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Branches of Physics and their difficulties.

  1. Sep 3, 2009 #1
    Hello. I want to know the branches of Physics in order of their difficulty. I am in 10th grade and am going to be 15 in 3 days. Happy b-day to me :). Thanks for any help.
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 3, 2009 #2

    Choppy

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    This is a hard one to answer because difficulty is subjective.

    One could make the argument that some of the more theoretical 'quantum gravity' type areas are more difficult because of the high level mathematics involved. On the other hand, many theorists shy away from the experimental side of physics because they find hands-on work difficult or unsatisfying.

    This is one reason why I like to recomment that people considering or taking physics as a major in university not make up their minds too quickly with respect to a particular sub-field. You have to explore different areas and figure out what kinds of problems really interest you.
     
  4. Sep 4, 2009 #3
    Would you mind expanding on this point a bit? At what point do people usually choose their field of study? I know it's a bit of a subjective question, but at what point, do you think, is one sufficiently qualified to choose a sub-field?
     
  5. Sep 4, 2009 #4

    jtbell

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    In the USA, I think most undergraduate physics majors don't start taking specialized courses that would lead to a research field in grad school until at least their junior (third) year. During the first two years you take generic introductory and intermediate-level courses: mechanics, E&M, quantum physics, thermodynamics, etc. Only after you've taken these "core" courses do you start taking more specialized ones like solid state physics, nuclear physics, etc.

    If you go to a large university, there will probably be regular seminars or colloquia where faculty members and visitors talk about their research. These are usually pitched mainly towards graduate students and faculty, but I think it's valuable experience for undergraduates to attend them regularly anyway, just to get some idea of what kinds of "real research" people do. Sit near the back of the room so you can slip out quietly when the level of the material gets so high that you feel yourself starting to drown. :wink:
     
    Last edited: Sep 4, 2009
  6. Sep 4, 2009 #5

    Choppy

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    I have to agree with Jtbell's comments. In my opinion, it's a question of exposure.

    There are a lot of posts on this board from high school students or freshman/sophomore undergraduates who seem to have decided that they are for sure going into one branch of physics or another. I think it's great that these people have found something to be passionate about and that they are taking the time to investigate the career path.

    However, my experince has been that a lot of factors can change through undergraduate years. Most people who go into physics were good at it in high school. University can first act like a giant normalizer that gives students an idea of where they fit in amidst other people who were good at physics. As Jtbell pointed out, over the first 2 years you focus on the basics, generating a strong foundation in your subject area. One argument against specializing too early is that there is the potential to compromise the foundation. Then as you move into your senior years, you get to take classes that are more specialized. You take advanced labs and take on a senior thesis project, you get your first taste of research, and your classes should start to orient towards the problems that the different fields focus on. This is about the time where you figure out your personal interests and strengths.

    By the time you apply to graduate school, you should have a good idea of what field(s) you're interested in. But not everyone knows where they want to go at this point either. Lots of people skip around from area to area, or 'end up' in a field that isn't their first choice due to a combination of factors not the least of which is the fact that getting into graduate school is competative.
     
  7. Sep 4, 2009 #6

    jtbell

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    I didn't. My first summer in grad school, I worked with a low-temperature physics group, helping them get a liquid helium dilution refrigerator to run. I was into computer programming (this was back in the days of Fortran on punched cards), but they didn't do a lot of that. One of the professors in the group mentioned me to one of his friends in the experimental high-energy particle physics group, which did have a lot of programming work to be done. And so the next year I ended up in experimental HEP.
     
  8. Sep 5, 2009 #7
    Actually I think this following post will be able to help you guy help me better :).

    I'm 15 on September 7th and starting my sophmore year in high school on the 9th.

    I know Newton's 3 laws of motion and I know how to determine distance and velocity.
    I understand that velocity is a vector and that speed is scalor. I know Algebra and I think I'm taking Geometry this year. I need to know what physics I can do that either require algebra or no math at all. thank you.
     
  9. Sep 5, 2009 #8
    What I want to do in my life is that my school is a trade school. This means that my schools the regular high school curriculum but also teaches how to fix airplanes. From my school I can get 2 licenses. One to fix the powerplants of airplanes i.e engines and propellers and the airframe i.e the body. I want to get these 2 licenses. To get them I have to stay 1 more year in my school i.e 13th grade. I will graduate when I am 15. I want to work in an airport and also go to college and get a degree in physics. I want to be a theoretical physicist. My friend told me that physicists don't get paid unless they discover something huge. Can someone clarify if that is true?

    Thank you guys for your time.
     
  10. Sep 5, 2009 #9

    Choppy

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    Hi Demoniac,

    With your first question, are you asking about what physics you can do in terms of a project you want start? Or are you thinking more along the lines of recommended reading for someone at your level? If it's the latter I would recommend you start with some of the more popular books about physics: Stephen Hawking, Brian Greene, etc. Just pop into your local library, browse, and pick up something that looks interesting. As far as projects you could start by talking to your teachers to see if there's anything that's been done in the past that you can build on. Or you might want to try something like building your own solar cells, putting together a cloud chamber, or something like that.

    As for the second question, physicists do get paid. The salary can vary considerably. To go through for a Ph.D. you have to first go through an undergraduate degree, which you have to pay for. Then comes graduate school for ~4-8 years during which you usually can expect some income (although we're talking barely enough peanuts to survive for the most part). Once you have the PhD you can remain in academia and essentially do what's call post-doctoral work as you aim for a permanent professor position. As you advance the pay scale increases. Another option is to go out into the business/industrial world and seek employment either as a physicist or in another profession where the skills you have are a highly marketable asset. There are other options on top of that as well: work in national labs, work as a medical physicist, etc. and they all get paid.
     
  11. Sep 5, 2009 #10

    jtbell

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    13th grade? Just out of curiosity, what country are you in? In the USA we don't have "13th grade."
     
  12. Sep 5, 2009 #11
    I live in the United States of America in New York City. What I mean by "13th grade" is that in my school you can get 2 licenses like I mentioned before. You get one in your senior year and to get the other you have to stay in my school for 1 more year. This is called a super-senior. Normally though there is no 13th grade :p.
     
  13. Sep 5, 2009 #12

    symbolipoint

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    Demoniac,
    You give an unusual description about grade levels and education time in New York. The description seems like an option for vocational training, since you discuss an interest in learning to perform mechanical tasks to fix aircraft. What is your plan, if you have one? Do you hope to work for some time as an aircraft repair/maintenance mechanic before studying for a degree in Physics? If this is really your plan, then at least continue Mathematics courses all through high school. Later (while you might have become an airplane mechanic) you could go to a community college part time to redo and continue the Mathematics courses. You will need them for any serious study to get a Physics degree. Just realize that a job as mechanic or repairman is a serious effort commitment and so is being a Physics major student.
     
  14. Sep 5, 2009 #13

    jtbell

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    Ah, OK. I Googled on "super senior" and found that it's used both for high-school and college/university students who are in their fifth year. I'm familiar with the concept for college students because we have athletes who stay for five years because they're allowed to play for five seasons. But at least here we never use the term "super senior." It makes sense, though.

    One reason I asked is that I remember someone on this forum, from the UK or Canada or someplace like that, mentioned "grade 13" which is part of their secondary school but in content it's more like freshman year of college/university here. But those chaps never say "12th grade", "13th grade" etc., but always "grade 12", "grade 13", etc.
     
  15. Sep 8, 2009 #14
    Bump!
     
  16. Sep 9, 2009 #15
    Today I started my sophmore year in my high school. I have 3 periods a day of AV metal. Period 1 is a lecture and 2 and 3 are work. I have geometry and Earth Science.
     
  17. Sep 9, 2009 #16
    All branches of physics are difficult if you at the edge of knowledge, i.e., when you are doing research. It is one thing to learn what others have done, it is another trying to create new knowledge.
     
  18. Sep 20, 2009 #17
    Bump and thanks for all the advice :).
     
  19. Sep 21, 2009 #18
    I don't know what the respect of your trade school is, but generally people who want to go to college would opt out of an extra year of trade school. It seems like you might be interested in Aerospace related engineering/physics. However, take my advice with a grain of salt.
     
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