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Advice for a 15 year old

  1. Oct 1, 2012 #1
    I really love physics. I'm taking it a year early at my school, and I just find everything in it really interesting. I really like math, so all that isn't a problem for me. Since it's the beginning of the school year, we haven't learned much, but I already know I wanna be a physicist. My class is doing everything really slowly, so I was wondering if there were any good physics books that I could read to satisfy my curiosity (at least until my class gets harder). Also, I was wondering- what careers are there in physics? Also, what specific fields are there? I know there's astrophysics and particle physics, but what is actually done in each field?
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 1, 2012 #2
    How much maths does a 15 year old know?
    Do you know any calculus?
    If not I'd go learn some basic calculus at KhanAcademy first, after that there's Introduction to Mechanics by Kleppner, it's pretty standard. It doesn't really go far out of the domain of classical F=ma type stuff though.
    If you go a a little but more and learn a little partial derivative type stuff (I'm pretty sure this is on KhanAcademy) you could check out Leonard Susskinds lectures on youtube which are quite interesting when you're a neophyte.
  4. Oct 1, 2012 #3
    Sadly I don't know calculus, but someone did recommend calculus made easy (by Silvanus Thompson). Would that book suffice? Or would I also have to check out khanacademy? I've heard some bad things about it. Is it all reliable? I only know up to about trigonometry and vectors by the way...
  5. Oct 1, 2012 #4
    I always feel like I'm the wrong person to be answering these questions, because I don't have the seniority and the experience of some of the other posters - I'm just a bit older than you - but I think that because I was in a similar position I can help, just take what I say in perspective.

    There are lots of good physics books out there. If you are just looking for science books aimed at the everyday reader (or science enthusiasts) I'd recommend going to your Barnes and Noble (or book store) and looking through the Astronomy/Physics section. More than a few books will probably pique your interest.

    If you're looking for more real physics, it's all dependent on your math. I'd guess that you probably haven't taken calculus yet, which is fine. Assuming you are totally comfortable with algebra/trig, I'd get a good highschool/basic undergraduate algebra-based physics textbook. I recommend Halliday and Resinick, although there is the occasional use of calculus. Start at the beginning, and as Feymann said: go until you're stuck, then go back to where you are comfortable again and begin reading ahead from there. And repeat.

    (I'll note here that if you don't want to have to buy a book there are several good online free textbooks)

    This will all move you ahead in physics, but it's important to know that you'll still probably have to suffer through your slow physics class (I've been there, it's a drag). But keep it up and you'll have an advantage once you get to higher classes.
  6. Oct 1, 2012 #5


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    Staff: Mentor

    The American Physical Society has an excellent site - www.aps.org

    Careers - http://www.aps.org/careers/
    Students - http://www.aps.org/careers/physicists/index.cfm
    High School - http://www.aps.org/careers/physicists/middle-high.cfm

    Profiles of physicists - http://www.aps.org/careers/physicists/profiles/index.cfm

    The American Institute of Physics also has a website - www.aip.org
    Careers using physics - http://www.spsnational.org/cup/

    Some basic book on Introductory Physics would be good.

    e.g., http://www.phy.duke.edu/~rgb/Class/intro_physics_1/intro_physics_1.pdf

    or Classical Mechanics by Richard Fitzpatrick - http://farside.ph.utexas.edu/teaching/301/301.pdf

    Introductory texts by Halliday & Resnick, or Halliday, Resnick and Walker, are classic.

    I used Elementary Classical Physics Volumes 1 and 2, by Weidner and Sells, way back when.

    Hyperphysics provides a fairly easy to understand overview of physics

    PF has a forum - Introductory Physics Learning Materials
    https://www.physicsforums.com/forumdisplay.php?f=160 [Broken]

    Here are the resesarch areas in physics at the University of Chicago:
    http://physics.uchicago.edu/research/ [Broken]
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  7. Oct 1, 2012 #6


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    Gold Member

    I'm 15 as well, I just graduated from high school about two weeks ago. My best advice to you, is to teach yourself far beyond what is being taught to you now. It doesn't matter if you plan to skip grades, do it. Take the ACT, get a 36, and tell your parents what you want to do. Get an IEP, and get the hell out of high school. In college, don't think your "**** doesn't stink", put your head down and work. You can do it even if you don't have Austism.
  8. Oct 4, 2012 #7
    The coolest jobs that are out there is probably something that hasn't been invented yet. I'm not that old (in my 40's), and you have to remember that when I was 15, no one outside of a few academic had heard of the Internet, and the World Wide Web hadn't been invented.
  9. Oct 4, 2012 #8
    Thanks very much to everyone who posted, you were all very helpful! I was finally smart enough to actually check my school library (which had some pretty good books on physics) and all those website links were great. Right now, I'm just reading books written for the layman (like The Elegant Universe and QED) and I find them incredibly interesting, but I also can't wait to get into these topics in more detail. For this though, I think I'll probably have to wait around a year or so to make sure I have a good base in math. Again, thanks so much to everyone who gave their advice.
  10. Jan 4, 2013 #9


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    I am in almos the exact situation as you. I am 15 taking physics a year early. I can't really give advice, but I can tell you what I have done. Since I was very young I have watched a lot of physics/science programs. Watch things from the BBC, Nova, Carl Sagan's Cosmos etc. (You can find a lot online). Last summer I taught myself Calculus from Khan Academy as well as Calculus for Dummies (not a great book but it does give some good insights) and a book from my school. I am currently reading (almost finished) the Feynman Lectures. Although they won't give you the ability to solve any physics problems they are great for satisfying curiosity as well as making you even more curious about things. I am also currently going through "A Modern Introduction to Linear Algebra" by David Poole as well as "Div, Grad, Curl and all that and informal text on vector calculus". Where I am focusing more on the mathematical side of things, because you have just gotten into physics you probably should not worry to much about the maths but look more into the conceptual side of physics. Great authors for this are Stephen Hawking, Michio Kaku, Brian Greene and I few others I am sure I have forgotten.
  11. Jan 5, 2013 #10
    I'm really glad there's more people my age that are interested in physics. Anyways, I learned differential calculus and am finishing up on definite integration tonight. I'm about halfway through the first volume of the Feynman Lectures (aren't they amazing?) and I've also read a ton of pop science stuff (Kaku, Hawking, Greene, etc.). I'm pretty sure I'm gonna major in physics, and after that we'll see...
  12. Jan 6, 2013 #11


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    I am actually very surprised how many people like us there are. The odd thing is, we never seem to live in close vicinity. It is only online that I have ever "met" others who are young and interested in physics.
  13. Jan 6, 2013 #12
    I almost completely agree with that, but there IS a kid in my school who also loves physics. He's in my french class and whenever we can we talk about physics during class. Also, we recommend books and videos to each other, and he also teaches me calculus when he can. It's pretty cool to have a school friend who's interested in these things, you should try to find people in your school like that (who knows, maybe there are). By the way, do you watch science and math channels on youtube? I watch sixty symbols, minutephysics, numberphile, scishow, and veritaseum. They're all fantastic, you should look them up if you haven't seen them.
  14. Jan 6, 2013 #13


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    Yes, I love all of those youtube channels, although I haven't heard of veritaseum, I shall be sure to look it up. Unfortunately, because I go to a small school I am quite certain that no one in my school is quite so interested in physics. I have a friend I can speak to about physics as he does like it, but he does not wish to pursue it.
  15. Jan 7, 2013 #14
    I'm pretty much in the same boat as you guys. I go to a small school as well, so there isn't really any one else there interested in physics. A few other kids in my grade were thinking about starting a programing club, but after a few weeks of trying to get it set up they dropped the idea. I haven't really heard of the youtube videos before so I'll have to check them out. Its cool that even though we are spread out sites like this allow us to share ideas.
  16. Jan 8, 2013 #15
    I am 16 and i have a similar (if not the same) situation like "guitarphysics". The thing is that my older brother (grad in mech. eng.) advised me to focus on my studies and like use most of my brain power to higher my grades (they are good but can be improved). He said that i will have time in college to read and probably major in physics (or any of its branches).
    Any opinions?
  17. Jan 8, 2013 #16


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    BH Wiz, it really depends on what your grades are and what university/college you want to attend. As long as you have good enough grades to get into the college of your choice I wouldn't worry about it. At any rate, you don't have to go to the college of your choice. However, in my case, I love physics so much that not to learn as much as possible would be unthinkable. So, really, it is completely up to you.
  18. Jan 8, 2013 #17
    Yeah, I agree with Jow, I think that it depends on how well you do in school and where you want to go. Learning physics (and math as well, actually) on the side is really fun for me, and I can't imagine not doing it. In my opinion it's all about balance, and you should definitely do well in school, but also do the things you love. I have no experience with universities, but I think that it's not only about the grades, but also about what you do on your free time. Colleges will want someone who did extracurricular activities and went beyond the standard school requirements (at least in the subject that they like). Do you struggle with any classes at school?
  19. Jan 9, 2013 #18
    I have what it takes to get into my "preferred" college.What i was asking is that whether or not i should focus on reading physics books.
    btw, i feel the same way about physics. >.<
  20. Jan 9, 2013 #19
    Well a bit in geography, that's because i choose not to study but it's nothing that cannot be fixed.
  21. Jan 9, 2013 #20
    Khan Academy
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