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Attempts to balance social life/ physics

  1. Feb 22, 2009 #1
    Recently, I've gotten into a kind of crisis mode. I am a third year undergraduate majoring in physics. Last semester, I've overloaded myself with graduate courses and dragged through it with good marks at the end. My social life was pretty much non-existent.

    I slowly realized that I cannot continue this pattern for long (that's just not good for my mental health). This semester, I am only taking only one graduate course -- a second QFT course. However, as soon as I started to spend more time socializing with my friends, I realized a huge problem: I can no longer dedicate enough time for my classes and am falling behind in my graduate course. The whole idea was scary, and once I get into grad school, it will only get worse. I am no longer certain whether not I am willing to sacrifice the many interesting aspects of life to pursue a life of isolation and intense dedication (as a high energy theorist). I have always had to urge to study the most fundamental aspects of reality, but is it possible to balance social life with physics and still be a good theorist (I am no genius and usually do not understand ideas in like seconds)?
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 22, 2009 #2
    No. You will not have social life. You will work all day and sleep once in a while.

    What physics gives you, you can only pay back in blood :devil:

    Of course, I am joking.
  4. Feb 22, 2009 #3
    Well, to be more serious. I had same problems once. I focused so much on research that I neglected doing some necessary things. I could go out once in a while, but soon I would be back in it.

    I solved this crisis by slacking off my research. :uhh: But I do hope you find another approach!
  5. Feb 22, 2009 #4
    just be routine about it. set aside 1 day a week for social activity, set aside an hour each day for exercise. make the most of w/e free time you have; do little things that have nothing to do with physics. e.g. i'm studying spanish and so i read a spanish paper in morning during breakfast. i listen to music while i exercise. i emphatically don't think about physics or math while doing those other things. it's worked so far during my busiest semester.
  6. Feb 22, 2009 #5
    My solution has been to mix business with pleasure. Form a close-knit group of friends with other physics and maths nerds and then you can socialise and study at the same time.
  7. Feb 22, 2009 #6
    those people are absolutely no fun to socialize with
  8. Feb 22, 2009 #7
    Are you serious? I don't know about your place but at my university, the most fun, sociable and cool people tend to be the physicists, engineers, lawyers and med students. They party the hardest too.
  9. Feb 22, 2009 #8
    Exactly what I was going to say. :tongue: You are really limiting your options by just socialising with one group of people... and most likely you are? studying. :uhh:

    Talking to your loved one about Nash embedding theorem may be exciting, but chances of that working out is very slim.
  10. Feb 22, 2009 #9
    Erm... I would find that pretty romantic but that might be just me.

    Well, I have other groups of friends too... but I only see them in class or at the occasional party or club night and keep in touch on msn. But at least I'll always have a ready social outlet for letting out those pent-up urges to socialise.
  11. Feb 22, 2009 #10
    LOL where do you go to school? I go to one of the top football schools in the country. i've been to house parties with 20 kegs. i really don't think any of your physicists, engineers, or med students could ever match that.

    you know who parties the hardest? complacent frat boys.
  12. Feb 22, 2009 #11
    Not true at all... I have a really close group of friends who are in general physics majors and we often do mindless silly stuffs. The problem is though, once my friends are present, I cannot do any work.
    Last edited: Feb 22, 2009
  13. Feb 22, 2009 #12
    We don't have frats here. Which is probably for the best considering how laidback, beer and party-loving aussies are. The difference is that these people actually study though. Especially if you get with the nerd-pack. ;)
  14. Feb 22, 2009 #13
    The question remains, is it really possible to have a good social life as a theorist? One of my friends said that a lot of the theorists are single... I'm not sure if that is true though.
  15. Feb 22, 2009 #14
    I don't know how that would be any different if you were an investment banker.
  16. Feb 22, 2009 #15
    its always all about how much you're willing to sacrifice. part of me thinks this is why smarter people are more likely to succeed at such endeavors. i figure someone who's dumb could succeed at theoretical physics they would just need to sacrifice as much time as possible to do it and hence miss out on the other things in life and they don't necessarily want to do that. not saying you're stupid but it's always about prioritizing.
    Last edited: Feb 22, 2009
  17. Feb 22, 2009 #16
    I understand the idea of sacrificing, and this is exactly where my problem lies: I really don't know how much I am willing to sacrifice and what I want to prioritize.

    I used to be able to just completely fill my head with physics for days, and during weekends (Saturday+Sunday) I can just stay home and do problems/study. However, ever since I started to hang out with my friends more often, I realized that I also enjoy socializing with people. I can just spend a whole day with my friends chatting, playing some sports, or doing silly things. It's like a drug, the more I hang out with my friends, the more I want to hang out with my friends. Quite honestly, I find that aspect much more enjoyable than getting extremely frustrated on a problem, or doing an integral with 2 fold or more Feynman parametrization. This bothers me because I don't know if my goals (being a high energy theorist) are really what I want to do with my life anymore.
    Last edited: Feb 22, 2009
  18. Feb 22, 2009 #17
    there's nothing wrong with that. it doesn't make you more noble to be devoted to physics. it's your life man, enjoying it is all that matters.
  19. Feb 22, 2009 #18


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    Tim_lou, if you would allow me to make a simple observation... based on your first post you're in your third year of undergrad and you're taking graduate courses.

    It would seem to me that the problem isn't so much trying to balance life with physics as it is you've bitten off a tough piece of meat to chew. Most graduate students only take one or two courses per semester because of the time demands. To couple that with presumably a full undergraduate course load, and the fact that you likely haven't completed the prerequisite work for the graduate classes, it's no wonder you're having trouble finding a balance.

    Why put yourself through such anguish? If you're a third year student, take third and fourth year classes, do well in them, and enjoy the rest of your time.

    I suspect that the reason you don't know your priorities at this point is because you're like almost every other undergraduate out there and you need some life experience to figure them out.
  20. Feb 22, 2009 #19
    are those friends you hang out with also physics nerds?
    what are you complaining about? my physics friends dont even WANT to study together since they get more done when alone. they dont even WANT to hang out either since they live far from campus, go home on weekends, etc. its hard to make friends elsewhere since i'm was a total nerd throughout high school and most of college, but just recently decided i want to be more 'normal', so i dont relate to most college students but the unsociable nerds

    since i'm about to finish my 4th year but will stay for 5th and just recently decided to go into engineering after i graduate, i dont have ANY free time as i spend it all applying for internships. hows taht for social life?
  21. Feb 22, 2009 #20
    This is pretty much a maximization problem. We don't have equations for it, so it's an experimental maximization problem. Yeah, this is a gross oversimplification, but once I started treating my time like a maximization problem I became much more efficient and get a lot more out of life. I used to be a slacker that took the minimum number of classes and spent a lot of time doing nothing, but then once I adopted this attitude I've been able to take massive courseloads of all physics/math classes, TA, research, get straight A's, and party all weekend every weekend. It's kind of taxing on the body, and requires large numbers of energy drinks, but our bodies are young and can take a beating. I ****ing love college and hope I'll never have to leave, but I know it's only a couple short years away.

    Energy drinks can solve anyone's problems! (this isn't serious advice, but I will say that energy drinks are an integral part of my diet)

    It probably helps that I don't take any graduate classes (yet). I'm just using myself as an example of it IS possible to balance physics and a social life, and still be setting yourself up for a rewarding career.
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