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Astrophysics Mathematics Sample?

  1. Nov 7, 2009 #1
    Hello, I'm new to the forums here. :smile:

    I was just wondering if I could possibly get some sort of sample on what kind of Mathematics are used in the field of Astrophysics, as I am thinking about going into this field.

    Also, Instead of making a separate thread, I will just post this question here. When writing a PhD. Thesis, what do people write it on!? This has been bothering me lately, and I was just wondering if you could give a few examples. :redface:

    Thanks in Advance,
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 8, 2009 #2
    Astro is a huge field so it really depends. I would say from I can tell can calc/differential equations and linear algebra all play an important role in most parts this field. However, more specialized area, particularlly cosmology quickly to more abstract math. As for fiding what peoplw write there disseratios on, why not go onto a website of a school you are interested in and go look.
  4. Nov 8, 2009 #3
    Thank you, So is it not possible to Major in Astrophysics, do you have to pick a certain sub-category of Astrophysics?
  5. Nov 8, 2009 #4
    For undergrad it doesn't matter, infact mos people just major in straight physics.
  6. Nov 8, 2009 #5


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    Some schools offer majors in astrophysics, but they often don't make you take as much physics as a physics major would take, so you'd be at a bit of a disadvantage in grad school. So major in physics (you can double major in physics and astronomy at some schools) and take courses in math, astronomy, and computer science. Physics is broad at the undergrad level; you can specialize in grad school.

    Thesis topics usually represent a few years of work in a very specific field working on a very specific problem. If you look up recent papers in the field http://www.arxiv.org , many of those could be dissertation topics.
  7. Nov 8, 2009 #6
    Eri, I really thank you for your reply, and you as well, Lubuntu, but my main question simply would be as follows: Can you get a PhD. in Astrophysics, and if so, would such a Degree be useful, say, going into an academic career.
  8. Nov 8, 2009 #7
    Of course you can get a Ph.d. in astrophysics. Dylan, I am in the same boat because it is my ultimate goal as well. For graduate you will have to define a bit better what you are most interested in eg. (dark matter, extrasolar planets, galaxies, cosmology, whatever it may be). The degree is useful if you want to become a research scientist, is that your goal?
  9. Nov 8, 2009 #8
    My goal is, yes, to become a research scientist at a University, or similar institution.:biggrin:

    EDIT: Or even a professor, if possible.
  10. Nov 8, 2009 #9
    My Ph.D. is in astronomy, but I did work in astrophysics. The work that I did involved radiation hydrodynamics which involved lots of computational simulation of partial differential equations. You'll need a Ph.D. to get a professorship, but (and here is the standard disclaimer) "Do not get a Ph.D. expecting that you will get a professorship since you probably won't." What I did my Ph.D. dissertation was writing computer simulations to figure out if convection helps core collapse supernova to explode. (Answer NO!!!)

    I ended up working on Wall Street, because it turns out that the mathematics of simulating how particles move through a supernova is exactly the same as figuring out how stock prices move.
  11. Nov 8, 2009 #10
    Well, for some reason, your story is kind of depressing to me. (What do you mean about you probably won't? aren't there a lot of openings?)

    Stock markets are the LAST place I would want to work. Maybe I'll just take a closer look at theoretical physics and astronomy.:smile:
  12. Nov 8, 2009 #11
    There's a vast overproduction of Ph.D.'s in comparison to professors. The good news is that there are about a dozen different things that you can do with your Ph.D. other than becoming a professor. You chances of getting tenure-track once you have your Ph.D. is roughly one in six.

    You'd be surprised. The thing that I like about working on Wall Street is that I'm doing more or less exactly what I was going in graduate school, and it has more somewhat more immediate relevance to the world. There aren't too many other jobs where you say to yourself that you are helping to save the world from total financial destruction.

    But if you really do hate finance, there are a lot of other things that you can do with a Ph.D. Also some things are worth doing for the sake of doing them.

    Finally, it's a good idea to keep your options open until you have more information about what a job is really like.
  13. Nov 8, 2009 #12
    Thanks, I'll keep that in mind.:approve:

    And yes, I really do hate finance. :wink:
  14. Nov 8, 2009 #13
    Tongue-in-cheek, or are you serious? Have you actually convinced yourself that this is what you're doing? I am continually shocked by how people who are in it only for the money go to great lengths to convince themselves that they're doing it for the sake of humanity/society/greater good/whatever.
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2009
  15. Nov 8, 2009 #14


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    How exactly do you identify people who are "only for the money"? To me they are not distinguishable from those who are mostly for the money, half for the money, or somewhat for the money. Every one needs money and everyone has selfish motivations. If someone does (or trys to do) good why does it matter if they did it to get money, impress women, feed their ego, feel better about themselves, or because they imagined a snow elf of the Mockbah clan told them too.
  16. Nov 8, 2009 #15
    lurflurf, you seem confused. My point was not that there's anything wrong about wanting money and landing a job that provides that money. There's nothing wrong with that. I'm just weary of people being disingenuous and telling me that they're doing what they're doing for any other purpose. What's wrong with saying honestly "I work on Wall-Street because I love making money"? Why is there always that pretense of trying to do good?
  17. Nov 8, 2009 #16


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    How do you know they are disingenuous? Do you believe people with other jobs who say they are trying to do good? Do you think all the people who go and open free clinics in underdeveloped nations have other purposes?
  18. Nov 8, 2009 #17
    I can go Darwinian on you and claim that there is no such thing as true altruism, and that all acts are selfish in some way or another. But, that's a topic for another discussion. As for the people who open free clinics in under-developed countries, they generally do not make a bundle of money by opening these clinics. Quite the opposite, they give away their money and time. How does that compare to a Wall Street stock broker? Where, exactly, are the parallels? What exactly is your point?
  19. Nov 8, 2009 #18
    Quite serious. One big reason that I work on Wall Street is that it's really where I can use my skills to do a lot of good for the world.

    I'm interesting in money. I'm not interested *ONLY* in money.

    If I were just interested in money, I would have never gotten my Ph.D. and I'd be probably doing something other than what I'm doing. I'd take a pretty steep pay cut to work as an astrophysics professor, but no one is offering that job right now. Conversely, quantitative finance isn't the thing that makes you the most money on Wall Street, but I don't have much of a motivation to move outside of what I'm doing to something less "mathy."
  20. Nov 8, 2009 #19
    Because it's not true. I work on Wall Street because it's the closest thing to being an astrophysics professor that I can find, and because I want the excitement of being part of history. Yes money is part of it, but it's not the only part of it, and I really don't think that it's the biggest part of it.

    If someone were to offer me a $1 million/year to do something that didn't involve crunching numbers, I wouldn't take it. If someone were to offer me a astrophysics professorship with a 30% salary cut, I'd take that in a second.

    The other thing is that saying you are doing something for money is a non-answer. You'll quickly find that people are usually after fame, acceptance, power, status, challenge or something else that is associated with money.

    Because it's not pretense. It's also that doing good tends to be profitable in the long run.
  21. Nov 8, 2009 #20
    Because usually they get some sort of personal satisfaction from it. This can pose a problem because what causes people to feel good about themselves may not actually do any real good.

    For one thing people on Wall Street often have a better idea of how financial systems work or don't work, and so instead of creating one clinic, you think in terms of creating an entire public finance and health care system. One reason I ended up on Wall Street, is that once it became obvious that I wasn't going to be an astrophysics professor, I started to ask why, and the reason always came back to money, so I figured I might get somewhere by studying money.
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