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Am I smart enough for Physics?

  • Thread starter jeremmed77
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I am worried that because I didn't feel comfortable in calculus, I may have trouble with upper division physics/math. That's is the reason I quit last semester. I have to admit, I didn't spend a ton of time studying, which was probably a big problem. I should have studied as much as possible. Anyway, I think I am going to give it another shot. Thanks for the advice everyone.
What does studying as much as possible constitute for you? Studying dusk 'till dawn or studying as much as you can, but so that you still have time to eat like a normal human being, exercise and have fun every day?
 
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What does studying as much as possible constitute for you? Studying dusk 'till dawn or studying as much as you can, but so that you still have time to eat like a normal human being, exercise and have fun every day?
Putting in enough time to understand the material fully (Which for me is a lot more than normal). Shouldn't have said "as much as possible" though. Anyway thanks again for the input.
 
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Putting in enough time to understand the material fully (Which for me is a lot more than normal). Shouldn't have said "as much as possible" though. Anyway thanks again for the input.

I don't think you should give up. I knew a guy last semester who got a D in University Physics I and he was very interested in physics, like crazy into it. All he talked about was string theory and theoretical stuff. Needless to say, getting a D in that course mean't he could not take the next course, and etc...But he decided not to give up, and was able to take the engineering physics course instead and will take the second one in the summer, so hopefully if that all goes smoothly, he can meet up with his fellow UP 1 students in UP 3 next fall semester.

It really does take a lot of time to truly understand stuff, but thats just how it is. If you aren't willing to stay up late at night pondering how to solve problems, then physics/math may not be for you. But like I have said, if you really love the subject, then staying up late and working hard on it should be FUN(well except the not being able to solve a hard problem at 2 a.m., that kind of sucks!!).
 
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Let me chime in with a dissenting opinion;

I am not smart enough to do physics and probably shouldn't have ever tried it. It is still my favorite subject, and I like reading about it as a hobby. But shooting for it as a career goal was a terrible mistake in my case, because I fell short and now am not qualified to do any science.

Bear in mind that it is the successful physics majors that tend to post at places like this. I know quite a few for whom majoring in physics turned out to be a big mistake.

Give it some more time. Dont give up because of one class. But also dont just march towards it because its your 'dream career' unless you are very good as well.
 
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If someone who get really poor grades and flunks several courses says that he studies all the time and really loves the subjects, would you believe him?
And if someone who get really good grades states that he barely studies at all and don't really care would you believe him?

The problem with anecdotal evidences is that peoples memories aren't perfect and they sort away a lot of information that don't fit with how they view things. Especially in cases such as this when so much information about your peers activities is unknown to you.
I just commented on that. The exceptional physics students at my school do not barely study. They study quite a bit. Coupled with their natural intelligence, or ability to learn, their industriousness takes them even further.
 
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I just commented on that. The exceptional physics students at my school do not barely study. They study quite a bit. Coupled with their natural intelligence, or ability to learn, their industriousness takes them even further.
Ok, then I guess that I misinterpret your sentence. In my experience intelligence and ambition do not really correlate, it is just that it is hard to differentiate between performance and intelligence. There are most likely some people in the middle of the class who are smarter than some of those at the top but who doesn't work as much. Some of the smarter students I know get average/bad results since they barely do anything, it is quite sad but ambition doesn't grow on trees. It would be really strange if were you live ambition and intelligence correlated. But I agree that it is hard to accept someone as smart when they don't do well in academia.

People at the top of the class are usually really ambitious which could mean that ambition have a larger spread than intelligence or something like that so results relies more on where they lie on the ambition scale than smarts.
 
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Ok, then I guess that I misinterpret your sentence. In my experience intelligence and ambition do not really correlate, it is just that it is hard to differentiate between performance and intelligence. There are most likely some people in the middle of the class who are smarter than some of those at the top but who doesn't work as much. Some of the smarter students I know get average/bad results since they barely do anything, it is quite sad but ambition doesn't grow on trees. It would be really strange if were you live ambition and intelligence correlated. But I agree that it is hard to accept someone as smart when they don't do well in academia.
Hmm, but how do you determine someone is smart, but not performing well? I think this leads to muddy waters and a catch-22, because if you are not performing well, how can you say you're smart or able to do that thing (surely you can't just assume that), but if you are outperforming others, but studying a lot, how can you say you're not smart? You could say that the others study way less and get almost as good results, but taking into account the law of diminishing returns and the fact that we can only theoretize whether one would be able to do much better if he would to put in such and such amounts of extra time, this isn't as clear-cut as you make it to be. I know intuitively you can just "tell" who's smart, but intuition does fail often and, in this case, it also builds hugely on preconceived notions and general views of society.

I'm not taking any "sides" on the issue of whether hard work is enough, but I think there are a lot of factors to consider for proponents of both views that may not have been considered thus far to a sufficient extent.
 
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Yeah, it is fussy which is why we can have an argument. One reason I am so sure is because I am among the top performers in my classes but I don't study/do exercises outside of lectures. I like helping people with stuff so I often go to help people with courses I have already taken. I can tell you that trying to explain something to an intelligent person compared to explaining the same thing to someone not as intelligent is often like night and day. I can assure you that some of those who lies roughly in the middle and which aren't generally considered to be anything special intelligence wise really are smarter than some of those at the top but lacks greatly in ambition.

I gauge intelligence usually by how fast people catch on to new concepts and how fast they make the connections I try to convey. I usually try to lead them on to the answer instead of lecturing when they are stuck. It is not a perfect way to measure, of course, but it is something. Also there is quite a large discrepancy of how much the top students do, some literally studies all the time while others are more like average.

I try to not take myself as an example since I am quite a big anomaly except as an extreme example to show that not everyone have to study as much, but other than that people like me usually gets stuck in the social security net. My ambitions stretches roughly as far as that I want to talk to people since I like talking to people and it is nice to have a home and food so I do the things required for me to continue get my fundings. That is why I study, it was the easiest way to meet people and I care about the grades since it will be very tough for me finding a place I can handle afterwards so I need something that is in my favor. I have a lot of other issues making most things extremely tough/impossible for me so I didn't really have that many options, I was stuck for several years between high school and college doing nothing, studying is much better than that.

Right now I am scared of graduating since it feels like taking classes is the only thing I can handle. So I am going back to my psychiatrist because that worry have started to tear up my life again. My general problem is that even though I love being with people it is very stigmatized for me, which makes makes every encounter a balancing act with me trying to interacting as much as possible without crossing any lines which when crossed throws me into a state of total despair. Sometimes it is so strong that I even lose my will to move in effect making me stand there helpless.

Sorry for going off topic, I have a hard time to stop writing once I start touching these things... Writing about it gives me a good feeling. And yeah, I am sorry that I don't believe in Shackleford's assessment, it could very well be true. It is just that my experience is so different that I have a hard time believing it. I like discussions by the way, I might act harsh sometimes but it is mainly to try to provoke a more direct answer. I am almost never angry at people or so, and every time I post something harsh I feel bad for it and sometimes it is so much that I am too scared to look at the replies. And that is the most annoying of this whole thing, my problems aren't any less severe even behind the anonymity of the internet :( The difference is mainly that here you can't get swamped with interactions, you can read everything in your own pace etc but they are just as scary.
 
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"A fool with passion will beat out an emotionally detached genius."

A phrase a math professor, a wise Algebraist, of mine iterated to those of us who were majoring in math.

I've heard he paraphrased it, but I'm not sure from where.
 
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I know, the title is stupid, but I didn't know how else to phrase it. Last semester I got a B in Calc 1, and didn't feel very comfortable with the material. I was taking Biology and chemistry so it was definitely a tough semester, but now I gave up on my physics major because I feel like I am not smart enough. Now I am having second thoughts about whether or not I should give up so easily.

Here is how it went for me. I tended to do better at solving the problems versus knowing why this is the way you are supposed to solve them. I remember making some mistakes when doing implicit differentiation at the beginning of a long problem and getting the entire question wrong because of the mistake (Although I found out later that most professors give you credit for doing the problem the right way). I never had to study for biology, only spent about 10 percent of my study time on chemistry, but the rest was all devoted to math.

Let me make this clear, I love math, but when you spend two hours on a problem and find out the reason you got it wrong was some basic algebra rule you forgot, it gets fustrating. Even though I love math, I didn't seem to be "naturally" good at it like some of my classmates. I had to put a lot of time into it, while others did not. This is the main reason I chose not to attempt a degree in physics. I was wondering if anyone else had anything similar happen to them? I just don't know if I should give up on my dream career just yet!

I suggest watching the first season of the big bang theory. if you don't understand the jokes then you should study more. You can get the equivalent of a masters in physics watching that show.
 
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I don't think The Big Bang Theory would serve as an accurate metric with which to gauge how much one knows about Physics.

From what I've seen, that show merely parrots the popular and "trendy" aspects of Physics and other sciences.

That time would be better spent continuing to study the subjects one wishes to learn.
 
I was at the same point you were- except I got a C- in calculus. This semester is going much better with Calc II (way more fun) but anyways.. I don't think you can define people as "smart". Yes, people's brains are wired differently- neurons fire faster, causing better retention of information, faster retention, etc. I don't believe that makes somebody any more or less smart.

I didn't and don't plan to quit on my physics major because I TRULY believe that if you work hard enough, you can get to where you want to be. For anyone! I know this is over-said, but you can't let culture completely define who you are..

And anyways, how much fun would physics be if it just came easy to you? Isn't it more rewarding to work hard and do well.

and practice, practice, practice! Not just problem solving but the actual theory that goes along with it.

In Calc II, I taught myself how to really read a math textbook and I'm totally understand Calc theory! and doing well! it feels so great.
 

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