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Astrophysics: Passion or Practicality?

  1. Dec 7, 2011 #1
    Hello everyone,

    The more I think about my future career path, the more I think I will end up in Astrophysics. I've had a great 'passion' for the subject since I was a kid, but I would like to do something that will make a difference to the world (positive, that is), and I cannot see how breaking new ground in astrophysics is at all useful to the world's community as a whole.

    Do you think that I should dedicate myself to a subject that would benefit the world (like engineering), or should I just be an astrophysicist, simply because I like it a lot, and see where it takes me?

    Thanks a lot.
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 8, 2011 #2
    One thing about astrophysics is that you are forced to think very deeply about "what is time?" and "what is space?" and "what is gravity?" Once you think deep thoughts that gravitates your toward careers in which you have to think very deeply about "what is money?" and "what is risk?"

    Think about "what is useful?"

    It will help you if you find out where astrophysicists end up. Relatively few people that study astrophysics end up as tenured research professors.

    Also the question of whether you are benefiting the world is a big question.
  4. Dec 8, 2011 #3


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    Hey *FaerieLight* and welcome to the forums.

    One thing you should realize is that there are so many ways to help the world and a lot of those don't involve science or engineering.

    Think about all the teachers out there that teach 30+ students each year. A lot of them won't get a simple thankyou or any recognition and you should be aware that this is the norm.
  5. Dec 8, 2011 #4


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    One could say that contributing to the sum total of all human knowledge is one of the more important things one could do in this world.

    Always, always, always, study what you love. Otherwise, life is just that little bit paler.
  6. Dec 8, 2011 #5


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    If you don't love what you do for a living, life is a slog. You don't have to actually "love" your job, but if you can take pride in your performance, you're way ahead of the game.

    Study want you're drawn to, make connections, and keep your head up. Don't think of your education as a step-wise process. You don't go to college, get good grades, get a diploma, and *then* start looking for a job. That is a trap. You should be able to create opportunities for yourself while you are still in school IMO.

    If you love astrophysics, go for it. As Jimi said "I'm the one that's got to die when it's my time to die, so let me live my life the way I want to." It is easy to let oneself be shackled by the expectations of others, so follow your dreams. If you fall short of your expectations, you'll still be 'way ahead of others who didn't bother to try.

    Good luck, whatever you decide.
  7. Dec 8, 2011 #6
    I agree with you turbo. Your opinion is atomic. What the world is heading towards is education without understanding and love for subject. One should be aware of what he wants. He must be aware of what others want from him. He must learn that when he is heading towards the goal of others perception, he must stop. A student must realize his love as soon as he opens his eyes to the world of competition.
  8. Dec 9, 2011 #7
    Thank you everyone for your advice and well wishes!! Now I feel much better about going with astrophysics, thanks to your encouragement.
  9. Dec 11, 2011 #8
    I certainly agree that you should study what you love. But there are two problems you should watch out for 1) You stop loving it. 2) You can't get a job in it. I studied astrophysics and had both problems. Fortunately 2) wasn't a great disappointment because of 1)! Also, having a degree in astrophysics impresses potential employers, and you'll have many transferable skills with which to get those high-paying jobs that demand numeracy.
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