question.

    I am currently using Principles of Physics which is an international version of Fundamentals of Physics by Halliday Resnick and Walker.

    I would be grateful even for minimum guidance.
    Last edited: Jul 9, 2016
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  3. Jul 10, 2016 #2


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    As far as tutoring, the forum has a section called homework help. If you post your questions there people will help guide you to the correct answer.

    If you're trying problems from each of the conceptual areas and you find them too easy, typically texts have challenge problems, which are supposed to be more challenging. They're normally in red, have higher numbers, or generally have some other type of identifying marks. My old copy of FoP uses dots, with three being challenge problems, but I'm not familiar with the text you're using. Being able to discern easy problems from harder ones is a skill that comes with time and practice, and working easier problems still has a place in study. I would continue to work through as many as possible.
  4. Jul 11, 2016 #3
    I'll most certainly use the homework help section for any problems I cannot work through on my own.

    My copy of Fundamentals of Physics is an international student version. It's printed in black and white, so there is no such coloring scheme. Also I checked on the ebook for FoP 10th edition. It has the difficulty dotting convention mentioned by you but the international version hard copy that I have does not follow this. Also, questions are fairly different. While many test the same concept, they might be worded differently or mixed around.

    Finally, frankly speaking, my first and foremost concern at this moment is the Physics GRE. Sorry that I didn't mention that earlier. I just want to make sure I don't waste too much time dawdling upon something I understand well enough and not enough on something that I should have studied more.
  5. Jul 12, 2016 #4


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    Whoa! Just a minute here. You are studying for the Physics GRE, and you are now just starting with an Intro Physics text?

    You have neglected to describe your educational background. Are you self-studying? Or are you simply doing a fast revision of what you learned in undergraduate physics to specifically study for the Physics GRE? Those two make a boatload of difference on what kind of advice you get.

  6. Jul 12, 2016 #5


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    According to your previous thread here:


    you are doing (or have finished) an electronic and communications engineering degree, and you took physics courses during your first two semesters. I suspect that those courses are at the level of Halliday/Resnick/Walker's Fundamentals of Physics. For entry to graduate school (at least in the US) you need to have also taken more advanced courses on the subjects covered by FoP, e.g. electromagnetism and quantum mechanics at the level of Griffiths's textbooks in those areas, as well as classical mechanics and thermodynamics + statistical mechanics at a similar level.
  7. Jul 12, 2016 #6
    Yep. Just finished engineering this year.

    While I did have to take Physics in the first year, I don't think it was extensive enough and I remember very little of it. Most of the topics were geared toward only the topics you would have to know in the specific branches, e.g., Solid State Physics. Also, the system here pretty much encourages rote-learning, so as far as having clear concepts go, I don't have many other than the basics from high school.

    I get that you would have had to take advanced topics but the thing is that I had to take electrodynamics as part of my Syllabus in engineering and it was very involved/time-consuming and very little knowledge of it, if anything, has remained with me which is why I thought it better to cover the general texts prior to specialised texts. It wasn't hard to understand, just took a lot of time, but then again I don't know if it was me and/or the book. None of the texts generally mentioned online were used in our case.

    In any event, a few places online said that it'd be best to cover a few textbooks on General Physics and Modern Physics first if one felt pressed for time, so that's what I am doing.

    @ZapperZ, Self Studying.
  8. Jul 12, 2016 #7
    When are you planning to take the physics GRE?
  9. Jul 12, 2016 #8
    This October (29th). That's the only date available throughout the year here.
  10. Jul 12, 2016 #9
    So you're meaning to tell us that you have practically no knowledge of electromagnetism, quantum physics, statistical mechanics, etc. and you're thinking of doing the GRE in about 4 months? This is insanity.
  11. Jul 13, 2016 #10
    And exactly what other suggestions do you have??
  12. Jul 13, 2016 #11

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    Don't be rude.

    You have to face an unpleasant fact. You are not prepared for physics graduate school. (BTW, the is not our fault) The physics graduate schools will know this, and given only four months, the GRE will confirm this. You can't cram four years of schooling into four months. So you better have a Plan B in mind.
  13. Jul 13, 2016 #12


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    Maybe he was not being rude; just unrealistic. His Plan-B could be, "study the necessary undergraduate Physics courses" which could take two or maybe three years AND THEN try the GRE Physics test. The study should be through university attendance, and some of the courses must include laboratory sections.
  14. Jul 13, 2016 #13
    I don't have more time. I wasted it all studying a stupid course that I did not want to study in a stupid place that did not teach me anything all on the pretense made to me by my high school counselors and parents and such that I did not have sufficient finances to pursue a good physics degree in a proper university (i.e., abroad somewhere in the west) and that I would be able to pursue it again later.

    I have learned no more in my current course than I know about Physics because as I have said this place is good for nothing, focuses on theory, rote-memorization and useless crap like handwriting (I've seen national officers with worse...) and does not even possess any equipment past the 1960s to do practical work with. Even if I was interested in my original course, I don't have any expertise in it or enthusiasm for it thanks to this place.

    What do you expect me to do? I wanted to do research. Fine, I don't get to do physics. But for Christ's sake what in all of the hells am I supposed to do with this stupid degree? All of my peers that ended up with a job aren't even engineers save for 1 or 2 in our BRANCHES batch of ~1000 and are doing some crummy ass job writing silly little apps/programs for some no name IT company or, god forbid, the mobile apps/games industry or wiping some stupid businessman's bum hole, wasting away any and all talents, they may or may not have, in a cubicle. The ones that went for "higher education" only care for white collar jobs after being disappointed and are doing MBA or another course which will allow them to join up with some hotshot like Microsoft so they can roll like a pig in all the money they rake in. And this is all true for even those who got good marks.

    WHAT DO I DO?? I wanted to be something but because of circumstances and stupid people, my prospects are literally nil. I do not want to end up another no name insect.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 13, 2016
  15. Jul 13, 2016 #14

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    You made bad decisions. I get that. What I don't get is why it's somehow our fault or that we have the responsibility to dig you out of the hole you are in.
  16. Jul 13, 2016 #15
    I'm sorry. I sympathize with your dreadful situation. But you got to face facts and admit you're not ready for either the GRE or physics grad school at this point. You'll need some time to actually study the necessary material in depth. Once you done that, you should try again and this time things will be more in your favor.
  17. Jul 13, 2016 #16


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    I understand that you've run into problems and have ended up spending your time and money doing something you didn't want to do, but it is not the end of the world for you. The first thing to realize is that you have options. They may not be good options. You may not like those options. But you have them. If you want to do research, then you need to find some way to get back into school and do the required courses. You may need to get a mind-numbing job to pay for school. Or even two jobs. I personally go to school with people who are working full time or have multiple part time jobs and are paying their own tuition. I even tutor a woman who goes every single week and donates blood plasma to get money for her schooling.

    It sucks, but you may need to settle for a university nearby instead of abroad. Take the time to look around and see which ones are reputable and have the best prospects for graduates. Find out what areas your chosen school may be weak in and take steps to compensate for that weakness through self-study if possible.

    The second thing you should think about is this belief that you're going to end up as a "no name insect" if you don't get into research. I can't tell you that you should change your mind, but I would suggest thinking a bit on what you expect out of research. The overwhelming majority of researchers make a small contribution to science during their careers, and that's it. They don't make ground-breaking discoveries or become world famous. They just do their job, day-in and day-out. If you are okay with this and still want to do research, then fine. Go for it. Just be realistic with your goals.

    Also remember that life is what you make of it. You can scream and yell and rail against what's happened to you, or you can accept it, put it behind you, and move on with the lessons you've learned. Acceptance doesn't mean you have to like it, just that you're not letting your feelings towards it overwhelm you.
  18. Jul 13, 2016 #17
    No you don't get it.

    I was basically threatened in a subtle way that if I don't do engineering I won't be doing anything with a stupid side reason, to make me feel like I am somehow cared for, that because Indian education is good for nothing (along with everything else here) it'll be pointless, people pay more attention to engineering degrees regardless and I can catch up later. Being all sheltered, naive and not ever having reasons to agree with the state of affairs (even now), I took it up. Now that I decide to get out on my own, I get the answer I should have gotten way back then. Goes to show how much you can actually trust people.

    And while it's not your fault per se, I wasn't privileged enough to attend some fancy pants Ivy league solely because I couldn't be born in one of those countries and/or cough up dough. If nothing else, your school wasn't sub par enough to snatch all your money while giving you nothing. All for a stupid piece of paper. Maybe in a more fair world everybody would pay equally instead of foreigners paying 5 times as much for tuition alone? It's like expecting one sibling to learn his place while everyone dotes over the other.

    And that's not happening unless I specifically enroll into a Physics major? Self studying would still be faster given the standards here. Obviously not "4 months" fast since you all advise against it so much. But I think time could be, at best, halved, if not less. Hypothetically speaking, of course. I don't really know what to think at this moment.


    But I'm not wasting my time and money. How much do you expect me to compensate? Am I supposed to get all the lasers and probes with my own money? All of what the school should have instead of using household thermometers and forcing us to use one stale saliva ridden pipette in a group to suck up chemicals instead of giving us a dropper and what not? I might as well be an autodidact at this rate. Too bad neither holds any value.

    Maybe if you'd see things here you'd understand. I don't care for lessons (life or otherwise) that can't be put to good use.
  19. Jul 13, 2016 #18
    We understand. You're very frustrated and you're blaming a lot of people for what happened to you. I understand this, I have been in such a situation before too. But it's not a constructive attitude, it won't solve your problems.

    You need to calm down, you need to stop blaming others for what happened to you (even if it is justified to blame them!). It's in the past, you can do nothing about it. Next, you have to look for ways to get what you want out of your life. It won't happen in the timeframe you desire though.

    Uh well, self-studying could work. But if you want admission in a graduate program, then whatever you self-studied will not be taken into account by them. They'll need to see specific accomplishments on your record. Saying you studied QFT by yourself and understood it is worthless to a admission committee, even if true.

  20. Jul 13, 2016 #19


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    My apologies. I didn't realize that "Try to find a decent school and do what you need to do to go to it" was advice that can't be put to good use. I think I'll bow out of this conversation. Have a nice day.
  21. Jul 13, 2016 #20
    I don't mean to sound harsh, but this is how life works. Life isn't fair, life will never be fair, and some people have to work more than others. That's how it is.

    Now, you can either accept your situation and be constructive - or you can blame others. You made your decisions, even if it was influenced by those who most likely had your best interest at heart, and you have to live with it - there's no reversing or taking back the past four years of your life. This doesn't mean that you have to forever be in the circumstances your in - you can become a physicists!

    There's probably hundreds of different options you can choose from, but they aren't going to be easy. You're probably going to have to work your butt off, and you're going to face challenges that others haven't - use this to build you up instead of break you down. In the end, you're still relatively young in the scheme of life, so you have time, but you also have the responsibility of being an independent adult. You have options, what you choose to do from now on and where you end up is on you. There's no more blaming your parents or your friends. So take everyone in this thread to heart - they are trying to help you. Do it the right way instead of cutting corners.

    P.S. Research probably isn't as romantic as you make it out to be.
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