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Chemistry, physics and math self-teaching

  1. Dec 21, 2010 #1
    I want to understand mainly-chemical problems (food, resource, and energy) related to human Moon and Mars colonization. I'm also interested in learning more about non-rocket space launch systems and the way they work, or are supposed to work - electromagnetic rail-guns in particular.

    I'm currently learning calculus on my own, but I suppose much more is needed than that to understand the subjects I stated.

    Where can I find learning resources needed to self-teach all this?
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 21, 2010 #2


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    Hey there and welcome to the forums.

    The kind of stuff you are looking to is pretty advanced and in all honesty for 99.99999% of people we can only do so much by ourselves.

    The kind of stuff you are talking about requires not only a lot of knowledge, but it requires a lot of sophisticated knowledge in a variety of areas.

    This kind of stuff requires that you really understand what is going on. You have to understand how the science community understands energy, mechanics and other building blocks of physics and chemistry so that not only can you actually understand how things work, but how you can contribute to the existing field of knowledge.

    For this, 99.99999% of people go to a tertiary learning institution and undertake an under graduate degree in a scientific discipline. Why so many? Well here are a few reasons

    1) Most people just are not smart enough to build the knowledge, relationships, conceptual and practical understanding of a science in isolation without other help.

    2) Most people aren't motivated to have the dedication to devote themselves to learning, discovery, and discipline required to achieve their goal in isolation. We are a social species and there is a good reason why people do things with other people.

    3) For 99.99999% of us, we can't possibly have the perspectives of dozens or hundreds of people required to analyze and later synthesize information required to do high level science.

    I guess what I'm trying to say is that the idea of the lone scientific genius is a very far stretch of what reality holds.

    Its really good that you want to learn, but unless you're in that very small minority of people, you might want to look into some kind of formal social learning environment. My bet is you are not in the minority since you are asking a question that the minority would never ask.

    Good luck!
  4. Dec 22, 2010 #3
    Thanks for your reply.

    I don't think only a very small minority is a able to self-teach themselves this. Internet offers all information, as well as social environments needed for self-teaching.

    I'm not good at learning in social environments at all, due to all the distractions. I daydreamed in school since the 1st grade for this reason, and self-taught myself since the grade 9, when passing became impossible without listening in class. My GPA increased dramatically since I started self-teaching.
    Last edited: Dec 22, 2010
  5. Dec 22, 2010 #4


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    You are right with information being readily and easily available and accessible, but what I was trying to get is that for the kind of knowledge you wish to possess, its going to be against the odds for someone to reach that kind of level in isolation.

    If you don't like to be social then unfortunately a lot of high level science will be cutoff to you. People work in teams to get things done. You often need to do this because some people will be specializing in A, another in B, another in C etc.

    Even if you do teach yourself everything that you need to, you probably won't reach the level where you actually make something useful if you are isolation.
  6. Dec 22, 2010 #5
    I go to college but mostly I self teach myself, because there is not much thing taught in college except re-reciting of what is written in the text-book. Moreover, must of us pay very little attention to what is being taught, for there is nothing extra than in the book. (actually fewer than in the book). I know there are better institutions out there,
    and it could make a lot of difference.
    But I am just trying to tell that my condition isn't that poor.
    And mostly going to college is just for socializing, getting Degrees, getting Text-materials and syllabus and all. No matter you go to college or not, only way to learn is to ponder on things for yourself and read books, and webpages.

    Go, move on your way. I am sure you will learn a lot more than those who go to college and waste their time playing basketball all the time!
  7. Dec 22, 2010 #6
    The learning materials section here has a lot of good stuff and recommends good books. You may also be able to mirror a college course sequence esp. if you are able to access old syllabi including course materials. For what you want to learn, you may want to study biology as well as it will familiarize you with life sustaining chemistry. I used the 8th edition of Mastering Biology...it has an online section through Pearson. I haven't taken organic chemistry yet, but I would recommend that as well. My calc w/analytic geometry class was through Thinkwell with the lectures of Prof. Edward Burger...it goes through calc III and I used several calc books to supplement, the best of which was Thomas' Calculus (11th ed).

    All the best with everything!

    Here is the link to the learning materials section
  8. Dec 23, 2010 #7


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    Cinitiator, I just wanted to add a comment that I should have said earlier.

    It might seem that I don't really show support for independent learning. That is not the case. I understand that adult education is not the same as adolescent or younger education, where adults are expected to have the extra initiative and motivation to learn by themselves by using the lecturer and other students more as 'mentors' rather than as an authority figure that you would use in say a high school.

    So I absolutely do support your ambition to self teach, and I want to be clear on that as I don't think I came across that way when I gave a response.

    However the reason that I have the response that I did, is that especially for the kind of thing you want to do, most people will hit a ceiling in that they can only go so far with initiative and hard work before they get stuck.

    The truth is that we cram decades and decades of knowledge, perspectives, and understanding of things that have taken really smart people years, decades or in some cases their whole lives consisting of hard work to find what they have found.

    Gerard t' hooft (not sure if spelling is right) has stated this exact same thing and you should be able to see what quote I am referring to on his website.

    Most things that are hard are hard for a reason. Even if you get a perfect record in coursework classes, does not guarantee that you will be able to replicate the same level of achievement when doing things that have no answer or textbook for you to go through.

    Having the initiative of learning things by yourself will no doubt prepare you more for the real world, but coming to terms with the truth that it may take you weeks, months, maybe even years to solve problems that have no "textbook solution" is basically what I am trying to explain.

    That's why most scientists need to communicate with others on a regular basis. When something is trivial, then chances are that it will be universal trivial. When something is however not trivial or obvious, then its best that we run our ideas by other people because chances are that for something complex like the kind of science you want to get into, there's a greater chance that something might be wrong, or maybe not completely right.

    So I guess what I'm saying is that definitely learn independently if you have the resources and the initiative as this mentality will help you with adult learning coursework, but remember that professional work in fields like science aren't the same as coursework with the exception of teaching lower classes like say high school or lower tertiary courses.

    I wish you good luck however, and I know that all things in our lives start with an idea from curiosity which leads itself eventually into genuine human discovery.

    Merry Christmas!
  9. Dec 23, 2010 #8
    I've taught myself some fairly advanced math (graduate real analysis from Lang). For me the process is slow and a lot of work. In my opinion its much faster to learn in a classroom environment especially because your classmates can help you (and you can learn by helping them). Still one should be able to teach themselves the basics of mathematics and physics (by basics I mean up through 1st/2nd year grad school classes) given a reasonable number of years.

    At some point though your going to want recondition for all this effort. If you succeed in learning on your own and have any sort of undergrad degree you might want to consider a one year masters or something to get a degree out of 5 years-ish of work.
  10. Dec 23, 2010 #9
    It is certainly possible to study on one's own. The real key is Discipline, not high intelligence. Very few people have the determination to keep going on their own when there is no outside push to complete. There are always topics that you have to do alongside your favorite subjects, but you may not like them much at the time. Doing the unpleasant stuff is where the discipline comes in.

    That said, if you really want to pursue a scientific subject long-term, you will eventually need some kind of degree. I suggest you look into some distance courses to start with. The sciences are hard to do without labs, but there are some solid math courses (Calculus, Linear Algebra, ODEs, etc.) that can be done at home. That way you can assess whether you really want to continue on that path, and get transferable university credit at the same time.
  11. Dec 23, 2010 #10
    From my experience, although you can go far by learning everything by yourself if you have great discipline, you'll never get as far and as efficiently as you could by learning and at the same time discussing with other intelligent and passionate people, and it's probably going to be less fun. That doesn't mean you shouldn't try to teach yourself, just that in my opinion you should also try to find this social stimulus wherever you can.
  12. Dec 23, 2010 #11
    Thanks a lot for your replies, they were helpful.

    I certainly agree that good discipline is needed to self-teach.
    I'm already planning to get a degree, but I also want to become literate in broad areas of science, rather than stay focused on one. I have plenty of time on my hands due to my lack, or I should probably say total absence of a social life or other hobbies or interests than science, so I could probably learn a lot.

    As for the potential - I was in the gifted class (which only people with a gifted-range or higher IQ score can enter) back to the middle school - not that I think that IQ tests are very reliable, but I suppose they can still produce a rough estimate of some intellectual skills. (Please note that I said some, most of the cognitive skills can't be tested using any kind of IQ testing used nowadays)
  13. Apr 5, 2011 #12
    Radiation is emitted when a hydrogen atom goes from a higher energy to lower energy state.The wavelength of one line in visible region of atomic spectrum of hydrogen is 6.63*10^-7m.The energy difference between the two states is ?
  14. Apr 5, 2011 #13
    pH of 10^-10 molar HCl solution at 25oC approxiamately is ?
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