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Physics Can someone help me tell whether Physics is right for me?

  1. Nov 3, 2016 #1

    Tri

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    So I've been stuck on this problem for months.

    I enjoy 4 fields: Computer science, Physics, Math, and Philosophy...

    I mainly prefer theoretical topics and would like to stay away from industry/practical work. My main motive is for advancement and understanding....."Seekings truth". I love all these subjects but the philosophical implementations especially. I enrolled in Computer science and finding it hard to relate, I enrolled in cs in the first place because of my interest in AI but I found myself surrounded by very technical people who don't care about theory or philosophy.

    I've always loved physics growing up but didn't like Newtonian mechanics in high school and didn't do that well.
    I've also recently started falling in love with math... Specifically Foundational math relating to logic and I've been reading a lot on Godels incompleteness theorem and modal logic, type theory, category theory, formal logic, etc.

    I find myself constantly watching documentaries on physics and just love how BIG the problems in physics are.. Dealing with space-time, quantum entanglement, quantum information theory, blackholes.. What's cooler than that? Pure math problems aren't that cool but I find proving and logic fun. I also find complexity theory very interesting but that's available whichever path I take.

    My dilemma is I want to learn about the nature of reality and the truth and explanation behind why things are they way they are... And I find the problem of AGI very interesting and can see myself doing research in such a field.... it involves a lot of logic, math, computer science, cognitive science.

    I keep entertaining the thought that maybe I would be happier being a theoretical physicist but I just can't tell can someone give me some advice or insight? I've also tried both for some time and enjoy both for different reasons... I don't particularity enjoy physics work but enjoy the possibilities and questions and I enjoy cs/math work but the outcomes are kind of dismal.
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 3, 2016 #2
    Nobody will pay you.
     
  4. Nov 3, 2016 #3

    e.bar.goum

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    I take slight issue with this statement. It comes up often on PF, and, sure, it's true on average. However, there do exist professional (i.e. paid) physicists who work in pure physics. Professional physicists who do pure theory are a non-empty subset of them. It's not an easy career to get into, but I think advice like this is problematic, because I imagine the OP can point to several professional theoretical physicists.
     
  5. Nov 3, 2016 #4
    OK then someone might finance a career for a person who has unique or very outstanding talent in some field.
    Otherwise not.
     
  6. Nov 3, 2016 #5

    e.bar.goum

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    By someone, you mean "the taxpayers", right? :wink:

    I'm not sure that most physicists have unique or outstanding talents, necessarily. Uniformly, they're passionate about physics, intelligent, hard working, and therefore willing to put up with the (significant) downsides of an academic career. They are also lucky. But perhaps these attributes are what you would characterise as unique or outstanding.
     
  7. Nov 4, 2016 #6

    phinds

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    Then physics may not be for you. I'm not clear on just what you mean by "why?" but the way "why?" is used in physics, physics doesn't answer "why?" questions because the answer to a "why?" question is always another "why?" question. Physics is about describing what is.
     
  8. Nov 4, 2016 #7

    symbolipoint

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    If you are interested in what you say, study Mathematics, at least for a beginning, from Introductory Algebra ... through PreCalculus, and try one or two "elementary physics" courses, and for SURE, study at least one intro computer sci/programming (which might not be enough); and then you can decide if Physics is for you or not. Also think, how are you going to earn a salary or wages?
     
  9. Nov 4, 2016 #8

    Tri

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    I don't necessarily see myself doing work in physics since it requires dedication and a lot of perseverance and I don't think I love it that much to put up with all of that with the chance of failure. Something like AGI I could imagine myself doing that. BUT... I can't help but feel some sort of guilt like im missing out by not learning how the universe works... I relate the most to those figures who are Philosopher/mathematician/computer scientists who do a lot of theoretical work
     
  10. Nov 4, 2016 #9
    You mentioned you enrolled in AI, but you found that the technical people there didn't care about theory or philosophy. I think you would find that the technical people in physics devote at least 99 % of their effort to work and calculation, not philosophy nor answering the big questions. If you truly do not like physics work as you have written, then employment in physics would be a terrible choice.

    When Feynman or Einstein went to their conferences to ponder the big questions with other physicists and mathematicians, they took along their notes and demonstrated their hard won results of their effort to each other. This effort took hours, days, weeks, and possibly months and years. This point is glossed over or de-emphasized in the physics documentaries.

    I am getting a little preachy here, but you mentioned the nature of reality. The "reality" is that you are going to spend the majority of your waking life at work. You may as well go into a field whose work you enjoy.

    For one consolation, you mention you enjoy cs/math work. As you increase your abilities by doing this work, you may be better able to recognize, formulate, ponder and possibly answer the big questions that you seek within that discipline.
     
  11. Nov 4, 2016 #10

    e.bar.goum

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    It is not obvious at all that work on AGI requires any less dedication or perseverance to succeed, or has any less chance of failure.

    One thing that is important is that the act of doing physics is very different from the act of learning physics. It sounds like you enjoy reading books on physics, which is not the same as the work of physics at all.
     
  12. Nov 4, 2016 #11

    Tri

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    I think I enjoy the philosophy of it more than the actual work... Even theoretical physicist make a lot of specific calculations and I just find that boring like predicting the orbit of a planet or whatever the problem might be. I enjoy a more 'architectural' approach designing frameworks and forming theories for things to exist(that might not make sense but hopefully you get whatI mean)
     
  13. Nov 4, 2016 #12

    e.bar.goum

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    While people do work in constructing new theories, (https://arxiv.org/list/hep-th/new) they inevitably have do detailed calculations. How else would you know if your theory had any merit? There are no jobs for people who just sit around "philosophising" about new theories. That's not how physics works.

    From the sounds of it, physics doesn't sound like the right career for you.
     
  14. Nov 4, 2016 #13

    Tri

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    What do you think would be a more fitting discipline? Maths, Cs, Philosophy?
     
  15. Nov 4, 2016 #14

    e.bar.goum

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    I think you need more realistic expectations.

    I'm not as familiar with maths, CS or philosophy as I am physics, certainly maths and CS require work distinct from just sitting around thinking. You've got to write the proof and write the program.

    My advice for you would be to read some academic papers in maths, physics, CS and philosophy. Can you see yourself working on the kinds of problems you read about? Not documentaries or pop science books. They always make things more exciting than the reality is.

    Alternatively, look at job advertisements - what appeals to you?
     
  16. Nov 4, 2016 #15
    I used to love philosophy in college but after a while decided it was unproductive and circular. I got fed up with philosophers whose only skill was the ability to put things into words while my science classmates on the other hand could solve impossible equations or explain exotic phenomenon.

    I can understand the draw behind thinking about what a scientific discovery "means" but it's completely useless to ACTUAL science. Actual science is dry and boring work about a specific problem most of society doesn't care about. BUT it's actually more productive AND impressive than the "big" picture questions
     
  17. Nov 4, 2016 #16
    I suggest a double major with philosophy and something else. I did something similar in college. you can decided from there where you want to go...
     
  18. Nov 4, 2016 #17

    Tri

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    That's what im trying to decide either I would do Math with a focus on CS and philosophy or physics and philosophy.... I can picture myself doing research in AI and since im pretty good at abstractions and the type of thinking required in pure math and cs... I just can't help but want to learn about the universe... I realize it's probably very hard and very bland at times but I have this desire to want to know the nature of reality and understand how this universe works at the most fundamental levels and delve into these complex theories of multiverses and bubble universes.

    What do you recommend?
     
  19. Nov 4, 2016 #18
    I recommend physics and philosophy double major although I should clarify I am not really a physicist. But I did take philosophy and science...and since you said you wanted delve into the nature of reality well generally speaking physics has more to do with reality than math...
     
  20. Nov 4, 2016 #19

    Tri

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    I'm not sure because I'm also very good at logic and cs and might have a happier life in AI research... I'm so lost at what to do
     
  21. Nov 4, 2016 #20
    I honestly don't know that much about math but I don't think math majors work on AI at all. It's really abstract stuff like logic. People who are interested in AI usually do psychology CS double majors from what I've seen....Also from what I hear AI research involves a lot of statistics so I recommend studying up on that. Especially programs like AlphaGo it does its magic by statistical thinking.... https://deepmind.com/research/alphago/
     
    Last edited: Nov 4, 2016
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